How should you run a taxi business when the most powerful technology companies in the world are investing billions in getting rid of the drivers? And should managing directors participate in dealing with customer complaints from time to time in order to keep a real connection with their customers?
These are some of the questions that SMT’s FutureWatch event at the Löyly restaurant in Helsinki sought to answer. The discussion topics were change management and knowing when it is time to initiate change. A group of some twenty business managers and management consultants thought about the theme.
To answer the first question, Kari Korkiakoski, a consultant who specialises in the customer experience, points out that digitalisation can also be used for improving the experience and not just efficiency. “A great deal of service companies’ customer relationships are built digitally online. That experience could be a differentiating asset”, Korkiakoski explains.
Helsingin Taksi-Data Oy’s Managing Director Monna Huvilinna sees change as a continuous process which poses an essential challenge in most fields. “New players who bring new challenges and solutions with them enter the business constantly. In this case, it is important to have a vision of your own solutions and the services that the entire organisation will be working on with determination”, Huvilinna says.
SMT’s Managing Director Kirsi Paakkari says that change requires renewing the company culture. This cannot be based on values alone; concrete promises are needed as well. “You need to anchor change with actions. Just ideas are not enough. At SMT, for example, we made the promise “I’m on it”. We work hard to ensure that whenever our customers contact us, we have the right attitude and know-how for helping them immediately”, Paakkari says.
Fredman Group is making professional kitchens into intelligent work environments. The company’s Managing Director Peter Fredman thinks that there is often too much distance between the management and the customers. “If you look at documents by companies’ managers, they usually speak very little about their customers”, Fredman says.
He also thinks that, almost without exception, companies attempt to change things too late. “The best time for change is when the company’s finances are in order.”
Companies often see it best to separate the role of change manager from that of operations manager. Therefore, they may hire a dedicated change manager to implement the changes. According to Finnair’s SVP Strategy and Resource Management Ville Iho, it is essential to help corporate management see far enough beyond the change they are hoping to implement.
“If you focus too much on change itself instead of the goals which the process is seeking to achieve, there is a danger that the company will pass out on the finishing line, exhausted and waste the business drive that the changes have brought.” Iho says. “The organisation should see far enough ahead and understand how to drive change and utilise its resources fully”, he adds.
The consensus at the FutureWatch event was that there is no single formula for implementing changes successfully. Nevertheless, you need to set your goals high enough and get the entire organisation excited about how things could be better.