The Impact of Rising Customer Expectation

…or why ‘Uber’s children’ means a new paradigm in organisational responsiveness.

Customer experience has become THE area of focus over the past few years for organisations from the broadest spread of sectors. As more products become services, and even physical goods are augmented with layers of software-driven service interaction, the operational focus of many organisations is shifting from a focus on value chain efficiency to ecosystems of value where customer experience becomes a critical component.

Respondents to Econsultancy’s brand new 2017 Digital Trends report (published in association with Adobe and based on a global survey of more than 14,000 digital professionals) for example, named ‘optimising customer experience’ as their number one priority for 2017. The same answer has been top of the list for the last three iterations of this research, demonstrating that this is a long-term, but game-changing priority. So it is for future potential advantage. When asked what are anticipated to be the primary ways in which their organisation (or their client’s organisation in the case of agency respondents) will differentiate themselves over the next five years from competitors, participants in the same survey named customer experience as the primary focus:

Over the next five years, what is the primary way your organisation/clients will seek to differentiate itself/themselves from competitors?

There are evidently many challenges wrapped up in this focus on delivering exceptional customer experience, not least those inherent in joining up disparate data sources and effectively extracting insight and value through application, the challenge of legacy systems, and the reinvention of the business itself (structures, processes, priorities) to be more responsive to rapidly shifting consumer and competitive contexts.

This too is an ongoing challenge, not least because for every slick new service that comes to market, customer expectation rises with it. Adam Morgan once described this phenomenon as ‘Uber’s children’ – the idea that this ongoing rise in customer expectation creates a continually shifting context which businesses need to to deliver to and the need for continuous (not episodic) improvement.

In 2015, the Uber Data Team did an analysis on whether increased efficiency (shorter time to get a cab) resulted in increased expectations over time from Uber users. They found that the cities that Uber had been in longest had experience the sharpest decay in the willingness to wait for a car.

The greater the efficiences Uber gained from improvements in supply and optimising despatch algorithms, the more impatient people became in their expectation – a pattern that was replicated regardless of geography. As the Uber team says:

‘The bottom line is that we realize we have to continually raise the bar, to get you home from the bar.’

The bottom line for just about every business is that as customer experience increasingly becomes the differentiator, the agility to respond to shifting user expectation becomes one of the key competitive advantages or disadvantages. This is no small change. It means means a re-orientation of the entire business towards far more customer-centric structures, processes, practices and behaviours.

Neil Perkin

Author Neil Perkin

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