Connectivity and Customer Influence
Companies have long been in the driver’s seat with their customer relationships;
determining what to offer, how to access the offer and the price customers
need to pay. However, technology’s increasing integration into more facets
of everyday life has allowed new-age disrupters to transform this paradigm.
Customers are challenging how big business interacts with them and businesses
that don’t adapt will be left behind.
The connectivity skipping stone and the evolution of customer service Communication has had an impressive evolution. The pace and frequency of their innovation iterations is similar to that of a skipping stone along a calm body of water, increasing rapidly with each skip. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone it gave customers the ability to talk to companies about their interactions, positive or negative. This allowed companies the ability to scale the customer feedback loop, it was around this time when the first customer service teams were created.
Over the next 100 years, technological innovations to the telephone and subsequent integrations with computers helped productivity scale even further. By the 1970s customer service measures were commonplace for sales representatives to ensure the sustainability of their sales practices. This technology also fueled customer expectation and what would become their expanding influence on marketing strategy, price positioning and advertising messages among many others. It was no longer sales teams responsible for customer happiness but also marketing, and in the mid- 90s a new term was coined: Customer Engagement. When smart phones entered the market, it poured gasoline on this trend. The Internet and social media had a home in everyone’s pocket, and Customer Engagement soon made way for the shiny new term; Customer Experience (CX). CX’s philosophy is that everyone in the company is responsible for customer’s well being from legal to finance and operations to HR and all in-between.
The next skip Technology is not slowing down. Innovations are evolving and becoming more mainstream everyday. The companies that can seamlessly integrate these into their product and brand are winning, and winning big. Technology such as big data storage and decisioning is now common and available “off-shelf”. APIs are exploding product service offerings, virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and more recently chatbots are popping up everywhere. Artificial intelligence, biometrics, virtual, augmented and mixed realities are all customer innovations that are trending up. This isn’t science fiction. These are all basic examples of how companies can accelerate their customer service, engagement or experience right now. When you combine some of this technology things get really exciting. Big data, AI, and virtual assistance can allow for predictive issue resolution, preventing foreseeable problems a customer has with the company at scale and on a whole new level. Contextual and personalised interactions are what’s next for the customer and the technology to achieve this is available now.
Customer Experience is so 2010. As communication continues to innovate, so does the influence the customer has on companies, their employees, products and brands. This evolution of connectivity means customers are starting to kick the company’s out of the proverbial driver’s seat.
Companies such as UBER, AirBnB and Netflix have had dramatic effect on their respective industries due to their ability to harness this technology while evolving the customer service loop. It’s no longer about customer service, engagement or experience. It’s now about Customer Empowerment. Creating Customer Empowerment into your product, brand or offering has three distinct options: Transparency (or knowledge), Choice and/ or Control. UBER is still a taxi service. It is a driver and their car getting you from A to B. Many cities even charge more, let alone the introduction of UberBlack. So why the disruption? They made the commerce more contextual (you walk out without “paying”) and the experience has more transparency. A simple map showing where and how far away the ride is makes customers feel empowered. AirBnB is still accomodation, however it sensationally expanded consumers’ options. This gives customers greater choice, all on one website. Netflix didn’t disrupt due to greater content, but it it did offer much greater “control”. It gives customers the ability to choose what to watch, when they want to watch it and on whichever device they prefer – all at a fraction of a cost and without interruption.
The trend that continues to develop is that companies who persist on forcing their customers to do business on the company’s terms will be overtaken by those who can evolve to doing business on their customers’ terms. The businesses who can embrace the technology available and evolve the next customer feedback loop to create greater transparency, choice or control will provide a paradigm shift for their respective industries. The next evolution of customer experience is Customer Empowerment.
Mike Burke is a sales, marketing and general business specialist with more than 20 years’ experience. He is the founder of Burke Consulting & Associates who currently work with companies looking to unlock their growth goals smarter, faster and easier. www.burkeandassociates.co.nz