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.

  1. Systems designed to take care of normal situation can be from excellent to bad
  2. 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 …

  1. … 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

  1. … 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:

  1. Is there a process in place which will ensure cross-channel uniformity?
  2. 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.

Comments
7 Responses to “Consumer Centric Thinking”
  1. Олег says:

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  2. Nevil Dadrewalla says:

    I guess what companies do is distinguish between Employees and Customer. Though both are Consumers, the software development organization, would make sure that cost of functionality is low for the Employee. Even if the system is diffult to use, slow, they make sure that their process is followed, their information is captured. Where as for the Customer, they may go out of the way for ease of navigation, frills, help and experience. Well cost-cutting rules.

  3. Baidurjya Sinha says:

    Nice Article. To Add to it——Voice interactive systems are not that much succesfull because a query can be many types and mostly outside the scope of the system as the system does not do that much of permutations and combinations. more over the customer wants someone to listen to their queries or problems , they want empathy.
    So its very difficult for interactive systems to become succesfull.
    They should only be used where there is a single menu– say just to know the time of your train you key in train no .But where there are multiples levels of choice as in Banks these are failure and most customers opt for customer care representatives.
    Considerable interactive systems can only be built for by Voice interactive systems and Natural language processing. Though lot of development has been done for Natural Language processing but still implementation is quite less. maybe in future we see such systems.

  4. Matt Hanson says:

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

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