Understanding the Evolution of Customer Centricity
When we analyze consumer brands like Uber or Zappos or award-winning call centers like Alorica, the common denominator, other than ostensibly uncontrollable growth, seems to be the ability to pair innovation and customer centricity. With 2020 approaching, there is no better time to reflect on the evolution of the customer contact world -- through the lens of three brands that are setting the standard.
Uber was founded on the principle of combining a disruptive product with a customer service design that is always ahead of the curve. Uber was born in a single moment when two tech conference attendees (founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick) were standing in the street on a snowy Paris night, having trouble getting a cab. An opportunity for a service to fix a problem in our world was immediately recognized, sparking Uber’s brand mission. “Ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.”
“Our customers embody those people standing in the street on a snowy night,” said Uber’s global support lead Lisa Stoner in a recent CCW podcast. With Uber, customers have the ability to receive world-class customer service by not only getting a ride with the click of a button, but constantly evolving features like in-app promotions and upgraded reward systems, personalized music options, and new community guidelines to ensure 5 star ratings for both driver and rider. And it’s only getting bigger.
“Today we have riders, drivers, careers, eaters, restaurants, freights. There’s health, there’s neMo [new mobility]. It’s so much more than the original concept. You couldn’t pick a company that better exemplifies evolution.”
When you combine a customer-centric attitude with a desire to “ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion,” you get a giant like Uber. As Stoner says, “product gets you the [customer] initially ... but the experience is what makes [them] come back."
Like Uber, Zappos was founded when one man realized no solution existed for his specific problem. Nick Swinmurn sparked the idea in his 20s when he couldn’t find an old school pair of brown Airwalks at his local Cali mall. After calling Tony Hsieh, the future customer service icon almost deleted the voice mail, writing the idea off right as Swinmurn’s voice said the words “$40 billion dollar industry” (5 percent was already being done through mail order catalogs). While Zappos’ success may not be completely unprecedented, its day-one emphasis on customer centricity is very unique. Take it from some of Tony Hsieh’s key lessons:
“I'd rather spend money on things that improve the customer experience than on marketing. We run the warehouse 24-7--it's not very cheap or efficient, but it allows us to get the shoes out more quickly. We have a 365-day return policy with free shipping both ways. We have to untrain employees' bad habits from previous call centers, where they're trying to be more efficient by minimizing the time they talk to the customer. If someone is looking for a specific shoe and we happen to be out of stock, we have employees direct those people to competitors' sites.”
Zappos mastered cost-benefit analysis, revolutionizing the way businesses look at factors like lifetime value, brand recognition and trust. This tradeoff — valuing the overall experience over single transactions — can apply across industries. In fact, Zappos puts more emphasis on its employees (the ones actually delivering customer service) than on the actual shoes.
“We interview people for culture fit,” said Hsieh. “We want people who are passionate about what Zappos is about — service. I don't care if they're passionate about shoes.”
It makes you wonder; would Zappos exist if that quote was reversed?
In today’s competitive landscape, differentiation seems to be one of the biggest struggles for brands. Many companies focus on marketing the quality of their product rather than on the bigger picture: customer satisfaction. Alorica’s mantras display exactly that, “making lives better” or MLB, as Alorcia President Colleen Beers described in a recent CCW podcast.
Recognized with the CCW Excellence Award for Best Training and Development Program during the 19th Annual Customer Contact Week (CCW) conference and expo, Alorica takes customer service to a new level. Although Alorica’s agents leverage AI technology, the brand emphasizes that it is “powered by personality.” Similarly to Zappos, its focus is on “creating insanely great experiences for customers—online, on the phone and through social media. We approach it from all sides.” Quality customer service is an omnichannel experience that incorporates the 360-degree view of consumers from the moment they perceive your brand. As customer centricity continues to rapidly evolve combining AI and personalization, the game has changed. A new standard has been set, and you don’t want to fall behind.