Customer has a choice - more than ever


Customer has a choice - more than ever

We are all glocal – both global and local at the same time – in the market place.”How does digitization affect companies? What added value does it bring to customer relationships and service? These where the key questions when we met Pekka Aula, Professor at the Lahti School of Innovation, Lappeenranta University of Technology.

“We can talk about zero-latency organizations, in which external expectations for the reaction time of the company is zero seconds. This creates pressure for instant customer feedback and service no matter what the place or time. We are all glocal – both global and local at the same time – in the market place,” says Aula. One consequence of digitization is that a small company can be listed in the top 10 Google search results alongside bigger ones. Success in digital life is no longer related to company size. Instead, it is all about relevance and reaction.

It is all about people, not companies

A good starting point for evaluating all our operations is that we are living a digital life. A personal relationship with digitization has an impact on every action we take. To succeed in this digital life, companies should know the preferences of their stakeholders in their digital context – values and vision of the world, digital communication environment, and behavioral models within it. Digitization has influenced every phase of the value chain. It has changed the way we produce, distribute, and receive goods and knowledge. “In this context, communicators are like brokers: they try to make sense of the direction we are heading in and the effects it might have on their organizational life. This underlines the ability to recognize significant and relevant events and signals from the global information flow,” explains Aula.

Big Data reveals the hidden needs

Another big topic at the moment is the use of Big Data. Big data means the huge volume of data collected from our actions on the Internet. “Big data enables repetitive action on the web to be pinpointed, thereby enabling the uncommunicated needs of stakeholders to be recognized. This means a huge potential for marketers who have the skills to ask the right questions and thereby discover hidden needs,” describes Aula.

Theme facilitators

Communication is more challenging than ever before. It is not a department or support function, but more a thematic expert. In recognizing the needs of customers, communication’s task is to keep discussion and interaction going – also within the company. This discussion-driven communication has also affected the credibility of advertising, moving advertising money away from bought media to companies’ own, corporate media, which can offer more direct interaction. Aula continues: “Communicators are like facilitators. They interpret the needs of customers in relation to the company’s offering. This interpretation can then be used by marketing to tailor the company’s offering to each individual customer.”

Is a physical presence tomorrow’s success factor?

Digital life benefits innovation and customer services in several ways. It offers a platform to enable more people to participate in new product and service development. It handles the boring but necessary routines for us, leaving time for more demanding tasks. The winners have a mindset for open and continuous product improvement. “Nowadays it is a common and established practice to release several beta versions to the market and let the market choose the winner. This has accelerated the R&D processes of companies remarkably, but also challenged existing revenue logic,” analyses Aula. The interesting question is which virtuality will be most beneficial for companies in the future. There is and will be a need for problem solving and creativity that require the physical presence of people in the same space. When customer service is rapidly digitized, the communication between two human beings on-site may really make the difference and be the winning factor in achieving the trust needed in the complex goods business.

No control world

Digital life has benefitted companies in many ways – creating new product development venues, tailoring the offering, serving customers quickly and accurately. Lines of businesses are constantly evolving and separating them can actually stop the positive development. “Companies could perceive themselves as office buildings with all of their doors open. It is no longer possible to control information and knowledge transfer. So why not welcome it and concentrate on effectively interpreting signals for the good of customers instead?” advises Aula Editor: Sonja Vuorinen _______________________________________ Pekka Aula, LinkedIn Professor at Lappeenranta University of Technolgoy, LUT Twitter @pekka_aula


About Pekka Aula

Pekka Aula is a leading expert in the field of reputation, reputation management, organizational communication, and web communication. Aula is a Doctor of Social Science and has been working in research and teaching at the University of Helsinki in the department of Communication since completing his doctoral dissertation in 1999. He also holds a professorship at the University of Jyväskylä. Aula’s studies focus mainly on strategic reputation management in organizations. According to Aula, reputation management is a key factor in developing and commercializing innovations.

Aula was appointed professor at the department of industrial management at Lappeenranta University of Technology at the beginning of 2014. Aula will be working at the Lahti School of Innovation in a project that deals with innovation communication. The project incorporates reputation management studies and innovation studies. The research at Lappeenranta University of Technology’s Lahti School of Innovation focuses on innovation in an interdisciplinary and practical way.

Aula has authored many books on reputation management and been the editor of Maine, the field’s leading professional magazine in Finland. Aula has been a visiting scholar at the University of Stanford in USA, the Amsterdam School of Communication Research and the University of Southern California. Aula was awarded the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation grant in 2011.


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