The third industrial revolution or the “digital revolution” has been doing its magic in different industries, since almost the late 1970s. We have all been embracing digitization in our businesses, and have come a long way from our old paper and pen based systems, haven’t we?
But what about our customers?
How much of an impact do you think the digital revolution has had on our customers?
True, they want almost everything at their fingertips these days, which is a clear indicator on how they are catching up, and how much they love digitization as well.
But customer perceptions change as societal trends change, all driven by digitization and it is important to be on the same page as your customers are, so as to channel your customer service efforts. Branding through customer service helps your company in increasing customer satisfaction levels as well as in improving your overall efficiency.
Before we get into how customer perceptions are changing, let’s take a look at why customer perception is important.
Why is Customer Perception Important?
The field service market, or any market for that matter, is extremely crowded these days. You literally have at least a hundred companies to compete with, to say the least.
Moreover, the number of customer touch points, such as online ads, ratings and reviews, have also increased, making it all the more important for companies to maintain their status and goodwill, at all times everywhere.
With so many competitors and customer touch points, it becomes more difficult for you to stand out and make yourself seen, especially since customers’ buying decisions get easily influenced by what they see these days.
Here is how technology has changed and is changing customer’s’ perception of businesses.
Changing Consumer Perceptions
The general trend of consumers is to get inclined towards companies that use technology, mainly because of the benefits that such companies provide. Customers perceive a technology adopting company to be modern and up to date with the latest “convenience tools” for them.
Here are some aspects in which customer perceptions are changing:
Safety and Security
Customers prefer companies that provide more weightage to the safety and security of their customers. No customer would want to find that the personal information they provided to the company was used for other purposes. And companies that make use of sophisticated technology to make sure of that are obviously going to be the winners here.
For example, AirBnb – one of the most trusted accommodation listings around the world, has their whole design system built around trust. For AirBnb, building a strong reputation system was the key to trust, and they researched on people’s behaviours revolving the trust factor to know more. They found that people generally tend to trust other people who they have more in common with or who are more like them, and not those who are different in nature. When put together with the reputation factor, they also found that people were ready to trust even those people who are different from them, if they heard about 10 good reviews about them.
Even with the case of information sharing with their customers or even prospects, they found that there are limits and that there are such things as “too less info” and “too much info” that could adversely affect their business. Asking for a lot of information about the prospect, and asking for too few details, while communicating with them were both found to have a bad impact on the trust factor. It made them design an information box, that could fit just the right amount of info while communicating with their customers, which earned more trust.
Hence, AirBnb were able to leverage their customers’ perception of safety and trust, to improve their business.
The quality of service is definitely one of the top priorities of customers. They always prefer companies with which their dealings or transactions are transparent, and the quality of the availed service is always top notch.
For example, Amazon.com – one of the largest e-commerce sites, always makes sure that their customers’ purchases, as well as payment transactions are transparent, and that their customers get due notifications on their registered email ids and phone numbers, right from the time they place their orders, to the time it is delivered. The customers are always kept on the loop so that they know exactly where their order has reached in the processing cycle. And upon receipt of the order, the customers also have the option of returning their order, if they are not happy with it, in which case their money is refunded too, promptly.
The more personalized experiences that companies provide to customers, the more customers they get. Customers always love exclusive attention and as they get more offers and promotions that suit their interests, they become more loyal to the companies that provide it.
Amazon.com again is a good example of a company that makes maximum use of customer’s’ perception of personalization. They analyze individual customer purchase patterns online and send out exclusive promotions and offers accordingly to specific customers, which makes their customers come back for more.
One of the biggest turn-offs for customers is a website or an app that is difficult to use. Even if customers generally turn to companies that are abreast with the latest technology, they are most likely to leave halfway, if the technology is not simple and easy to use. Hence, simplicity and a user-friendly design are must have features for companies, if they want to win customers.
For example, AFCO – a leading service process management partner that works with various industries including water management, food manufacturing, and food safety, uses a mobile application to help its field agents perform food audits more efficiently. The application is simple to use and allows its clients to automate their processes in a hassle free manner. There are also separate user roles for the admin as well as for the clients, enabling their clients to view information pertaining to their company alone.
