The new customer experience: show them you care, but make it quick
By now you’ve probably heard that millennials—aka Gen Y, born between 1982 and 2000–have officially overtaken baby boomers to become the country’s largest demographic segment. Right now the difference is only a couple of percentage points, but the new skew is already rewriting the rules for customer experience. Millennial consumers are demanding tap-of-the-app technology for quicker, easier, more personally engaging interactions, available anytime they want and anywhere they go. To win their business and compete in the changing landscape, companies will need to deliver more while asking customers to do less, optimizing every experience for a mobile interface.
That’s a tall order, but forward-thinking companies like Uber are stepping up. Here’s an example. When the credit card they had on file for my account was about to expire, they sent me a note. That’s an expected level of customer courtesy, but to replace it, all I had to do was take a picture of my new card with my phone and press Send. No typing long strings of numbers. No hunting for security codes and expiration dates while running to make my flight. Full disclosure: I happen to be a millennial, but that’s a great customer experience at any stage.
As Uber reduces the number of steps in the customer journey, Amazon has cut them to the quick—so to speak—with its 1-Click button, which stores preferred shipping and credit card information. Online shoppers simply touch or click to complete a purchase. It’s the best kind of consumer technology: easy, effective and invisible to the end user.
Instacart raises the online grocery shopping bar by using stored purchases to create a baseline profile. Customers build on it with each new order. That means you don’t have to keep checking off milk and orange juice; you add only what’s different each time. Nature Box, a snack company and brand, records dietary preferences and uses them to build tailored eating experiences. Nordstrom’s Trunk Club selects men’s designer clothing that matches members’ saved sizes and style preferences, and then sends snapshots to members. It creates a virtual fitting room where men can preview items before committing to purchase and without ever setting foot in a store.
Consumers have a well-documented, understandable anxiety about handing over personal data, but finally they’re seeing a satisfying upside. Their personal information is working for them, not the company. It’s putting the “custom” back in “customer.” But guess what? The strategy is benefiting companies. By reducing the amount of new information to process and review for errors, businesses are saving time and money. By giving customers a chance to preview clothing privately and at their leisure, Nordstrom is reducing the potential for returns.
I’m not going too far out on a limb to predict these trends will continue at an accelerating rate through 2016 and beyond. Successful brands will keep finding better ways to cut down the clutter distancing customers and value. We’ll see more use of voice recognition software, which is way better than it used to be. Apps that use location-based software will deliver up-to-the minute, actionable opportunities along with area-specific recommendations. (I recently read about a Krispy Kreme app that tells you where hot donuts are coming out of the oven in your area. More, please!)
With technology, companies have the power to make their customers heroes of their personal journeys. That has an appeal that extends beyond my digitized generation to the millennial in everyone.