Customer Experience, Reflections on Time: The Race for Competitive AdvantageWe have an obsession with time. Whether spending it, saving it or traveling through it, we are addicted to the notion of time as a competitive advantage.

Don’t be fooled by lessons from Aesop’s fables or the Rolling Stones about the value of patience. The slow and steady tortoise who ultimately wins the race and the rock star whose lover returns because “time is on my side,” would both likely be losers in today’s competitive marketplace.

OK, the hare’s overconfidence probably would still do him in and Mick would never be a loser, but you get where I’m going with this.

In this final article of the year for my CMSWire series, I take a moment to reflect on the different ways that enterprises are waging time-based competition and the technology that is helping them do that.

Time Is the True Currency

In pop culture, time can be purchased, traveled through, altered, abused and even made to stand still. I am enthralled by all the mysterious possibilities of time as true currency in our personal lives. There are stories like In Time, a recent science fiction movie, about buying, trading and stealing time. The unlikely protagonist in Mr. Destiny goes back in time to change what happens in his life. In the movie Frequency, the past and present can communicate and exchange information that changes both, as if in those moments, time is frozen. And I haven’t even begun to site examples of the power of time, from the sublime to the ridiculous, including The Time Machine, 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future, Somewhere in Time, Peggy Sue Got Married and every episode ever made of Dr. Who.

But what is the role of time in the world of business? Here again we can see all the powerful possibilities of mastering time. Time-based competition delivers revenue, margin and strategic advantage. First to innovate with a new drug means millions perhaps billions of dollars to pharma companies; oil and gas companies gain advantage by getting their wells into production earlier than their competitors; speed to market ensures profits for high tech and fashion retailers; and shorter times to open a bank account or credit card translates to banking customers won from the competition.

Time and time again, in the marketplace as in life, we see that the clock can be our worst enemy or the basis for our success. Here are three of the stories I’ve covered in the past that illustrate time as its own valuable currency.

Delivering Great Customer Experience

We know that great customer experiences depend on a whole range of design and service elements, but I am convinced that speed has got to be one of the top priorities. I led off one of my earlier articles on "How Case Management Speeds Automotive Leasing & Financing" with one of my favorite quotes:

“If everything seems to be in control, you're not going fast enough.” - Mario Andretti, champion racing car driver

My point was that in the world of automotive racing, speed is paramount, and when it comes to automotive financing, speed is equally important. In the case studies I shared, time played an important role in capturing and retaining delighted customers. The business executives in those studies did not fixate on internal cost cutting, they competed on the basis of time to service. In this competitive market, first to finance a deal gets the deal, and with case management supporting key processes, the applications are correct, complete and loans close quickly.

As I write this article, the focus on serving the customer faster to win market share is in the news. Not surprisingly, this example is in the “fast-food” industry. McDonald’s is looking to score with even faster food delivery. In the article, “Speed of service a priority for McDonald's in 2014,” we hear how McDonald's is experimenting with a third drive-thru window to speed up service. Aimed at increasing market share, they will feature the extra window in new and renovated restaurants starting next year. The "Fast Forward Drive-Thru" allows customers to drive to a third stop if their orders aren't ready.

While a third serving window is a clever approach, more often than not it is technology embedded throughout the value chain that drives speed. I just returned from a conference where Gartner “Top 25” supply chain company, Unilever keynoted their story about how they have enterprise information management software working in concert with their SAP implementation to support a highly responsive supply chain. Getting the desired product to the consumer faster and “time certain” at the point of purchase means great customer experience, and of course competitive advantage.

Achieving the “Perfect Order”

The perfect order -- complete, damage free and on time -- is the holy grail for companies that compete on the basis of supply chain strength and speed. Just about a year ago I considered "How Case Management Can Help in the Battle for Same Day Delivery" and highlighted the moves at that time by Walmart and Amazon to extend Santa’s supply chain with same-day delivery.

Just as the motivation for pursuing same-day delivery is different for Walmart and Amazon, so are their respective execution approaches. Both are dependent on their positions in the marketplace and concomitant strengths. While neither Walmart nor Amazon have Santa’s special delivery abilities, they do each have unique supply chain strengths that can be leveraged…For this year, same-day delivery is really just an interesting experiment, albeit an experiment that could have significant impact on the future of retailing.”

Fast forward a year. Now Amazon has just announced the launch of its Sunday delivery via USPS saying:

The three big pieces of growth for us are selection, lower prices and speed," said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service. "Adding an additional day is all about delivery speed. An Amazon customer can order a backpack and a Kindle for their child and be packing it up on Sunday for school on Monday."

This ever popular subject of growth through supply chain speed bears watching in the future, but I am certain we will continue to see moves from key brands that strengthen end-to-end delivery capabilities, transparency and effective exception handling to win in their markets.

Meeting Mission Objectives

What’s good for business is also good for government enterprise and vice versa. In my article, "The Curious Case of the Courts' CIO: How Case Management Solves the New Service Delivery Challenge," I wrote about the need to move quickly in implementing improvements to the enterprise. The Courts of Puerto Rico is one example of “mastering time” to successfully deliver new services.

The current environment has zero tolerance for long projects with delayed ROI. To be successful in creating value, CIOs have to to leverage a short window of opportunity. While complete roll-outs reasonably require a multi-year approach, the key is to deliver value in each phase. This means, as I explored in an earlier CMSWire article on "The Best Way to Improve Business Performance," that the methodology surrounding the implementation is and will continue to be as important as the technology itself to speed time to results.

As I see the continuing challenges CIOs will face both in the public and the private sector, my conclusion is that successful CIOs will continue to leverage case management because it can enable them to:

  • Align with their “line of business” objectives
  • Implement iterative results in six  to 18 months
  • Respond to the shifting business needs and regulatory climate
  • And, inevitably, deliver valuable new services to the enterprise and their customers

It’s Always a Good Time

Since December is typically when we look at the past year and then make predictions about the future, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back in this article on previous stories of time-based competition. What was true then is true today. But what will our future hold? As the Owl City song goes, “It’s ALWAYS a good time,” so stay tuned, enjoy your holiday time and I’ll see you all in 2014 with a look forward!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock_118967928

Editor's Note: Read more from Deb in 3 Ways to Drive Business Innovation, Every Day