Modernity is a constantly moving target. While we might look upon today’s latest devices and software as the pinnacle of technology, we probably felt the same way when we took out cash from an ATM to buy a pair of bellbottom jeans in the 70’s, listened to music on a Walkman while buying some legwarmers in the 80’s, plugged laptops into ethernet ports while wearing flannel in the 90’s or following your favorite bands on MySpace wearing a tracksuit in the ‘00’s. Technologies and fashions change quickly. Yesterday’s cutting edge seems medieval today.
How can the rulers of today’s commerce and financial services ensure that they are relevant for tomorrow’s world? While today’s renaissance can become tomorrow’s dark ages, here are 4 trends about money that you should keep in mind for your consumers so that you can continue to rule the kingdom.
Consumers expectations have increased dramatically, as on-demand access to a plethora of choices becomes the new norm. Discussions about channels and how customers interact with you has become overwhelming, because they are increasing in number and diversity. The customer sees themselves as the same individual, but their needs and attitudes vary dramatically based on the context, which could lead to unmet expectations. Transparency can help organizations alleviate situations and protect your reputation when this happens.
Transparency creates a level playing field between companies and their customers. Just as in a game or sporting match there are set of rules which define how participants can interact and progress, make sure that the rules of progress are clear and defined. For example, customer treatments for loyal and high value customers as well as the criteria to achieve higher tiers should be communicated.
Building upon the prior discussion about rules, complexity can undermine all of your efforts. For example, if loyalty points or miles earned or spent require consumers to jump many hurdles or are hard to understand, customers will have negative – not positive – feelings about your company. Similarly, if banking and financial fees require a CPA or lawyer to decipher, you are making your customers feel like illiterate peasants in the middle ages who were dependent upon scribes. Terms and conditions requiring reams of paper to print and a magnifying glass to read serve your legal team but not necessarily your customers.
On the flip side, think about when you first saw a touchscreen smartphone or interacted with voice interface with which you could easily communicate, think about the power you felt. Making something simple requires more knowledge, thought and design. While choices might be empowering, focus can provide freedom. Our lives are overheated with options, many of marginal value. Simplicity is the cool glass of water on a summer’s day. Simplicity done right can make your customer feel like royalty.
While most rulers could plan for battles with other kingdoms, they had more difficulty with dragons. They were a different species, so thought and acted very differently than humans. They were big but were able to fly in and out of places before you could even react. They fought in magical ways, with things like breathing fire, lethal claws and tails that cleared large swaths of space. Thinking about serving your customers, with only your current competition in mind, is like only thinking about fighting other kingdoms, and not about dragons.
You might say that dragons don’t exist and stories about what they can do are beyond belief. But executives at Blockbuster Video or Tower Records likely thought that on-demand digital delivery of any video or song was as likely to happen in their lifetime as seeing a dragon. Dragons also have the ability to change customer minds, as rideshare services like Uber, Lyft, Grab, Gojek and Didi Chuxing have done in their markets. Owning and maintaining a vehicle is often now viewed as a hassle whereas it represented freedom for most of the 20th century. Find some customers that have interacted with dragons and learn from them.
The proliferation of new companies, brands and products in tandem with the demise of former industry bastions have disrupted how customers perceive brands. The pursuit of making commerce more convenient has increased access to services, also making them more accessible to hackers and other bad actors. The exponential increase in information processed has rendered it impossible to continuously monitor everything. This raises the value of trust and ethics, when completing transactions.
American author and philosopher once said “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching -- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” Do your actions achieve this standard? Does your company? If not, what can you change? Trust takes a long time to achieve but can be lost in a moment. Companies that can cultivate trust in their cultures and interactions will be well suited for long-term gains. Customers can differentiate between good and bad behavior, so make sure your intentions and actions are well communicated.