If every business had a crystal ball, life would be much simpler. It’d help decision-makers plan for the future and anticipate the challenges of tomorrow. That being said, it isn’t impossible to look ahead and be better prepared.

To understand the future problem of your customer, you need to do the following:

Embrace the unknown and adapt accordingly

No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but we can learn to adapt and deal with change better. With the rapid progress and evolution of technology, you need to be agile enough to respond to the latest innovations and developments. It’s about not only being first, but also being adaptable.

Take Apple as an example. When the first iPod arrived, it wasn’t the first portable player of digital music. The first MP3 player was the MPMan F10, which was developed by the South Korean company Saehan Information Systems. However, Apple provided innovative UI and UX, as well as a single place to shop your favourite music: the iTunes Store. As a result, Apple became the market leader, changing the music industry forever.

When the rise in popularity of streaming killed the iTunes model, Apple adapted once again, releasing its competitor to Spotify and Deezer: Apple Music. This showed that Apple wasn’t too precious about its innovation, having chosen to move forward with the times and adapt to consumer demands and needs. Every business can learn from this.

Listen to industry trends and research

It’s very easy to get caught up in our own echo chambers. If everyone around you is saying the same thing, you aren’t hearing the full story. Industry research and trends allow businesses to see what’s currently happening and what’s likely to happen. They’re essential to decision-making processes as well as understanding what problems and challenges exist, which may in turn provide business opportunities.

Look at remote working for instance. Past research showed that it works, leading to higher productivity and a happier workforce. However, many businesses rejected it, citing how every business is unique and that it wouldn’t be possible. When the pandemic struck, there was no choice but to allow remote working. And it’s working, delivering results that many leaders can’t believe.

It’s a lesson on how research and trends are there for a reason and shouldn’t be ignored. The data doesn’t lie; instead, it offers businesses a roadmap that allows them to plan rather than take a reactive approach.

Scrutinise data from customer analytics

Let’s be honest here: The data that most businesses are interested in is of sales. They want to see what – and how much – is selling and adjust their strategies based on that.

However, analysing data is much more than just looking at the figures. It’s about understanding what picture the data is painting. It could indicate that there’s a certain product or service that’s making a comeback, while it could also signify the opposite.

Your customer analytics are the golden key to unlocking the door and discovering what your customers’ biggest requirements are. By diving deeper and segmenting the data, you uncover a wealth of information that’ll help you not only plan and prepare better – both in the long term and short term – but also address the needs of your customers.

Introduce more robust customer personas

When your customer personas are built on only general demographics like age, profession and location, you aren’t digging deep enough. The world of big data allows for richer and more in-depth data that could change the way you both market and sell to your customer base.

The nitty-gritty does matter, requiring you to widen how you view your customers. This is the only way you can start to look at what might be a future problem or opportunity. By doing so, you might discover there’s an area that is being completely overlooked and that could become a significant revenue generator.

While the old way of developing customer and buyer personas is useful, it also needs to evolve with the times. Thanks to technology and the luxury of more data, it’s possible to do so and improve on the initial thinking.

Understand that customer service will always be the game-changing differentiator

While technology aids businesses in providing better services to their customers, it doesn’t replace the vital importance of customer service. This doesn’t mean implementing another ticketing system or call centre; it’s about analysing every touchpoint in your business and seeing if it truly meets your customers’ expectations.

In this modern world, building customer relationships is decisive, because there are numerous alternatives available. How you treat and engage with them is more crucial than ever, because it’s become the differentiator in whether they stay with your business or head to your competitors.

Businesses need to be honest about where they’ve excelled and failed in the past, because the future will hold them accountable. If your customer’s future problem is your organisation’s archaic processes, it might be time to relook how you prepare for the world of tomorrow.

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