Build for Change: A book review by Bob Morris

Build for ChangeBuild for Change: Revolutionizing Customer Engagement Through Continuous Digital Innovation
Alan Trefler
John Wiley & Sons (2014)

How and why a focus on high tech and high touch will actively engage customers and fully respond to their expectations

The title of my review correctly indicates Alan Tefler’s purposes in this book: to provide the information, insights, and counsel that leaders of organizations need to “revolutionize customer engagement through continuous digital innovation.” It should be added that most of the material (if not all of it) is relevant to the needs, interests, resources, and strategic objectives of almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

For decades, parents and other adults have told children to “mind their Ps and Qs.” In this book, Trefler tells his readers to “mind their Cs and Ds.” That is, cultivate consumers who comprise the C and D generations. The “C” refers to CONTENT. “Despite its relative youth, this group influences every aspect of our lives and wreaks havoc on many businesses. Gen C accounts for about 75 million people in the United States alone. Still growing in size by leaps and bounds, largely now from the emergence of new economies in much of the less-developed world and changing economies in places such as Russia, China, and India, Gen C is fast becoming the largest group of consumers in the world.”

With regard to “D,” it refers to DISCOVER, DEVOUR, and DEMONIZE. “Gen D does not want to be sold to. Being sold to is like being controlled. No, the seamless experience they desire with your business, to which they would probably never admit, is based on wanting to discover you and your product or service…They want [begin italics] radical authenticity [end italics], and when they discover something they like, they devour it…Gen D customers want nothing short of trust, transparency, and total openness. If they want loyalty, and expressed it as such, they would say it is your loyalty to them…Another characteristic of this generation is that their reactions vacillate between extremes. Their discovery and experience of you may cause them rapture, which means they want to devour you (in a good sense), but it can just as easily cause them to demonize you.”

These comments suggest the WHAT on which Trefler focuses. The great value in the book is derived from his thorough explanation of the HOW and WHY. Here is a selection of business subjects and issues from among the several dozen of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Trefler’s coverage.

o It’s So Easy to Lose Customers (Pages 5-8)
o Differences Between C and D Generations (17)
o Anthropomorphism (19-22)
o Data Suicide (35-38)
o Data in Context (44-45)
o The Power of Hypothesis (52-54)
o Adaptive Learning, and, Organizing Your Insights (57-62)
o Intent Goes Both Ways (62-69)
o The Best Execution for Every Customer Interaction (75-76)
o Seamless Customer Processes (79-81)
o Crossing Lines (83-87)
o Traditional Development (100-104)
o Hybrid Vigor for Business and IT (118-121)
o Realign Executive Leadership (122-124)
o Think in Layers (136-141)
o Use Analytics to Optimize Continually (141-143)
o Growing Pressure to Make Changes (146-151)
o Beyond the Twilight of the Brands (154-159)

I agree with Alan Trefler: “Regardless of what kind of business you have, unless you learn how best to represent what is unique about your business, its authenticity, its promise, the collective strength of its culture, an immediately accessible software layer, you will continue to fall behind. Revenue and relevancy will steadily plummet in parallel.” In this context, it is worth noting that many (if not most) of the companies annually ranked by Fortune magazine as most admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. That is not a coincidence. Moreover, however different they may be in most respects, all of these companies are renowned for the same reasons: commitment to quality and value, customer-centrism, “good citizenship,” and are easy to do business with.

Great organizations not only build for change; they build for continuous change. That is their secret sauce, why they achieve and then sustain “customer engagement through continuous digital innovation.”

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