The Great Wall of Digital is being built between organizations and customers.
Before the Web, the average person could visit a dealer 9 times before buying a car. Now, it’s down to an average of 1.3 times. This is according to Conrad Fritzsch, from Mercedes-Benz, who presented at a Netcentric conference in Lisbon in January 2017. According to CACI, the number of times people visit a bank branch is set to almost halve between 2016 and 2020.
The irony of digital is that it is isolating organizations from their customers. Organizations are talking more and more about customer experiences and relationships and are, in reality, having less and less relationships with their customers. And the experiences that customers are having online are increasingly not with the organization that ‘makes’ the product or service but with the one that organizes the information and connections around the product.
The Web was supposed to get rid of intermediaries. However, companies like hotels.com, Uber and Airbnb are showing dramatic rises in value because they are managing customer relationships.
How are traditional organizations responding? With traditional marketing and its obsession with leads and potential customers. Don’t these organizations ever stop to ask why they need to generate so many new leads? Maybe, just maybe, if they looked after their current customers better, they would achieve more success.
As organizations have fewer and fewer human interactions with their customers, they have never had more data on these same customers. If you have less and less human relationships with your customers, the danger is you will abuse the data, abuse the customer, and destroy the relationship, trust and loyalty.
How many of these data analysts know customers, meet them for coffee, have a clear moral approach that they should always want to do good for their customers? When you create distance you create moral ambiguity.
“When it comes to building trust with customers and within teams, it turns out that warmth is a key element to success,” Renuka Rayasam wrote for the BBC in January 2017. Warmth is generally associated with human-to-human relationships. How do you approximate warmth online? You must show that you care about your customers. Not ‘say’ that you care. People are so tired of hearing organizations saying that they care. For an increasingly cynical public, the more you say you care the less they trust you, because if you actually cared, why would you feel the need to keep saying it?
Take Amazon. Amazon gives you a good price. That shows they care. Amazon tries to deliver as quickly as possible, often for free. That shows they care. If you have a problem, they generally resolve it really quickly. That shows that they care about you.
Digital can make organizations blind to their customers, and customers blind to organizations. Once that happens we will get great instability of relationships. The key to avoiding such instability is to actually truly care about your current customers.