Tom Gooley is Chief Operating Officer at Cetera where he brings together teams who deliver exceptional experiences that drive growth.
Do you crave Apple’s latest iPhone? Were you the first on your block to drive a Tesla or order from Instacart? Have you asked Amazon’s Alexa to turn on your oven? If so, you are likely an early adopter or even an innovator, both of which are key demographics in evolving meaningful change.
Each person learns and adapts to technology at their own pace. Collectively, we all comprise an innovation bell curve and play a part in the technology adoption life cycle. These now well-known demographic and psychological profiles were originally defined by George Beal and Joe Bohlen in the 1950s. The five adopter category stages and the percentages are based on research by Everett Rogers.
Here’s how they apply now to technology:
• Innovators: This is the first 2.5%, which creates new products and invents new technologies. They’re the first users and their own test cases. Most of what they invent doesn’t make it to market. But out of what does, early adopters are first to try it.
• Early Adopters: As the next 13.5% after the innovators, early adopters are the earliest consumers to experiment with the technologies that get released to market.
• Early Majority: The next 34% after the early adopters is the early majority, which gets comfortable using new technology after it’s been tested by the early adopters.
• Late Majority: The 34% after the early majority refers to the late majority. This group comprises mainstream use of products or new technology.
• Laggards: The last 16% are the last to adapt to new technology.
Part of the propulsion toward new and constant innovation is a strategy known as “planned obsolescence.” Consumers are pushed into the new technologies because older ones are no longer supported. Innovators and early adopters are eager to use and integrate new technologies, but the laggards—the last 16%—are more challenging to win over. They might earnestly prefer hard mail or to fax in a form, even though these tasks can be automated in seconds.
Most of the advisors my company works with adapt to new technologies quickly, as they see it can save them valuable time and money. But for those who are more reluctant to embrace the new technologies, we meet them where they are and provide a range of training resources to familiarize them with the new technologies to help them become more comfortable.
Here are three ways other companies can help encourage laggards to adapt and evolve:
1. Provide a multichannel training approach.
People learn in all different ways, so offer clients a range of solutions to help them learn about your new technologies and become comfortable with them. Easy ways to accelerate the learning curve include:
• Instructional articles.
• Training webinars.
• Interactive group calls.
• Event tech bars.
• Peer-to-peer workshops.
Consider providing these options to meet people where they are and help them learn as effectively as possible. As appropriate for your company and clients, you can have these resources available on your website, platforms, apps and information hubs, and send them directly to clients via newsletters and individual emails. This flexibility in providing options for how you deliver training and content can help your clients engage most effectively in the format that best suits their learning styles.
2. Convince laggards with data.
Here’s how you can help people convert to digital solutions:
• Start with a data perspective. In particular, there’s the error rate. Every time a human touches something, there’s a greater chance for error than a digital or automated process.
• Explain how your solution can help. Break down for them how manually doing something can take longer and might potentially cost more than using technology and automation.
• Build a human connection. Consider meeting with your client in person, providing training on the technology and explaining the benefits of your solution to them. In doing so, you can help them understand that these efficiencies and digital platforms can help them accelerate growing their businesses.
Knowledge, courage and even some proverbial hand-holding can help many people take the next leap.
3. Use innovators and early adopters to evangelize.
It’s one thing for you to say how great you are, but, in reality, it’s your client’s experience that really matters. If they say you’re doing a great job, then you’re doing a great job.
When you have clients who are pleased with your company, present opportunities for them to share their experience with others. For example, my company invites successful advisors who are early adopters to speak at our conferences so they can directly share their experiences with their advisor peers. Hearing from peers helps advisors—especially the laggards among them—become more comfortable with embracing technology. Having your clients speak for themselves is the best way to implement this strategy successfully.
By offering a multichannel training approach to help people who learn in different ways, convincing the laggards by showing them the data perspective and having innovators and early adopters light the way, your company can create a sea change with the way you approach services and clients.
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