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Customer 4.0 – Customers are Now Calling the Shots

Several years ago, I wrote a column about Customer 2.0 and their evolving wants and needs as a consumer. Just like versions of Microsoft Office software we skipped an upgrade and went directly to Customer 4.0.

Customer 4.0 is actually a result of Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are a smartphone, app driven world who is continually looking to be more efficient in both time and money. An example of this would be wanting to take my wife out to dinner on a Saturday night. As I am searching for a restaurant on my restaurant app I receive a text message.

The text message is from my cell phone provider asking me if I would like to switch to a better data plan and save money. Well of course I want to save money. As I accept the offer it asks me if I would like to donate $2.00 to an initiative to reduce green house gases and help the planet. Of course, I will, it is only two dollars and it makes me feel good to help out. Then I go back to make a restaurant reservation through my app, and use my taxi app to hail a taxi.

Over all I am feeling great about the situation that just happened. I saved money which I can put toward dinner with the wife, and I helped save the planet. We live in an anytime-anywhere society now where I can seamlessly achieve saving money with a few taps on a screen.

Someone reading this article might wonder how this article relates to professional buying cycles, and I will tell you that it absolutely does relate. As humans we are creatures of habit. We like to go to the same coffee shop and order our usual. As e-commerce becomes more integrated into our buying processes, we have evolved our buying process. How have we evolved? We now have in our pocket the ability to recall information and reviews about products and services that will influence our buying decisions.

I may have to purchase a Modbus server, and instead of calling companies to get quotes, I can quickly read the reviews that other purchases of the server have posted. That is who Customer 4.0 is. They are people want to influence, and be influenced by others in their buying decisions. When the deal with a company they have extremely high expectations that the company will adapt products and services to fit their needs rather than a one size fits all approach.

This is an excerpt from a great article written by Wayne Lafferty for the Eclectic Light and Power website stating the results of a study that they did from Customer 1.0 – Customer 4.0 showing how a power company might leverage technology to communicate with customers better.

Evolution to Customer 4.0 World

“According to PA’s 2017 Utility Customer Experience Insights StudyTM, which surveyed utilities across the US, collectively serving more than 28 million customers, we found that Jane’s experience could become common in the not-so-distant future.

Our study assessed the current and expected future level of maturity across the entire customer journey, as well as the strategic road map and foundational capabilities such as data and human skills required to deliver the desired experience. Companies like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have redefined the customer journey, raising the bar significantly, and utilities have taken notice.

While utilities currently provide an experience that spans the 2.0 and 3.0 stages on the Customer Experience Maturity scale, on average, many plan to evolve towards the 4.0 level within as few as three years. Today’s 2.5 experience is largely defined by the level of satisfaction a customer has with using basic self-service options delivered through a phone voice response system and/or largely unintegrated website, and new products and services introduced mainly in response to regulatory requirements. If basic metrics like minimal call answer times and abandonment rates are met, service is typically deemed to be “good.”

However, the study found that the expected 4.0 experience will be achieved by customers achieving their individual ambitions. Service will become omni-channel – seamlessly integrated and measured across all virtual and human contact points – to offer customers a full suite of energy management solutions.”

This means that Customer 4.0 will be a huge influencer in buying trends and wield a lot of power in the coming years as the idea of an omni-channel evolves. It also confirms that lead generation funnels are now moving to lead generation circles.

Customer 4.0 is also someone who is not accepting of the “shotgun” marketing approach. This used to be extremely effective back in the day when marketers (supply side) had a major influence over buying trends. Today the customer (demand side) is holding the reins. This means that marketers must find more targeted and personalized ways to speak to customers. This is why corporate social media targeting is so important, as is a good online reputation. Lead funnels are not looking like a traditional funnel any more, they actually are starting to look more like a circle, with multiple opportunities and platforms to drive conversations and engage with Customer 4.0. I would guess that likeability is going to become more relevant that just brand loyalty.

I read a great quote in an article recently by Brad Breininger who reminds us that “it’s important to treat customers as prospects, and prospects as people”.

“Prospects want to feel that they are already customers, and customers want to be wooed, not taken for granted”.

Influencers are going to be extremely important in the years ahead as they are going to continue to provide valuable data help companies or hurt them. Marketers will need to become savvier and more creative in taking advantage of the lead generation circle and look at targeted messages on different platforms.

Viva La Revolution!

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