As consumers we are more demanding and less loyal to companies than ever before. Recent customer surveys show that every adult in the UK has complained about a customer experience at least once during 2016. That’s over 55 million complaints resulting in 28% of customers buying less from the company, or simply taking their business elsewhere.
At the same time, the way we make purchasing decisions is changing. Consumers today are hyperconnected to an ecosystem of people and organisations that inform, influence and inspire us. While 86% of us trust family and friends when we make purchase decisions, 66% of us also trust complete strangers we meet on social media. This means we tend to base our purchase decisions on complex relations that are more difficult for companies to influence.
This development marks a new, fourth step in the evolution of the customer that we have witnessed during the past 100 years, explains Stefan. First, we saw a product-focused approach, starting with Henry Ford’s car that you could only buy in black. Next was the step controlled by customer needs, the age of Mad Men and customers buying brands, not products.
Then came the experience-based approach that is still relevant, when companies strive to deliver a personalised experience in order to build loyalty, for example when Nike allowed customers to design their own shoes. Now we’ve reached step four, “customer 4.0.”, the customer-centric step that forces companies to understand how they fit into the customer’s universe and not the other way around.
One company who has understood this shift in customer demands is Kuoni, a high-end travel agent specialising in honeymoons. Kuoni has joined forces with the London department store John Lewis to offer an online wedding wish list that allows guests to contribute to the honeymoon, which is then handled by Kuoni. Kuoni has seen a strong growth in a challenged industry by focusing on the content of the honeymoon and not price or destination. For customers it’s an easy way to include the honeymoon as an integrated part of the wedding planning.
Companies need to shift away from trying to attract customers with the promise of personalised experiences and customer satisfaction. It’s no longer a matter of branding, marketing and customer experience. Instead, companies must rediscover their customers, understand the forces that influence them, and know how to position themselves, if they want to stay relevant, concludes Stefan.
Stefan Knapp is a business transformation expert at PA Consulting Group