Consumer Rule: Responding to the Demand Economy
Ask someone under the age of 30 what the expression “bankers hours” means. Chances are, you’ll get a blank stare. Coined in the late nineteenth century when most banks were open from 10:00am until 3:00pm, the profoundly self-serving expression has little relevance in today’s 24-7, mobile-enabled world of accessible call centers and e-commerce sites. Now that we can access our bank accounts whenever we want, who cares about banker’s hours?
Yet banking is not the only industry that has been remade into a demand-focused model in a DIY economy. From retail to wholesale, from healthcare to housing, how business is transacted has changed. And industries that don’t get out in front of the customer-controlled tsunami will risk getting left behind.
The experience economy
In an experience economy, companies win market share through empathy. Not that any banks are open from 10:00 to 3:00 anymore, but if they were – and they didn’t offer online banking and mobile apps – how many customers would they keep? What kind of customer experience could they offer? Could they even begin to cope with 24-7 demand?
It’s imperative now for institutions that want to survive to completely transform themselves; from the reception desk to the C-suite, everyone has to change mindset and behavior. You’re not just selling products or delivering services; you’re offering a positive experience to savvy consumers who not only have choices about where they bank, but who aren’t concerned about walking away or closing a screen window before the sale is final. That’s why ongoing dialogues, connectivity and responsiveness with customers are now table stakes to ensure sustainable market share. Today, the consumer controls the process.
Successful “empaths” have become category leaders and are great exemplars for financial services. Amazon.com, Zappos and Ritz Carlton among others – understand that since everyone has a computer, everyone has a virtual transaction axis. Accordingly, category leaders have transformed their sales operations, supply chains and customer service into customer-centric ecosystems. This is no branding exercise, but a complete transformation of people, process and technology. On the American Express web site, visitors can log in to see a Pharrell Williams concert and to engage in a dialogue, not just get a credit card. Today, major brands know that their survival depends more on providing a customer-centered experience, not merely a service.
Action steps toward consumer-centricity
- Conduct an internal top-down responsiveness audit. How does it square with the way the company sees itself? Ask employees to describe your supply chain in three words. What words do they use? Are they looking at it inside out or outside in?
- Listen constantly to the Voice of the Customer. What do they need? What do they say about your degree of responsiveness?
- Study case studies on how leaders in other industries respond to consumer demand. We’ve seen hospitals learn from retailers, and hotels from technology companies.
The harsh reality remains: banking practices as we knew them are no longer relevant. If you don’t become high touch, consumer-centric and uber-responsive to customer demand, your brand will become a relic.
Ron Wince is the president and general manager of Peppers & Rogers Group, a management consulting firm recognized as the world’s leading authority on customer and patient-based business strategy.