Companies need to involve consumers more and offer personalised services if they want to harness to their advantage the fact that nowadays people are increasingly changeable and demanding.
Although social networks have enabled companies to get in touch with their customers more easily and in particular to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, this hasn’t made customer communication any easier. In a survey on the latest consumer trends worldwide, Ernst & Young highlights the existence of the ‘chameleon consumer’. This consumer knows a lot about the brand, but the brand isn’t often taking advantage of the information which could help it get to know its customers better. In addition, the consumer has conflicting preferences and facets which seem to vary over time and with the season. The result: "Consumers are harder to define, understand and please than ever before". The report concludes that only companies which make real and rapid efforts to get to know their customers and truly transform their organisations - and their offerings - along customer-centric lines will prosper.
The latest trends...
It comes as no surprise that the report recommends engaging in dialogue with customers. Nowadays however that should take place in neutral forums that are governed by new rules - social networks, for example. The survey shows that seven out of ten consumers currently trust their circle of friends, or go to blogs, rather than relying on the brand itself when choosing a product. The next piece of advice to companies is that they should climb on the bandwagon of service personalisation - offering service variants and being flexible when it comes to delivery and means of payment. Finally, the report suggests that a company should find opportunities for acting in partnership with its customers. These newly empowered consumers, the survey shows, want products and services to be designed, sold, delivered, serviced and purchased in a way that suits them. They want to be active co-creators of the company’s products.
...to be harnessed
After all, who knows better than a customer what a customer wants? The report cites the example of giffgaff, a mobile operator already featured in L'Atelier, which offers very low communication tariffs. It’s up to customers to do the advertising and sometimes even after-sales service as well and in exchange they receive extra communication time. giffgaff’s customer satisfaction rate is 90% and 63% of its customers say they have recommended the service to their friends - proof positive that getting customers involved can be beneficial for everybody. The report also points to a split between mature and emerging market countries when it comes to brand loyalty. For example, just 24% of those surveyed in Western Europe say that the brand influences their purchasing decisions, compared with 40% in China and 34% in Brazil. And this appears to be equally true whether it’s the IT, ready-to-wear or automotive sector.