Category Archives: Competitor Insight

4 reasons internal competition helps companies win with customers

competition-matters

People view competition in many different ways. In the business world it is often viewed negatively as it can impact profit margins and companies must compete for a share of the pie. From a customer’s perspective competition drives better service, better prices and better value.

Personally I am a big fan of competition, it pushes me to the next level, it forces me to get better. Inside organizations competition can also prove to be a positive force but no all competition is healthy and productive.

Unhealthy competition develops when the following happens:

1. When it causes people to feel negatively about other peoples’ successes as opposed to motivated.

2. When people wish for others to have obstacles so that they are held back.

3. When people feel shame when they fail.

4. When it motivates people to seek competitors who are naturally weaker than themselves, so that they feel an advantage.

Healthy competition can be a great productivity booster in organizations and drive better results. Here are some of the benefits:

1. It encourages people involved to strive further and push themselves harder than they would have without competition.

2. It drives people to achieve more growth and success – not because they are driven to win or lose – but because they are doing your best at something that you care about.

3. It changes the boundaries of what you believe you are capable of and stretches the limits of what you believe is possible.

4. It requires the courage to take risks, requires the willingness to fail, and necessitates a vulnerability to admit you are ambitious to succeed.

The worlds best organizations balance healthy competition with cross company collaboration

What type of competition do you see in operation where you work? Do different functions compete in a healthy way? Do they collaborate?

Why global competition means every company must be more customer focused

global competition requires peripheral vision

Global competition is coming to the telecommunications industry in a major way. Yes Skype and others have been around for a long time but direct competition between the telco powerhouses has been slow to evolve.

America’s largest telco, Verizon, is planning to make a push for corporate customers with its secure internet and cloud computing products in the Asia-Pacific region. This move will see it competing head-to-head with Telstra International, the overseas arm of Telstra, the largest Australian telco. Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, recently cited expansion into Asia and more multinational corporate clients as a key strategic priority for Telstra in 2013.

John Harrobin, Verizon Enterprise Solutions chief marketing officer said “We believe that we are positioned to be one of the handful of players worldwide that can serve the mission critical needs of enterprise customers,” The move into the region puts Verizon in direct competition with Telstra, which wants its international arm to sell more global data and telecommunications services to companies with offices around Asia.

Verizon also wants more business with Australian corporations. It already provides telecommunications for some Australian government departments and for companies in the financial services, mining and manufacturing industries. It is also aiming to provide cloud-computing services to medium-sized companies that have only Australian operations,

IT services are moving from an on-premise service to a cloud-based service, and this would be a “massive disruption” in the sector, he said.

For Telstra, this type of heavyweight competition is relatively new and collaboration with new partners in Asia may be necessary. Telstra’s Asian success has been mixed in the past. For Verizon, the Asian markets will pose a new challenge – they will be aiming to sell new disruptive solutions to new customers. This is much tougher and riskier than selling products that everyone understands to customers you already know.

Which company is best positioned to win this battle? Will it be Verizon with its larger infrastructure and resources or Telstra with its traditionally stronger links in Australian and Asian markets? The answer will ultimately turn on the relative strengths of their customer cultures – their understanding of current and future customer needs and the ability of their entire organizations to deliver superior value for corporate customers. Their cultures will need to be resilient enough to understand, adapt to and act on their current and future competitors’ strategies and to have sufficient “peripheral vision” of opportunities that will require product and service innovations.

Do you have a customer culture that enables you to win competitive battles of this type? Does your corporate culture have the “peripheral vision” to identify and act on early warning signals of competitive threats and disruptive market opportunities?

Competing for the future – How Australia Post is reinventing itself in this new age of competition

digital post boxAustralia Post recently released its annual results. Revenues from “regulated mail” – standard postage – are $1924 million and falling, and it made a loss of $148 million. “Non regulated parcels and retail” revenues were up 8.5% to $3073 million, returning a profit of $546 million. An important part of its future will be digital services provided to its commercial customers and Australian consumers.

A starting flurry in this new world is the soft launch of MailBox in November 2012 with a full launch to take place early in 2013. Australia Post has announced that several Australian banks, government departments and utilities will use the Digital MailBox. It will be free to all Australians. It will enable consumers to receive and pay bills, track and manage their relationships with their providers and store all of their important documents in one place. It’s accessed with one password, from any Internet enabled device, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.

Enter Digital Post Australia (DPA), a joint venture between Computershare Ltd, Fuji Xerox Document Management Solutions Pty Limited and Zumbox Inc.

Got that? It’s Digital Mailbox from Australia Post, and Digital Postbox from Digital Post Australia. You can see why Australia post is suing Digital Post Australia  over the name. The first court action was dismissed, but Australia Post is pursuing the action.

At the launch of DPA’s Digital Postbox in early December, CEO Randy Dean ridiculed Australia Post’s launch. “Our competitor recently used its trusted and iconic brand to ‘formally launch’ what appears to be a ‘statement of interest’ for their Digital Mailbox Service. We felt Australians deserved to see what a functioning Digital Postbox looks like and how it operates.” Dean invited consumers to preview the service and activate their “secure and free” Digital Postbox.

