Customer-Centric Strategies for Executive Search

Digital technology continues to disrupt organizations and industries worldwide. How do you win the business and heart of your customers in a world driven by artificial intelligence? 

Sharing findings from his latest book, Customers The Day After Tomorrow, Steven Van Belleghem will deliver the keynote address at AESC's European Conference in London on November 8. An author, professor and entrepreneur, Steven is a co-founder of Nexxworks and Snackbytes and an expert in customer focus in a digital world. Customers The Day After Tomorrow is a story about the future of customer relations in a world of artificial intelligence, automation and bots. Here, he touches on what executive search and leadership consultants can learn about putting the customer first.  

In your new book, you discuss the third phase of the digital evolution and highlight how organizations’ mindsets need to not focus on the technology but instead the customer. What are some of the consequences leaders face if they fail to focus on the customer?

Many companies have been working with a ‘digital-first’ mindset in the last few years. For me, digital-first actually means ‘customer first without compromise’. Look at the success of big technology companies like Amazon. Amazon looks like a technology company but is truly a customer-centric company.

To win the business of customers, your eyes should be focussed on the user. The challenge is not to surprise them once or twice but instead to deliver a fantastic service over and over again. Consistency of service levels is crucial to success. In this new phase of digital, the world of artificial intelligence offers more opportunities than ever to boost the service levels of customers.

I like to work with three clear benefits:

  • Faster than real-time service: solve problems before the customers know that there is a problem;
  • Hyper-personalization: it is no longer about the average customer but instead is about the individual customer needs;
  • The highest convenience levels ever: make it very easy and fast to do business with you.

Focusing on these three benefits is the way forward. AI and technology can help to accomplish this but the primary focus should always be the customer.

You’ve compiled research from some of the most innovative companies in the world – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Alibaba, Oracle, Autodesk and more – and address the opportunity to boost the performance of humans in every sector. How can this be done?   

The world is becoming more digital than ever. And becomes of that, the value of humans interactions has never been more important. There is this old economic law of scarcity that is in play. The more scarce a certain resource becomes, the more value it has.

The human part in a customer relationship is decreasing in frequency, and because of that, it has become more important than ever before. As humans, we should excel in those fields where computers are not really prominent. Computers are great at creating efficiency. Humans are better in emotional relationships. Qualities like passion and empathy will become more important than ever before.

Executive search and leadership consultants advise business leaders worldwide providing an array of executive talent solutions to their biggest organizational challenges. How should trusted advisors approach emeging technologies with a customer-centric approach?

If you look at the business of executive search, it seems like the perfect business for AI to take over everything. Executive search is like a dating service, you have to do the best matchmaking possible between an employee and an employer. Data plays a crucial role in this process. Great data analytics can probably create better matches than humans could ever do. But just like in love, there is more to a relationship than data matchmaking. The emotional, human part plays a crucial role as well. For me, the future of executive search is about combining the strengths of digital qualities with the possibilities of humans. Use data as much as you can for the rational part of the business but be unique via your human interfaces.

You will be speaking at our upcoming European Conference which explores the theme of Disruptive Innovation. In sharing how difference drives innovation, what do you hope executive search and leadership advisory consultants will take away from your session?

I really hope they will understand that artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in the future of their business. Understanding what AI first means and how this brings value for customers is one of my key messages. Additionally, I also hope they will believe in the potential of humans and how they can still make a difference as a human advisor in this AI driven world.

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