Posted on 15th February, 2017

Opinion: Complaining to survive in a digital world

Mark Bailey on, Surviving in a digital world

Despite having “digital” in my job title for the preceding 3 years, I, like a lot of people I now meet, cringe at the random use of the word “digital”. It’s become one of those unhelpful words used by many people to mean many things, particularly it would seem to be used to highlight ignorance around using technology to get stuff done in a better way.

The area I was inhabiting at the time used to be covered by the broad term of IT Systems provision and has spent the past 8 years re-branding itself as “digital”. A lot of this (particularly when the trend gathered pace), has involved re-marketing of products and services that existed before or attempts to secure budgets based on old ideas dressed up with new words.

But it’s not all hype. The world has changed, and digital has been used to try and summarise the prevailing characteristics of such changes.  From my experience, the frequency that an organisation mentions “digital” is often inversely proportional to them actually being digital in practice. If your approach to digital is really akin to the Emperor’s new clothes, then beware!

The real impact of the changes being realised by this new marriage of technology with business ideas and practises are all around us. Examples often quoted are the rises of Uber, Netflix and Airbnb and the demise of Blockbuster and Kodak. However, technological and social advances have always heralded change and the above examples could be seen as those organisations who have won or lost in the business evolutionary battle; a battle fought may times in many places, over hundreds of years.

What makes the current changes we are seeing different, where the term “digital” really impacts, is the rate of change we are now facing. There has always been change and now the combination of disruptive technology, business practices and globalisation has led to a steep rise in the speed of such change. Of the companies in the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 12% remained in 2014 (Fortune 500 changes) and accompanying this change is the data that shows the average life of a company in the S&P 500 has reduced from 61 years in 1958 to just 18 years by 2015 (S&P company longevity).

If you operate in a B2C environment, it has never been easier for your customers to decide to change who they do business with. Within 2 years you, as a consumer, can (more or less) change your preferences to the point that all of your spendings will have moved to different suppliers. The smart (I’m not going to say digital) businesses have got this. They know that if they do not look after their customers, their customers will look after themselves and they will leave. A customer who is complaining is an individual who is willing to spend time and effort to tell you that they are not happy with what you do. This provides an opportunity to make things better for them and, in turn, to make things better for your other customers. You’d better listen.

  • Survival is optional.

  • Make complaining easy and survive.

  • Love complaining.