People are all in for innovation, and by all means, a company that uses innovative techniques and develops innovative products definitely stand a better chance for success. The key is to use technology in such a way that there is a balance between costs and revenue. Something in between low-risk, low-reward in-house innovations and the “out-of-the-box” high-risk, high-reward disruptive innovations – a third kind of innovation.
One of the best examples would be LEGO – the most popular manufacturers of toys for children.
LEGO went from being bankrupt to one of the highest revenue earning toy makers in the world, just with their innovative approach. They have been consistently creating new ways to engage with customers of all ages, all with their regular plastic bricks, by being unafraid to experiment with new technologies. They changed their regular LEGO toy “Bionicle” by including a host of other complementary innovations along with the package, such as comics, books, video games and new packaging. All this made Bionicle irresistible to the target buyers.
Embracing the digital age, they have extended their brand now from physical play to digital play, with their programmable robots, DIY Mindstorm kits and the like.
Companies that utilize these changing customer perceptions and develop products as well as marketing strategies to suit the perceptions will gain the competitive advantage. In this day and age where building brand value through customer service is the key to survival, leveraging customer perceptions can go a long way into making your success.
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If you thought “digitizing” your business was all about incorporating some kind of technology into your processes, and that replacing your people and papers with technology would do the trick, then you are in for some new information. That’s right.
Digital business transformation has more to it than you probably imagined. It is more about doing things in different ways and producing new and improved business designs, all with the common goal of blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds.
Digitization is not just dehumanizing or mechanizing work
Most people understand digitization to be either an extension of automation or pretty much the same thing. But according to Gartner, the goal of digitization is to create and deliver new value to customers and not just improving the quality of already existing services.
For example in a hospital, nurses and doctors use clipboards and forms for access to patient details, to jot down further medicine details and the like. Merely replacing these paper forms with tablets and other devices is not digitization in itself. Internally, there are improvements in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, when compared to paper-based manual transcription and for patients too, the quality of already existing care is improved.
Though there are a thousand benefits to the entire health organization by doing just that, like better accuracy and speed while entering data into the Electronic Health Record systems, it does not actually count for digitization as here the patients do not experience any additional value.
Instead, what if the entire care and control system is redesigned with the help of smart machines and the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The smart devices can be programmed to do most of the data collection, analysis and monitoring of the patients themselves, which leaves only the talking, the touching and empathizing to be done by the nurses – basically what we humans do best. The devices can monitor the patient’s health conditions continuously and keep checking for any vital signs of discomfort or variations, and alert the nurses and doctors well ahead in case of an issue.
Technologies like, hands-free conversational interfaces, can be used for data entry in hospitals, rather than typing in the data manually, thereby utilizing what comes naturally to human beings to make work easier. All these technologies help them in being proactive in their approach, thereby delivering more effective care and the end result is thus, better outcome for the patients as well as the doctors.
So, it is evident now, that digitization is not just dehumanizing or mechanizing work. It is rather a way or means for people to go back to their more “natural state”.
Digitization is not just dehumanizing or mechanizing work. It is rather a way or means for people to go back to their more “natural state”
Letting humans revert to what they are best at
With all the smart devices that can think for themselves in place, you might wonder, “so what is the need for people or what is our role in an organization?”
It is not about completely eliminating people from the scenario or taking them out of the processes. It is more about redefining their roles and getting them to do what they are best at. That way, they don’t have to be stalled with other tasks like data entry and paperwork, that bring down their efficiency and productivity.
Janelle Hill, vice president and analyst at Gartner says, “We now have the ability to use machines to support and augment people to help them realize their potential, not have them bogged down in paperwork and systems data entry. We need to think about how to identify the right work for the people.”
A digital business environment provides innumerous opportunities for innovation and improvements, which can help organizations in winning over customers with additional value and gaining the competitive advantage. Such value though, can be created only through a complete rethinking and redesigning of work itself. People need to be assigned work they are good at, while leaving the rest to be done by the smart machines. Thus, the full value of digitization can only be achieved through proper definition of work and not merely by inserting digital technologies into the existing processes.
“People need to be assigned work they are good at, while leaving the rest to be done by the smart machines. Thus, the full value of digitization can only be achieved through proper definition of work and not merely by inserting digital technologies into the existing processes.”