Customers don’t care about your industry rules

I had a very pleasant lunch this week with an old chum, who’s an IT leader in a venerable publishing institution. We chatted about a number of things, but the thing that inspired this post was challenge to his organization from digital disruption.

The publishing industry is the poster child for digital disruption; a supply chain that is disrupted from production of the raw material to the moment the product gets into the customer’s hands. From the authors laptop to Amazon.

To make reference to it when writing about digital transformation and customer experience feels a little but hackneyed, almost lazy. Everyone knows this story. However, I was sitting in front of a chap whose organization is living this.

Viewed from the perspective of a publisher Amazon are of course the villain of the piece, but as a consumer the Amazon customer experience is irresistible.

Not just irresistible to the majority of us who are only dimly aware of their market impact and what this means to publishers, but irresistable even to my chum whose organization and perhaps livelihood is being given a damned good thrashing by this online leviathan that dominates their channel. We chatted about how he enjoyed their great service in almost the same breath of how deeply they force publishers to discount.

Of course there are two sides to digital disruption, as a technologist my chum knows that they also have the opportunity to transform themselves to disrupt their own channel. Maybe not to compete with Amazon, but at least give the consumer what they want.

But, it seems that would be against the rules.

A set of rules that is enshrined in a model defined in the 1600’s (no really, I did say venerable publishing organization), they play by a set of rules that define the route to the consumer is via distributors and retailers.

A set of rules that creates friction for the consumer, if you go to their online “shop” there is no buy button – you find a link to a retailer. A tease to an unrequited consumer experience – they can’t sell you something directly for fear of breaking the rules.

I’m using the word “rules”, but really what we are talking about is when you ask “why?” the reply is “we’ve always done it this way” and every organization has those holy cows.

Digital transformation or customer experience or whatever buzzword du jour you want to apply to this is not just about technology – it’s about changing these rules. The difficult work of taking a different view to processes, people and structures that stand in the way of the organization and the customer and changing them.

In a previous post on the Tahzoo blog I talked about internal rules and policies affecting how we serve our customers – these are easier to change, but to disrupt your own channel is a bold move.

But, the disruptors don’t follow the industry rules, because the customer’s don’t care. The customer lives by a different set of rules, of cost and convenience.