According to the Forum for the Future, at current rates of consumption, globally we are using up 30% more resources each year than our planet can replenish, and Americans are consuming five times more. To survive and thrive, consumers will need to change the way they live. Most have already started, but there is still a long way to go. As consumers adapt to life with less, how do our expectations of service providers change?
Over the coming years, service providers from beauty salons to restaurants will have to make significant operational changes to meet the needs of these future downsized consumers, while still delivering a level of service that delights their customers. This is going to take some serious brainstorming, so we trawled the Web and found two great sources of insights to get you going.
Downsizing demands new perspectives on how to add value
Trendwatching published a great report on The Future of Customer Service in late 2014 that covered five innovative approaches to customer service: Plan B, Video Valet, Deliver More Than the Goods, The Sixth Sense: Info, and Politeness Pays. We highly recommend checking this one out directly, so we’ll just give you a couple of highlights. To reduce travel-related carbon emissions, the Video Valet trend suggests offering service through videochat, while Deliver More Than the Goods suggests ways for delivery services to delight consumers with extras at the point of delivery. Plan B aims to reduce the risk and discomfort of downsizing by providing a back-up plan to cover the “what if?” scenarios that commonly lead to over-buying.
Focus on speed of interaction, preemptive solutions, & environmental health benefits
In a downsized world, consumers will be more focused on experiences than ownership, making service touchpoints more critical than ever. Consumers will prefer providers who can deliver a superior experience with the least impact on the planet. What will be some keys to success? First, keep in mind that for many people, the best service is no service. Think ATMs beyond banking and smartphone check-in beyond airlines. According to Forrester research, web self-service has finally surpassed the voice channel as the most widely used communication channel for customer service. Where can you replace a human interface with a faster, highly intuitive non-human interface? (I’m thinking of my dry cleaner – why can’t drop-off and pick-up be quicker?) Any unnecessary friction (time wasted, mistakes made) become a reason for consumers to quit you for a more hassle-free competitor. (See our earlier post about unlocking demand by eliminating hassle factors.) Forrester’s view of customer service trends also highlights the concept of preemptive service triggered by smart devices for durable goods such as cars and major appliances, very relevant in the age of resource-downsizing, as consumers will increasingly want to reuse and repair—or, as a last resort, recycle—items that previously they would have junked. For the hospitality industry, we point you to the example of ITC hotels in India, whose slogan is Responsible Luxury. Their website explains how they deliver luxury for you and for the planet in terms of air, water, energy, and materials. With regard to water, they claim to have reduced water consumption by 50% in the last five years by installing sensor operated fixtures, waterless urinals, dual flush water closets, and flow restrictors; only treated recycled water is used for landscape, cooling tower and miscellaneous cleaning; separate waste-water treatment for grey and black water allows reutilization of treated water for flushing; and excess treated recycled water is shared with municipalities and schools for landscape irrigation.
Bottom line: It’s possible to deliver better customer service and meet resource-reduction goals at the same time. It’s not only possible, the downsizing customer of the future demands it.