2015 may not be the year of hoverboards or flying cars, but it’s definitely the year of the empowered customer.
According to Forrester, we’re currently in the age of the customer, “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.”
In the past, businesses could differentiate themselves by means of means of production, technology, branding, etc. Many companies focused on what was best (and most profitable) for them. But now that even the smallest businesses have access to high quality resources, businesses need to focus on what’s best for the customer.
And It’s not just businesses that have access to high quality resources today–customers do as well. Consumer review sites, forums and social media help craft a customer’s view of a company. As such, customers are less loyal than ever before.
Over the past few years, companies have gathered a lot of information on customers—maybe too much. Data collection has sometimes crossed the line from useful to Big Brother levels, and customers have taken notice.
But now customers are reclaiming some of that power from companies, and that trend is set to continue in 2015. Customers have different expectations on what companies should do for them, namely that they should make everyone’s lives easier with all the data they gather.
Customers know that companies are tracking things like their spending habits, and while they might be more accepting than in the past, they’re no longer content with having just companies benefit from big data. They want something that helps them too, like using that data to provide a better service experience. Customers expect that companies know about them, but now their expectation is that companies act like they know about them.
Your service, your way
Today’s customers have much higher expectations of service and how companies should deliver it. They want companies to use that data they’ve collected to make their lives easier. They want service that remembers where their conversation left off if they switch between agents or channels. They want service that is quick, easy and solves their problem as quickly as possible.
But really, they just want good service. What good service means to everyone is not the same, however, just as a customer’s expectations on data use are not the same. Good service ultimately means knowing your customer and communicating in the way they prefer. And that varies from customer to customer, so the best option to meet changing demands is to give your customers a choice.
Listening and learning
As customers start demanding these better experiences, companies are beginning to act on it. For example, American Express’ fraud detection program combines voice, text and web to deliver an omnichannel service that helps customers get fraud issues resolved quickly, across multiple channels in an easy and seamless customer experience. Crate & Barrel saves customer searches started on one device and lets them pick it up on another seamlessly. Perhaps the most popular example right now is the Starbucks app that lets customers pay, receive rewards and get real-time updates across devices.
All of these cases use big data, but since it’s used in such a way that it makes customers’ lives easier, provides value and allows the customer to choose the channel that best fits their need at the time, they’re extremely happy with it. For example, a Harris Poll study found that if a company offered text messaging, 64% of all consumers are likely to have a positive perception of the company with 23% of customers likely to stay loyal for offering the feature.
The information gap between companies and customers is slowly being closed as the empowered learn what they’re capable of. It’s no longer a monopoly, it’s a duopoly, and it’s shifting in customers’ favor.
To learn more about how customers want to communicate with your business, download the free 2014 Harris Report here.