From Micah Solomon -keynote speaker, customer service speaker.
My battery died briefly on my aging Volvo, and in that gap I lost the stations that had been preset into my car radio. After driving around a few days manually selecting the stations (more or less just one station) I generally listen to, I found myself irritated to have to dig up the ancient instructions on how to set a station into memory. I found myself thinking, “Doesn’t my car know I want this station as a preset? I mean, I listen to it every day—it should be inviting me to add it to a ‘favorites list’ or some such.”
But my car was manufactured in 2004, and, of course, cars didn’t “think” that way in 2004. And neither did consumers. Believe me, customers think that way now: They expect devices – and companies – to, in effect, say “Mr. Solomon, I note that you have been listening quite a bit to your local NPR station. Care to have me memorize it for you so you’ll not have to fumble for it when you’re negotiating a difficult turn?”
Customers expect personalized, aggregated information–instantly.
To illustrate how deeply customer perspectives have changed, just look around: With the advent of mobile computing, a traveler can get all the answers on her iPhoneDroidBerry® that the concierge, or bellman, or neighborhood know-it-all used to parcel out at his own rate and with varying amounts of reliability: Where is there a good Italian restaurant within walking distance? What subway line do I take to get to Dupont Circle, and where do I get off? Do I shake hands with those of the opposite gender in the country where my plane just landed?
While this bears some resemblance to the model in place only a few years ago—settling into a hotel room, pulling out your laptop, fumbling around for an Ethernet cable, trying to figure out how to log on to the hotel’s network—there are key differences. Specifically, the better aggregation of information. Surfing the net—going out on a net-spedition to look for stuff seems like too much work and too big a time investment for today’s customers. Customers today expect technology that brings an experience that is easier, more instantaneous, and more intuitive—they want to type or thumb a few keystrokes into Hipmunk (which lists travel options with warnings about long layovers and other agonies, and shows hotels with precise proximity to your actual destination) or GogoBot (where your own Facebook/Twitter pals have already rated potential trips for you) or of course TripAdvisor, with its user-generated ratings of nearly everything in the world of travel– and have the information they need served up for them concierge style based on their IP address (physical location) and other useful clues.
This is a trend and mindset to embrace when you create customer experiences and provide customer service: Don’t make your customers search for information; bring it to them. It’s what they expect now, and you’d best live up to this—either directly by providing functionality yourself as a business (providing your own app to address the needs of your specific customer base, for example), or as a conduit, by providing connectivity and then getting out of the way.