Reports this week of energy companies and the banking sector amassing large profits as the cost-of-living crisis continues for many have been met with ire from consumers and commentators alike. This raises an interesting question around how organisations balance short-term profits with longer-term societal and customer outcomes.
This is a complex equation – and in truth, there are no hard and fast rules to follow. The reality is, in the current economic uncertainty, our nation needs businesses to succeed to secure our economic future. The real question then, is what is the best way for organisations to maximise their returns while supporting those customers who need extra help and serving their core customer base who expects value for money?
We have learnt from the past that, as purse strings tighten, customers become more discerning about how and where they spend their hard-earned money. Customers’ perceptions about business conduct, transparency and ethical conduct are increasingly influencing their attitudes towards organisational and, in turn, their buying behaviour.
There is now a greater expectation from customers for organisations to be seen as ‘doing the right thing’ – whether through their treatment of employees, taking an ethical approach to supply chain management, maintaining a commitment to long-term sustainability strategies or responsible implementation of technology and artificial intelligence.
Recent events, from the terrible war in Ukraine now a year on, to the widespread industrial action closer to the home – and, of course, the growing strain on the least advantaged in society – have placed these factors to the fore in consumer minds. In turn, they are increasingly seen by investors and stakeholders as an indicator of long-term success in a challenging environment.
The months and years ahead will be challenging, and we know that well-run businesses will outperform those that lose sight of their customers’ needs. Driving efficiencies is essential – and new technology offers part of the solution here – but it should not come at the expense of long-term reputation and customer trust. In addition, there is more to be reflected on regarding the opportunities and potential threats that AI will bring – but that is for a future statement I feel!
Stripping everything back, what is clear to me is that an organisation’s approach to service reflects its social conscience – and taking appropriate risk as part of a planned investment in a long-term customer experience strategy is, for us, the key to success.