We often hear the buzzword phrases, Customer Service, Quality of Service (QOS) , Customer 1st, NPS (Net promoter Score), etc and the market both B2C and B2B has been constantly changing driven by more demanding customer expectations with the bar being set ever higher by new disrupters. Take the age old example of Blockbuster video, a model and brand that was globally successful and known, quickly disrupted when newcomers set the defacto bar to be – download a movie anywhere anytime to a growing number of devices, cheaper quicker and easier and nothing to return to the shop, with the film you want always available!
Customers are having that bar set by these new unicorn firms such as Uber, AirbNb, Netflix, JustEat, Ebay, Amazon and the list goes on. This means of course that existing legacy firms are now dealing with companies and people that have a natural inbuilt expectation for things to be easy, clear, customer friendly and ‘of the new world’. This is not easy to achieve for a legacy business. The phrases ‘Digital Transformation’ and ‘Digitally Agile’ abound as if this s a switch you can click to get there. For existing firms making this leap can be a big one and a complex, costly and painful journey to undertake. New cloud born firms design around the new world with processes’ systems, people and attitudes aligned to efficiency and customer service (very often self serve).
Take Purple Bricks as an example. Having engaged with them recently and taken benefit of their online new world model of estate agency, I can personally see why the existing bricks & mortar Estate Agents should be massively worried. This new model costs the customer a ¼ to a 1/5th of the commission and is slick and effective with self-serve portals combining with a human touch for the initial engagement and photos and a very slick process flow to sell your property in the most effective way for both you as a customer but also them as a cost model. We had 8 offers quickly, a good % over what traditional estate agents said to sell for and we had visibility of all that was happening 24*7 – a very slick process. The only thing holding this back is the nervousness of don’t we need the traditional model to tell us all what to do and handhold us – this is done as well and there was nothing complicated as the traditionalists will want you to think. In meeting with several traditional agents they were fast to bad mouth these new merchants as to ‘it won’t work’, ‘they won’t affect us’ and more ridiculously ‘but they don’t have a high street window to put the photo of your property in !’
My message to these traditionalists, ‘What Iceberg!’, open your eyes, you are heading straight for it. As those who use the new offerings prove it and tell all their friends (as we have been doing) more and more will try it questioning why the old model is so expensive and the Blockbuster>Netflix, the Tower Records>Itunes change will set in. It is the customer that decides and those decisions are being made easier with a wider gap in service quality vs price attracting customers away from traditional form factors and delivery models and known brands to new ways and new brands. Add to this Millenials and Z’s or whatever term you wish to coin for the youngsters who have been born into these new technologies, they expect online, self serve, fast, low cost, slick customer experiences!
What will let new entrants down of course is the service quality provided. If this is lacking customers likewise move fast with their feet and also their bad recommendations fire off faster than good ! Coming in as a disrupter or an existing provider refreshing its market offering, customer service remains key. In this new world dynamic customer service is not simply the speaking to the customer experience it is far wider and far more expansive.
Take a bricks and mortar retail store, its opening hours may be 6 (or 7 days a week) 9-5pm perhaps and the customer service is the touch points of staff, often only at the point of paying.
In the new world offerings we expect 24*7 access, from anywhere, from any device, with multiple interaction points from easy self service and search of answers, shared service from other customers such as provided by GiffGaff and livechat, email and phone support ideally when it is required.
On top of this of course is the delivery quality of that service, its availability, its speed of (online) response, underpinned by the SLA’s and processes that make the whole experience seamless and enjoyable. (eg the Amazon one-click, here’s what others bought, etc offerings).
For the providers and business providing these services there is a new dynamic, new business metrics, new approaches of development and support required in order to be operationally and cost efficient. Offering one of these new experiences is one thing, doing it at a market competitive price is another. Deliver it at twice the price of a rival and you will find how fickle the new customer breed is and how fast you can be displaced and made irrelevant. For the unicorn disruptors 1st is change the market dynamic and disrupt the status quo model/providers/brands, 2nd is maintain and retain this differential, ie change and change again and be willing and able to so in both technology, process and service. We will see disruptors being disrupted themselves. Take for example JustEat and HungryHouse in the UK, did they see Uber Eats coming? Will they be able to defend against it? Uber is now reshaping not as a Taxi firm but as a logistics firm! One with a technology platform, processes and brand that it can leverage into other markets, After food delivery, why not parcel deliver, flower delivery etc Can you see a time when an Uber driver taxis someone from A to B, gets alerted to pick up a parcel near B that needs to go to C and when approaching their gets alerted for a food delivery near C to deliver – thus maximising the earnings and utilisation of their 3rd party driver community, and giving a single brand experience to customers with the same lead they have on technology utilisation of moving something (whatever it be) from A to B quickly and with the customer knowing at all times where it is !
For the customer of new services there are also challenges. For the consumer it is less so, data privacy is a concern, who is tracking what you do and what If that data is leaked and what if their service is unavailable or I cannot get online am I able to operate or have I relied on it to totality!
For the business user of new world services the issues are more complex, from service quality for the business users, security of access and data, data sovereignty and governance, supplier and SLA management and control and mitigation of Shadow IT which is an Increasing problem with new services being licensed and accessed by employees on work devices on network and when mobile.
In the corporate environment, the service demands are often on IT to fix when it goes wrong even if the service is externally cloud provided and often even if the department has procured it directly without IT’s knowledge. When there’s an issue IT is called upon to resolve and help. Increasingly internal IT is going to grow into a service broker, mixing in house skills with those from external cloud, IOT and mobile providers to enable a cohesive service experience for its business users and hence onward to the customer. Important as one service quality begets the other often, with a customer’s experience impacted by an employee’s lack of access to a system (how often have you heard on a phone enquiry sorry my systems is running slow or has crashed can you wait or can I transfer you to another advisor!)
Corporate IT more than ever is going to need to have the processes and tools to manage not only the traditional environment and user requests, but to encompass those of cloud, IOT and mobile services, smarter more self-serving users and users with a higher demand expectation on response times and quality of service. Internally facing IT will have to align with external business quality of service delivery onwards to customers, to choose adaptable and empowering ITSM and ITAM tools and ITIL best practises to empower their agility and capability to deal with this faster changing IT environment.