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30, June 2016

Making of the last mile: Chapter 2 – A shift of power

After reading the first two posts – ‘It starts with a hello’ and ‘the birth of the last mile’, I am certain that you have figured out the protagonist of this series ‘the last mile’ and the history behind it. As we have traversed with the posts through the ages from the industrial revolution to now, there are a few other evolving patterns that we observe.

A thought to reflect upon before we proceed further.

Who drives the finale of the last mile?

Is it the enterprise or is it the customer?

Let’s make a guess.

No, hazarding a guess on the future is not an enviable task. Especially in today’s turbulent times, the future is confusing, ambiguous and downright uncertain.

Since the days of the industrial revolution, the power dynamics between the enterprise and the consumer has fluctuated based on the market economics. While it might be a different science altogether, one might be able to cull out an empirical pattern of power dynamics based on the increasing use of technology.

As Werner Erhard once said, “Create your future from your future, not your past”. However, the only logical way is to probably look for any fundamental shift in the customer behavior over a period of time and see if you could imagine what would happen tomorrow.

If one can observe, there are three major dynamic shifts that have occurred in this space during when the limelight shifted from the enterprise to the consumer.

drive

The First power shift: The choice of access

In the era of ‘walk-ins’, enterprises dictated the time and manner of access.

However, with the advent of newer channels viz. the telephone, mobile, and the internet, the consumer now decides what they want, when they want, and how they want it.

Needless to say, this is a shift of the past. Recent research points to over 80% of top 10 service brands making more than one channel available. It has graduated even further with omnichannel integrations that allow you to connect the story built over many channels at different points in time.

For a while, customers felt a little overwhelmed with a plethora of options and did not know what to do with them until they learned. And when they did, arose the second shift

The Second power shift: To speak and to be heard

It was the advent of social media, the public loudspeaker and its plethora of public forums for judging enterprises – their products and services on a 24×7 basis. This has clearly given the steering wheel to the customer.

speakers

Customers seek, inform, network, revolt, praise, complain or abandon brands. They can make or break enterprises with their foot firmly entrenched in the social soil.

While digital marketing is evolving, customer care through social media has also started to become increasingly important.  67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing. (J.D. Power and Associates).  33% of users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.

Ironically, it is amidst the roaring, powerful mass voice, that enterprises have found the opportunity of the single voice which is leading to the third shift.

The Third power shift: Power of customer entitlement

If we were to frame a question – “What would a customer do in a highly commoditized and competitive market, if the ways and means of access are in his control, and he has dynamic alerts on things he is going to buy?” Researchers are now talking about an expectation of “less than hour” turnaround on complaints made on social media. Marketers are seeing ‘segment of one’ marketing in the realm of possibility. In short, every consumer is the ‘center of universe’ and everyone is waiting with baited breath for every word and move of theirs.

Hence, the shift in the ability of the consumer to command their need even before they think about it.

handshake

And with the advent of the internet of things and the convergence of smart and smarter devices, the physical world of the consumer merges itself into his digital world. Most of the physical devices will be connected to the digital universe. By 2020, it’s claimed that up to 100 billion devices will be connected and the huge amount of data that this creates is constantly being crunched by computer algorithms leading to the analysis of just about everything in the world around us.

Customer Experience Management is changing and evolving drastically at a dramatic pace. All one can say is that changing dynamics of CX – it is possible to stay abreast of it, if not probable. I believe with the third shift the future of customer experience would have truly become that of the ‘customer’ and not that of the ‘enterprise’!

Enterprises, gear up and fling yourself in for a deep dive!


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