I've been away from work for a little while (hopefully not much longer!), which is always a good way to get some perspective on things. As our industry continues to evolve and emerge, I thought I'd make a (non-Mayan) prediction on one of the main ways the digital world will change in 2012.
The web offers bountiful opportunities for companies when seen as a service medium. And it's staggering how many companies out there still don't understand this - or at least, don't reflect this in their service levels. And this is at a time when the near ubiquitous presence of social media amplifies and accelerates the pace at which customers' expectations rise, and their inclination to share experiences - good and bad, in real time - has become second nature.
Providing an excellent service over the web is both hard and expensive. Even still, I believe that 2012 will mark the inflection point where a majority of those companies who haven't got their act together finally accept that they have to improve their service levels anyway, just to remain competitive. Customers are increasingly better informed to make a commitment with those who do.
While movements such as VRM signal the direction of travel, I doubt most large companies are anything like ready enough to implement the wide scale change in organisation and culture required to serve customers in this way in 2012. This will come later, piecemeal. The improved service I'm talking about today is more within reach; a recognition that customers have more control over the fiscal relationship than ever before, the humility which comes from this recognition, and the activity which springs from this realisation. I'm expecting internal disruption within organisations, which will manifest itself as improved service levels outside.
Here's hoping, anyway!