For consumers there are now so many services that compete for their money every day. For brands, engagement is more important than ever which means every experience they provide needs to be personal, memorable and effective.
This is the reason why delivering world class customer experiences across all channels and touch points is now so central to the thinking of business.
That’s the view of Jeffrey Wartgow, senior director, product management at Oracle.
“Imagine you are visiting another city and you want to go back to your hotel room. You might catch the bus, or an Uber, or a taxi. Or if you are so inclined you might even rent a bike or an electric scooter,” Wartgow says.
But in an experience-based economy, the competition for share of wallet doesn’t end with the obvious choices.
“But what if you decide to walk instead and spend the money you save on a coffee, or in any one of the dozens of shops you pass on the way back to your room.”
This simple scenario encapsulates reality that brands face today, he says.
As marketers, it is not enough any longer to simply concern yourselves only with traditional rivals. “You are now competing with the experiences and opportunities offered by every other business trying to increase their share of that same consumer’s wallet.”
Wartgow says it is important for companies to recognise this new reality.
Companies aren’t in a competition that is anchored only in their own vertical and you are competing with all the various experiences in the daily life if the consumer.
He suggests companies should be willing to learn from outside of their own industries.
“When you go to the airport you check-in on a kiosk with a boarding pass. Why can’t a hotel offer me the same service,” he asks.
Digital trends like the rise of smart mobility and social media have made consumers more aware and sensitive to how they spend their money, and how companies treat them.
And in most cases, consumers understand that there are relatively few switching costs when they decide to change providers for any service.
“If I go into a coffee shop and have a bad experience I don’t complain or talk to the manager. I’ll just go to another coffee shop and never go back again.”
But that is just the start of the impact. “Customers today will also share their experiences on social media for instance, which multiplies the impact of a bad experience. It’s easy now for a customer to tell hundreds or even thousands of people about their bad experience.”
For all these reasons companies are investing more in customer experience than every before, says Wartgow. To do this they are aligning their product teams around these experiences and building processes that allow them to respond and improve experiences quickly.
But of course that is not always as easy as it sounds, and it doesn’t sound easy! Expectations arrive so fast now that is hard for even the most agile organisations to keep up with the accelerating CX curve.
“It was not always like this. It took years for customer contact centres to start offering 24-hour phone service. Instead, consumers were expected to conform to the needs of the business,” he says.
“Companies gradually learned that consumers expected to be able to get a response outside of business hours, but no sooner had companies put their phone service in order than every switched to text!”
And as soon as companies switched to text, then consumers all started using messaging apps like Facebook or WeChat.
Digital transformation also compelled companies to compete on a global not just local terms, as consumers don’t distinguish by geography when it comes to good and bad experiences.
The need to keep up with the ever rising tide of customer expectations has caused many companies to consider the way they work.
Increasingly, Wartgow says, he sees marketing, product and customer service being drawn together.
“This unification is baked in. I used to work for a service team. Now when I go to a meeting there are people from marketing, commerce, sales. So we have structured ourselves around that concept.”
“To the customer, it’s just brand. They don’t see you as a service department, they don’t see a sales department or a billing department, they just expect the brand to know everything about them.”
Make it easy
Previous generations traded on their stoicism. This worked on an assumption that life wasn’t meant to be easy. Gen Z and digital natives, boring into a world of smart phones, ubiquitous internet access and social media take a very different view – life isn’t meant to be hard.
“Gen Z is very financially literate. They understand how money works so they want to get what they paid for and they are very critical if they don’t, “ says Wartgow.
“Gen X virtually coined the phrase, ‘This sucks’ but they are very cynical and will put up with it. Get Z will say I am going to do something about this.”
That changes the expectations on a business.
“Gen Z values the data they share, and their expectation is that there is minimised risk for them,” he said. “Now what they want isn’t much different to what baby boomers and Gen X have always dreamed about – the difference is Gen Z knows its available and knows its possible.”
“The number one registry gift for young couples on John Lewis the UK retailer is an Amazon Alexa. To them, it’s just like China or a gravy boat or a set of dishes.”
About the author
Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which Oracle is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.