“I really believe that if you come across something in life that could improve the life of someone else, you should pass it on.”
As an organization whose purpose is people, this quote from award-winning storyteller, podcaster, and former monk Jay Shetty is especially meaningful as we reflect on the incredible success of last week’s inaugural UKG Aspire customer conference. An incredible 4,700 attendees joined us — the vast majority in person — to network as well as learn from one another, UKG experts, and thought leaders like Shetty on topics ranging from product roadmaps to tips and tricks to how to create meaningful workplaces. I sat on a panel with Brenda Darden Wilkerson, CEO of AnitaB.Org, where we discussed the role of CHROs in driving pay equity and fair hiring practices in today’s world and had the opportunity to meet with several attendees afterward to hear their challenges and their wins. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive: Customers appreciate having a community where they can exchange information in a purposeful way that supports both their immediate and long-term business goals.
Throughout my discussions with customers, a few things resonated loud and clear: There’s a desire to be seen, heard, understood, and valued as leaders in their organizations, as part of the UKG customer community, and as human beings. As organizations continue to grapple with the current economic state and fluctuating job market, it’s no surprise they value relationships deeply rooted in partnership. Gone are the days when transactional relationships sufficed. Organizations — or rather, the human beings who make up organizations — are looking for a differentiated experience by seeking out business partners that share a similar vision, mission, and values, who they can lean on to navigate the complexities of today’s rapidly changing working world.
As we look ahead to the new year, the prioritization of these meaningful partnerships will continue to be front and center, with a particular emphasis on the following :
Three ways to put the customer (and people) first in 2023
1. Be personally proactive: One of the biggest shifts over the past few years is the desire for a more personalized and proactive customer experience. Our days are more scheduled, business demands for efficiency are growing, and expectations of how business partners engage with their customers have shifted toward a high-touch, yet highly digital experience. Companies will require their business providers to identify potential problems in advance and fix them in a way that feels personal to the user. Additionally, with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, organizations will expect their vendor partners to anticipate their needs by learning their habits and developing a unique understanding of their specific profile, to make recommendations as well as help them navigate important issues in the moment.
2. Embrace a human-first customer-vendor relationship: In the past, many vendors were viewed as a means to an end, a necessary and tactical practicality. But expectations are changing. People making decisions about business partners are responding differently to vendors with an authentic, human-first approach to the customer experience. Where they find that connection, they rely on those partners as trusted advisors, especially in the B2B world where the relationship between vendors and executives as well as system administrators can become more personal than in a more transactional B2C world. For example, previously, customers may not have wanted their vendor or supplier involved in discussions around their own employees, their engagement, and creating great workplaces. However, over the past few years, that’s become the expectation of highly valued software-provider partnerships. Companies will increasingly turn to the specific people assigned to drive their partnership forward to help navigate the complexities of today’s employees in a human-first way. They believe great partners will create a community of other users whom they can rely on in establishing best practices and creating meaningful change, whereas, in the past, they largely wanted vendors to stay out of their user-community discussions.
Companies will increasingly turn to the specific people assigned to drive their partnership forward to help navigate the complexities of today’s employees in a human-first way.
3. Consider how values align: Similarly, organizations have come to place significant importance on the values of those with whom they conduct business. Environmental sustainability, pay equity, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) are all examples of critical initiatives that many are looking to establish or enhance for the betterment of their people. Partnering with companies that value similar issues will become even more important in the years ahead, as organizations look to learn from others and discover new ways to empower their people and make a difference in the workplace. Organizations will prioritize doing business with vendors that have well-established values instead of focusing on which companies have the best financials or flashiest products.
Expectations will continue to evolve, but by placing a premium on partnerships and continuing to invest in the customer experience, vendors will reap the benefits of renewed loyalty, competitive advantage, and overall goodwill. Like Shetty describes, there is nothing more important than putting people first.