Understanding The Future Customer
Guest comment: William Carson – Ascensos. I recently gave a talk at the UK Contact Centre Leaders Convention titled Understanding the Customer of the Future.
I began by asking the question – are you really the same customer as you were in 2019? Or in 2020? I pointed out that even something as obvious as upgrading your mobile phone to one with new consumer-friendly features and functionality or switching your utility provider may have changed how you view all brands – and your expectations.
To define what a future customer might look like I first reflected on a time when the future customer was me. That was in the late 1980s when Next Directory and First Direct launched within a year of one another – 1988 and 1989 respectively:
· Imagine a fashion retailer that you could call up to 10pm at night, to chat about style and accessories and place an order, and have the goods delivered to your door within 48 hours? And if something didn’t fit, to call back and they’d send someone round to pick the items up?
· Imagine a bank that you could call 24/7/365 to talk with someone about your money and financial offers, that considered itself a customer contact channel first and a bank second? And imagine getting straight through, no on-hold Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or IVR?
This was at a time when direct mail dominated and order coupons set the tone – wait 28 days for delivery – when banks closed at 3:30pm, when a 1st class stamp cost 98p, a pint was 99p and a litre of petrol was 34p.
It’s interesting to me, that what was key to the ‘future customer experience’ in the late 80’s was ideas, not tech. As marvelous as these innovative approaches were to retail and banking, there was nothing new in the delivery mechanisms of the service.
· It was the idea of shopping by phone taken to an entirely new level, supported by a fabulous, high quality catalogue, designed and manufactured in Italy, with fabric swatches and top-class photography. It was the idea of speaking to knowledgeable customer service fashionistas to 10pm in the evening who were in love with the brand as much as you were.
· In banking, it was the idea that it was YOUR money 24/7/365 – so why shouldn’t you be able to speak with a professional that understands financial products who’s empowered to increase your overdraft, cancel fees and offer you better products at any time – day or night?
Ideas – not tech. 34 years ago. Outstanding by today’s standards, out of this world back then.
Which begs the question, what’s a ‘future customer’ today?
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