Customer Centricity

Customer experience of the future

The pace of change in the digital world is exponential. How do you prepare your organization for the customer experience of the future?

In 2000, it cost $2.7 billion for a human genome to be sequenced. By 2007 it was down to $10 million. By 2014, the cost had dropped to $1,000. In 2020 it will cost a penny and be cheaper than flushing the toilet, SP Telecom’s CEO, Mui Hoon Poh, told delegates in her keynote at TM Forum Live! Asia.

This describes the scale and scope of change today – exponential not linear, she said, pointing to the story of Kodak Eastman’s demise – a 120-year-old company that sank when digital photography changed every aspect of the photography market at once, from the camera itself to film, processing, storage, distribution, marketing and more.

It wasn’t just that Kodak lost its competitive edge or became complacent, she said, but that the changes were unprecedented and on so many fronts at once, so it wasn’t the case of a gradual, linear decline in market share. And this is the world that businesses must survive and thrive in, or disappear.

Uber changed the taxi market almost overnight because it built the experience around the customer and used technology to do that. Same with Apple and the music industry, Amazon and retail and so many more.

Clearly, none of us knows exactly what is going to happen, but that’s OK. Two things are certain in the era of platform-based businesses and business models – customer centricity will be at core of every successful business and we must be able to scale and pivot, fast, while maintaining customer satisfaction. We need to be ready to deliver both.

The customer experience of tomorrow

Looking in more detail, there are other inter-related trends which signpost what we must be prepared for too:

  • On demand is in demand

Customers’ mantra is ‘we want it and want it now’ with the implication that ‘if you can’t deliver, we’ll go somewhere else’. We all know about Uber and other household names speeding up delivery of whatever product or service we want, but the trend is happening across many other, as yet less well known, sectors too. Whether it’s hairstyling (GLAMSQUAD), garbage pick-up (Rubicon) laundering services (Washio) or flower delivery (BloomThat), people don’t want to book in advance, stand in line or wait.

  • Ultimate convenience

For an example of a company that uses convenience to compete, look at Amazon. Lots of other stores, online and physical, do what it does – a huge range at low prices. However, Amazon is leading the charge with services to satisfy and reinforce our appetite for instant gratification through services such as Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Go and Dash. The company is also experimenting with drone delivery and thinking about mega-warehouses in the sky to get goods closer to customers to enable faster service. It’s about speed and simplicity for the customer – and the best supply chain.

  • Personal experience: One size fits none

Customers expect an increasingly personalized experience, from deals and offers tailored to them individually, to sneakers designed to fit the exact dimensions of their feet.

Recent research even suggested over half of respondents would like to use augmented reality glasses to personalize the real world around them. More than one in three would like to edit out “disturbing elements…such as graffiti, garbage or even badly dressed people”. At least as many would like to erase street signs, uninteresting shop windows and billboards.

  • Brand matters

Last week I saw a news item that said one in three banking and insurance customers around the world would consider switching their accounts to Google, Amazon, or Facebook if they offered financial services. This raises many questions, but it also tells us much about the importance and power of excellent customer experience and personalization, and the likely consequences for established industries.

Other factors

In addition to those trends that have changed customers’ expectations profoundly, businesses of all kinds need to be aware of the likely effects of emerging technologies, such as the many strands of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain (distributed ledger). They too will change customer expectations as well as help businesses meet them.

There are ethical debates raging around the use of personal data, and the changing regulatory and legal landscape could introduce fundamental changes too, including for businesses that previously were largely unaffected.

And of course, there will always be people, somewhere, dreaming up brilliant ideas that will change everything.

To function in this fluid environment, companies’ first concern must always be to exceed their customers’ expectations, affordably, at scale, without compromise. Established companies need to transform their entire organizations to succeed, including their structure and culture. Network operators, the enablers of the digital world, must think about radically new ways of orchestrating operations through new age OSS/BSS systems and digital operations overall.

Most of all, we must about think how we change our approach to how we the position the customer, using concepts like design thinking to put customers at the center of our process and then using deep analytics to understand customer lifecycles. We must continuously engage them and provide the services they want, dynamically, when they want them.

All of which means transforming to be a business that continuously evolves and is agile enough to embrace open innovation to respond at the speed of the market.

So no, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but that’s exciting and full of possibilities.

At our TM Forum Live! in Nice, France in May, our theme for customer centricity will be, “What will the future communications service provider customer relationship look like?” Find out more about the two-day customer centricity track.


    About The Author

    Vice President, Content, Research and Media - TM Forum

    Aaron Boasman-Patel is responsible for content across TM Forum’s research portfolio, the digital content platform, Inform, as well as leading content and research across the events and Digital Leadership Summits portfolio, including TM Forum Live! This is fed back to the Collaboration team to help drive the Forum’s strategic direction and collaborative program. He has chaired many international conferences and delivered presentations on smart cities, customer centricity, Internet of Everything, industry developments, market trends and strategy. Aaron has worked in the telecoms and associated industries for over ten years. He graduated with an M.A. (Oxon) from the University of Oxford. Aaron specializes in digital transformation, customer centricity, analytics and AI, and digital platforms and ecosystems.

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