Planning Part 2 – Environmental Scanning

Posted on: February 9, 2021

In the last article, we talked about setting an end goal and the objectives needed to realize that goal. Before we start creating a plan to achieve those objectives, we need to take a look at the environment in which we do business, and how that could change over the next few years.

While you should look at forecasts for your specific industry, here are a few global predictions from the pundits.

Demonstrating your values

It’s going to be increasingly challenging to maintain neutrality on social issues. Your brand needs to stand for something. Remember those values you listed in your business plan? It’s time to reassess those, modify or confirm them, and then figure out how your company can demonstrate those values in the real lives of your customers. Trust and empathy are two of the characteristics that people will be looking for in the next few years.

Balancing remote vs in-office teamwork

With work from home being the only option for several months, we learned a few things. The first is that employees can be productive without supervision, in fact, may be more productive working off-site. The second though is that creativity and collaboration suffer when team members are isolated. Virtual meetings have their place but are still not the same as people being in the same room. The third is that not everyone wants to stay home ALL of the time. So, what you need to do is figure out how and when to schedule time for team members to get together to generate ideas and solutions to complex problems while allowing time to get work done where each member is most productive.

Consumers are getting even more demanding

Technology has fostered impatience, and the companies who have used technology to offer the ultimate in customer experiences have set the bar for everyone else, including you. It’s not enough to be better than you used to be; you now have to be at least as good as the best out there. Making appointments or reservations online; having items delivered fast; making returns quick and easy – these are the standards everyone expects. Build customer convenience into every touchpoint.  Even with an extra cost, the majority of customers will appreciate it.

Humans still need to be involved in customer relations

Many companies have automated most of the customer experience. Customers can search for products or services on the website; order or make an appointment online; ask questions that are answered by a chatbot; track delivery of their package on their phone. That’s all great, but… There are going to be times when all of that is insufficient to show customers that you really do care about each of them, and that is what you keep saying, right? So, you still need a few humans around who can send an email that fully addresses the issue or make a call to resolve the problem in real-time. Those direct connections turn skeptics into loyal advocates, and that is worth the investment.

Beef up your cybersecurity

We’ve been saying this for years, and unfortunately, we’ll probably still be saying it years from now. Hackers keep security efforts ever-changing and if you’re not one step ahead, you’re one step behind. Security breaches will cost you customers and dollars. (See our article: What a Data Breach Could Soon Cost You.) If you collect any type of information about your customers or clients, put a security review at the top of your list of things to do.

Virtual Services

There’s nothing more convenient than having a face to face meeting without being face to face. If you offer a service that usually requires an in-person visit, look for ways to get it done via video call.

Facilitating Customer Interaction

Cor Hospes, from Amsterdam based Merkjournalisten, predicts that companies are going to opt to host brand discussions and move away from big social platforms. He says this: “They are going to lead their audience to their own content platform – a digital clubhouse where they can build a loyal fan base without the interference and unreliable algorithms of tech companies.” That will take an investment, but is likely not as costly as you may think and is definitely something to consider.

Think about everything that’s happened in the last three or so years. See what others in your industry are saying about the future. Ponder your similarities and differences with competitors. Put that all in your mind-blender, and write down what you think the big influences will be in the next three years.



Other Articles in this Series:
Planning Part 1 – Setting Goals and Objectives
Planning Part 2 – Environmental Scanning
Planning Part 3 – Consider Your Customers
Planning Part 4 – Timing Strategies and Tactics
Planning Part 5 – Scenarios