Dean says Digital Postbox begins a new era of convenient online mail delivery. “Once the consumer’s Digital Postbox is activated, they won’t need to do anything else. Mail will be automatically delivered online and be available on virtually any web-connected device. Consumers can receive, store and manage important documents such as bills and account statements in a trusted and secure environment. Digital postal mail offers businesses an efficient and cost-effective customer channel that can be enabled using their existing business processes and partnerships and can deliver savings of up to 70% per mail item.”

“We have decades of experience in the secure digital processing, storage, management and printing for the largest and most security sensitive organizations in Australia including banks, government agencies and superannuation funds.

The two companies are now readying their products for market, attempting to pre-empt each other with various pre-releases and announcements. There is no love lost between the two, and their sniping and attempts to define themselves and each other are becoming more intense.

But this is not the only competition. Existing systems like BPay, increasingly sophisticated online banking and now the imminent boom in mobile payments systems are making the technology largely obsolete before it is even introduced.

The eventual winners in this digital environment will be those companies that have a strong customer culture – one in which customer insight and foresight will determine the best way to compete, where the future competition will come from, how future profit will be made.

Australia Post, as a government owned organization, still has a way to go to create and embed a customer culture that will enable it to compete profitably in the digital marketplace.

Think outside the box and profit from your competition

Creative Competitive Strategies

An in-depth understanding of your competitors – their strategies, behavior, intent, how they make their money, how they view your company – is a competitive advantage that can help you increase your market share and profit.

A great story about deep competitor insight comes from Overseas Shipping Services (OSS) – an Australian moving company specializing in moving people’s household goods internationally.

This story comes from a time when a large part of their market still preferred to find information on moving services in newspapers.

For years OSS had run a small ad in the Saturday paper’s “travel” section, while their competition were advertising in the “moving” section. This was based on a unique insight that people who were relocating first organized their travel before considering a moving service. The ad brought in many enquiries, most of which were converted into business.

One day the team discovered to their horror a much larger competitor’s ad right next to the OSS ad.

They had to consider how to respond so they reached out to some connections. One of the team members had a friend in an advertising business  so she asked him for some ideas. He suggested simply increase in the size of the ad to match the competitor. He said “you are in with the big boys now you need to start spending more on advertising!” An advertising man suggesting OSS spends more on advertising, what a surprise!

Recognizing there probably was not a quick and easy answer, the team decided to step back and ask themselves the following questions:

What do we know about our competitors? How do they compete? What is our competitive advantage? Are we facing a tactical decision or this strategic? How do our customers’ buy? How would they view two alternatives presented side by side in the newspaper?

The advertising team set-up a cross-functional meeting attended by the CFO, sales, operations, pricing, advertising and the call center to get everyone to weigh in on these issues. Here is what they came up with:

1) How to compete: OSS can’t compete with their competitor’s budget – just to match them requires five times its current budget and this will raise its cost structure for this market segment. What’s more, it might force it to reconsider our pricing. Its knowledge of its competitor’s resources told them that they can spend much more on advertising and still hold their prices where they are.

2) Competitors’ advantage: If OSS matches its competitor’s ad size, it will double the size and will keep doing this if OSS keeps matching. This strategy is based on a traditional dominant competitive position. He competes by out-spending his competitors and relying on his brand name to get business.

3)  Customer behavior insight: OSS already knew more about customers than its competition. Another unique insight they had was that customers nearly always get at least two quotes.

4)  What to communicate: Now that OSS is in a directly competitive media situation it will need to change its message to ‘get your second quote from OSS’.

5) How much to spend: Since its competitor was now doing the advertising for this market segment OSS could reduce the size of its ad just a little and save money.

The OSS team were tuned into competitors and customers. They could all agree on the comments being made because of strong customer and competitive disciplines embedded in the OSS culture. They all had a clear understanding of the customer’s buying behavior as well as their competitors’ current strategies and how to effectively compete with much larger organizations. They were basing a decision on clear customer and competitor insights.

The decision was made quickly and the call center and field sales team developed a process to obtain ongoing customer and competitive intelligence relevant to this market segment to monitor the effect of this decision. The results were outstanding. OSS received more enquiries from this advertising than before and converted about 80% of them into new clients with a positive trend in sales growth and profit margins.

This example shows how a small tactical decision can have a big impact on the profit and growth of a business. But more, it shows how a team that is tuned into customers and competitors as the way in which they make decisions can make a good decision quickly.

Does your team operate that way? Can they make decisions that are right for the customer and the business, in the context of your competitive position, quickly and effectively? Do you have that kind of creative, collaborative culture?

How Amazon’s customer centric culture breeds innovation

Amazon Customer Innovations

Amazon’s vision is to be the world’s most customer centric company and what this means in practice is they are always looking for ways to add value to customers. This year that has meant innovating in the physical world rather than just the online world.

One of the problems all online shoppers face is what happens when I get something delivered and I am not home? Missed deliveries……..

To address this need Amazon has begun expanding its physical footprint in the US by providing the Amazon Locker. This push first started with the 24 hour convenience chain, 7-11.

