Consumer Centric Thinking
Are you planning to jump into the web2.0 bandwagon? Why?
- To be perceived as cool brand?
- To catch the eyeball? … To advertise?
- To be where the consumers are?
- Or simply not to be left behind?
I do not think these are valid reasons. However, I am also not saying that web2.0 is just hype, this phase will pass and no actions need to be taken. The essence of web2.0 is the connection it establishes among users of the web and between enterprises and consumers. As a result of this, the relation between consumers and enterprises is changing and changing very fast.
Fact 1 – Advertisement do not work as well as it used to – feedback of other consumers carry more weight
- Consumers do research on the web before making any purchasing decision
- Consumers rely more on own experience and independent feedback rather than company promotion material
Any bad interaction can not only damage the brand perception for one consumer, it can also have a cascading effect through social network and blogosphere. Multiple such reactions on the web can create an avalanche. Biggest problem is that even if the company rectifies the cause of the bad interaction, the postings remain forever.
Implication 1 – Each and every consumer interaction matters – more than ever
Such interaction can happen either through the medium of a company representative or through an automated system. When such interaction happens through an individual, the quality of the interaction not only depends on the skill and knowledge of the individual but also on the accuracy of information available.
- Systems designed to take care of normal situation can be from excellent to bad
- Systems designed to take care of abnormal situation is in most cases inadequate to awful
Human with good interaction skill can smoothen out the rough edges of the system. With automated systems this luxury is not available.
Fact 2 – Due to cost pressure organizations want to automate more and more of consumer interactions
There are so many examples. Just two of them are listed below. I am sure you can think of many more.
- Introduction of IVRS system instead on call center operator and
- “Fast Travel” initiative of IATA which wants to make all process in the airport as self service
Personally, I do not mind this shift and sometimes even prefer to interact with a well designed automated system. It works well as long as I am within the scope of the system. The problem starts when …
- … the system is designed keeping the company process in mind, where no attention is paid on how I will perceive the system
Implication 2 – Viewing the whole process from the perspective of the consumer is critical … and this is consumer-centric thinking
- … my problem falls outside of what has been envisaged by the organization
Such experience can really be frustrating and leads to a sense of helplessness. From my perspective, I would like to interact with an organization that has a method of listening to my “Voice of Frustration” and take action on it. I am more comfortable if I get the impression that they have a method of improving the system based on these feedbacks.
Implication 3 – Adaptable and responsive system is required
Before the web2.0 days, such information was not easily available. Fortunately it is much easier to find out this voice if the company cares to do it. Social networks, blogosphere and many other popular sites are full of such feedbacks. What is required is the will to trace them and take action specifically and systemically.
Fact 3 – Number and types of channels and touch points of consumer interaction has increased significantly
Today there are many more different methods and devices for such interactions. They range from face to face interaction and interaction over phone with a real person to automated interaction through web, kiosk, mobile etc. The email interaction is another channel and it falls in between. What has complicated matter is that the web no longer a single channel. The way of managing the interaction through company web site is quite different from managing the aggregators, social networking applications and even micro blogging.
Implication 4 – Ensuring consistent and logical response across so many channels becomes much bigger challenge
This is a good time to be a consumer. We have unprecedented choice in products and services. Also there is some indication that organizations have started taking consumers seriously and trying to become more consumer-centric.
However, providing uniform and logical consumer experience across multiple channelsis not easy. How well an organization is geared up to handle this challenge depends on the answer to following questions:
- Is there a process in place which will ensure cross-channel uniformity?
- Is there anybody in the organization who is responsible from ensuring cross-channel uniformity?
I suspect that for most organizations the answer to both the questions will be NO.
Web2.0 may not be directly related to consumer-centric thinking but it can act as a catalyst.