In a memorable Seinfeld episode, Jerry and Elaine are incredulous as the customer service representative from “Worthy” Car Rentals informs them that her company has no mid-size cars available, despite the fact that Jerry has reserved one. The exchange becomes heated when Jerry exclaims “you know how to take the reservation…you just don’t know how to hold the reservation.” The customer service representative discusses the matter with her supervisor and offers Jerry a compact size vehicle instead, which he accepts. The scene ends as Jerry agrees to take full insurance on the vehicle, informing the agent that he will be sure to “beat the hell out of this car.”
Viewers everywhere can relate as the customer has the last word, (or more appropriately, the last “laugh”) turning the tables on the agent and rental car company’s indifference. Clearly, Jerry is unimpressed and unlikely to do business with this company in the future.
Unlike “Worthy”, many organizations admirably strive for higher customer loyalty and invest heavily in training programs aimed at improving customer satisfaction. However, a large number are missing the point entirely when it comes to taking the lead and remaining competitive in today’s economy. They fail to realize that their customer base are on the move for reasons that have little to do with service. Rather, they are choosing to go elsewhere because the competition is offering an experience that is faster, better or easier to access.
Consider the impact of Uber on the chauffeured transportation and taxi industries. Many customers were satisfied, happily utilizing their respective services until Uber came along and redefined the landscape by transforming the customer’s experience. Clientele continue responding to Uber’s technology while their competitors’ drivers protest across Europe, Africa, Canada, and the United States, taking their anger to the streets, demanding “justice”. Meanwhile, Uber captures market share as well as celebrity endorsements while car service companies are being forced to catch up with the disruption caused to their business model.
The Uber example serves to illustrate the impact of a new player in a traditional space and the implications of standing still while new processes are successfully demanding the customer’s attention. When another competitor enters the marketplace, it serves as an opportunity for businesses to assess the new reality, acknowledge the shift in customer behaviour and adjust accordingly. Innovation ultimately renders a “let’s do things the way we’ve always done them” mindset obsolete.
Too many service providers have lulled themselves into a false sense of security. Rather than embracing change as opportunity, an enterprise that opts for complacency, or chooses to bury their head in the sand, may be contributing to their own demise by clinging to the status quo. By the time they realize times have changed, it may be too late. Their savvy clientele have already gone elsewhere…attracted to offerings that are simpler, more efficient and address their immediate needs.
Customers in the new economy are not only more informed than any other time in history, they have their collective fingers on the pulse, are highly responsive to innovative approaches and are a step (or ten) ahead of the providers who are still vying for their business.