It recently announced a partnership with Staples to extend its locker footprint to their stores. Customers can opt to have packages sent to their nearest staples store, they are then emailed a code and have 3 days to pick up their package.

Given Amazon’s mission to save customers money, it is a great strategy designed to expand its options available to customers without increasing its costs substantially.

It is potentially an interesting win-win partnership with Staples who competes with Amazon in the online environment. Staples will get a fee and more foot traffic and Amazon a physical footprint to provide more convenience for customers.

From a competitive standpoint this development also makes sense as the major physical retailers get better and blending online and offline purchasing options. For instance more than half of the sales from Walmart.com are picked up at Walmart stores so customers clearly like this option.

The only way to compete in this environment is to innovate around the ever evolving customer needs, does your company have a customer centric culture?

4 simple practices to build a customer culture in your company

This is a great short video interview with Tony Hsieh of Zappos discussing how the concept of culture and customers come together. Also thanks to Robert Reiss, host of The CEO TV Show.

The intersection of customers and corporate culture

The culture of an organization dictates how it will view customers and how it will treat them.

If everyone is expected to understand who customers are and what they value, then people naturally start doing this. Culture is a form of social pressure, it is the way you are expected to behave in a group environment, hence it is a very powerful way for leaders to create an environment of success.

Customer culture specifically looks at how much attention is being placed on bring the customer viewpoint into all decision making. It is a proven way to drive better business results as it ensures the business is aligned with its market.

Here are some great customer culture building practices that you can begin today regardless of the role you play in your company:

1. Put Customers on the Agenda

A great habit that gets everyone thinking is to start every meeting with a customer insight. Share one piece of feedback you’ve collected, one idea you have heard directly from a customer. These insights and stories can come from anywhere in the company. It does not have to be a deep conversation – just a way to get in the habit of brining the customer viewpoint inside before getting on with the rest of the meeting’s agenda.

2. Building Customer Empathy

Have someone share their own recent customer experience. Was it a positive one? What made it positive? Why did it stand out in their mind? How does it affect the way they think about that company and would it influence whether that would continue doing business with them? What does it mean for your company?

This simple exercise is a great way to build customer empathy in the team. By thinking like a customer you can make changes that will drive increases in value.

Steve Jobs and his leadership team conducted a similar exercise and recognized how dissatisfied they all were with their mobile phones. In their experience, phone’s were difficult to navigate, complex and basically not user friendly. This created the drive and inspiration to develop the iPhone.

3. Encourage Leaders to Share Customer Stories

Create a regular opportunity for senior executives to report on what they learn from their own conversations and interactions with customers.

There maybe extra leg work to translate what they heard into a useable insight, but it will be well worth the effort.

4. A Top Successes/Frustrations Customer Conversations Report

Create an ongoing forum for people to share what customers are saying in the form of a communication piece to the whole company. It should be in story form but can include statistics on key customer metrics ie things that are important to customers that your company helps them achieve. For example LinkedIn tracks how many new connections it helped people create on its professional networking site each day.

It should also include the top frustrations customers have when doing business with you. This highlights to everyone the priorities in terms of maintaining and improving customer satisfaction levels.

We have lots of FREE tools, templates and elearning modules to help build your customer culture here

What other practices do you use to drive a great level of focus on customers?

Is Apple heading for a fall?

Apple Maps Virtual Reality?

One of my favorite authors Jim Collins in his book How the Mighty Fall describes a 5 stage model of decline that many companies pass through on their way out of business.

The first stage he describes is the “Hubris Born of Success”. Hubris is an ancient greek word that means extreme pride or arrogance.  It is an overarching estimate of one’s own importance that one is blind to the views of others or to potential dangers to one’s own position. In the great Greek tragedies hubris invariably precedes destruction.

Unfortunately we have seen an example of that from Apple with a decision to replace Google Maps with their own inferior mapping software. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a massive Apple fan, I write this blog on a Mac and have spent a small fortune on Apple products over the years. However if the decision to provide a product not ready for prime time wasn’t bad enough, Apple actually replaced one that was far better (Google Maps). This is a sure sign of Hubris. Here are a few recent apple maps user images:

apple maps highway image

apple maps puts burger king in the wrong place

Interesting new store design for Burger King!

Why would Apple make this decision?

Perhaps Apple believes it can do it better? Maybe it wants to own every core application on its iPhone platform? Certainly Google and Apple have become more like competitors than collaborators over the past few years. This is thanks to the Android cell phone operating system that competes with the iPhone.

What ever the reason, it’s a decision that does open the door for the competition. It’s also an example of the types of decisions that can lead them down the wrong path. Would Steve Jobs approve of the Apple Maps release?

Now Apple has always been a challenging company to partner with (I spent a number of years working with them in my days at HP). However when they deliver outstanding innovative products many things can be excused. What happens when they stop delivering? Unhappy customers and partners hungry for alternatives will rapidly look elsewhere.

Apple is the world’s most valuable company at almost $700bn in market capitalization, its iPhone business alone is worth more than Microsoft’s total business. It changed the smartphone market forever. But Hubris is a dangerous affliction. Will this be Apple’s fatal flaw?

What do you think, is this just a blip on the radar or a signal of something more serious?