Julian Kardos explains how new technologies are enabling a new breed of customer pleasing businesses.
We’re in the midst of a technology-driven change of such significance that it’s being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and while it is technology that is driving change, it isn’t technology which is at the centre of focus. Instead, it is you, the customer. Technology is putting more power in your hands: power to choose, power to control, and power to manage.
That technology is as obvious as the smartphone in your hand, but it extends much further. Behind the device is an online world of computing power and clever software (in some cases, quite literally clever, as advances are being made in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence) which enables things like Siri to work. That technology was once exceptionally expensive and limited to the very few. Today, it is so accessible that it is given away to consumers for free, through the likes of Google services.
What the availability of this technology means for businesses serving hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of customers, is playing out differently depending on how adaptable any specific company is. It also depends, to an extent, how long that company has been around; some older organisations are restricted by outdated technology, cumbersome structures and yesteryear’s business models.
"A new breed of businesses are being created which operate inexpensively, exceptionally efficiently and – crucially – in a way that delights customers like never before."
Meanwhile, low-cost and easily accessible technology like that which makes your smartphone so indispensable means a new breed of businesses are being created which operate inexpensively, exceptionally efficiently and – crucially – in a way that delights customers like never before.
That’s because it was never before practical or even possible to ‘mass personalise’.
That’s what customer power means.
Around the world, organisations of every kind are changing the way they interact with and serve customers. Some of them are doing so willingly. Others are being disrupted by new entrants to the market. But the common thread is that with mass personalisation, driven by technology which recognises you, the consumer, and allows interaction with service providers on your terms (not theirs), on your schedule, and at your convenience, means you have the power.
That power even extends to chopping and changing your service provider. Not happy with the service? Spotted a better deal? If you’re dealing with an old-fashioned company which depends on lengthy contracts to extract maximum value from your wallet, it might not be possible to quickly shift to a better option. If you’re dealing with a modern organisation which believes in customer power and stakes its reputation on always being the best, not just at the time of the initial sale, you’re not likely to be tied down to any contract.
Which industries is this shift taking place? The better question is ‘which industries aren’t’. It is happening everywhere, but most obviously in service-oriented ones. That includes banking, telecommunications, transport, accommodation, travel. You’ll have heard about Uber, AirBNB, Expedia and Trip Advisor.
Closer to home, customer power is also making its presence felt in the electricity retail market, where new entrants have created unique business models. Using online technology, customer power in this sector doesn’t just mean electricity delivery. It also means lower costs, convenience to adapt services to fit your lifestyle and the ability to do everything online, the easy way.
The final thought is that in this age of customer power, ask yourself if the service providers you deal with have empowered you. If not, it’s time to use customer power for your benefit.
Julian Kardos is managing director of Electric Kiwi.