Customer expectations are binary. You either exceed them, or you fall short. Similarly, if you’re trying to keep up with increasing customer expectations, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Amazon, no longer a small online bookstore by any measure, knows this. Their objective isn’t to meet expectations. Rather, their objective is to exceed customer expectations such that customer expectations increase by way of the service they provide. Scot Wingo, Co-Founder of ChannelAdvisor, calls this increasing customer expectation the “Amazon Effect.”

The Empowered On-Demand Customer

amazonFueled largely by the Amazon Effect, the expectations of today’s customer is rising at a dramatic pace. They expect a personalized, quick, and consistent experience. A recent IBM Institute for Business Value report brings this fact into sharp focus:

  • 76 percent of consumers expect organizations to understand their individual needs
  • 81 percent of consumers demand improved response time
  • 68 percent anticipate organizations will harmonize consumer experiences

Empowered customers are starting to take for granted that a company will know and understand their individual needs. They expect that companies will know what they searched for and their past ordering history. Amazon has raised the bar on customer expectations.

David Trice of ENGAGEcx refers to this new breed of need-it-now consumers as On-Demand customers. Today’s customer expects companies will address their needs with precision and expertise at every touchpoint. Companies that leverage info-sense can expect increased customer loyalty and advocacy. The penalty for non-performers is more than just a lost customer as social media now provides a platform for any unhappy consumer to broadcast their bad experience globally.

To offset the Amazon Effect, you must get ahead of the customer expectations curve. You don’t have to deliver Amazon-level service, but you must know that expectations are increasing, and you have to stay one step ahead. Author Peter Shankman calls this “one level above crap,” as to say you must be better than the status quo.

The Second Machine Age

We are entering a new era driven by technology. A time that MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee call the Second Machine Age. We are now on the cusp of a time where business can start to leverage the advances in computer processing, artificial intelligence, and networked communication. An example of this is Waze. The app allows users to access maps and driving directions. It also provides up to date conditions, allowing the driver to navigate swiftly and safely. Waze can do this because each roadmap is in their database, and every cell phone transmitting from every car will reveal where the traffic jams are.

Several decades passed before earlier breakthrough technologies, such as the steam engine or electricity, reached the point of ubiquity and flexible application in the first machine age. Once they did, both fundamentally changed the way people lived and businesses operated. Information technology and digital communication are now just reaching that same inflection point.

The big winners in this new era will be consumers, who will be able to buy a wider range of higher-quality goods and services at lower prices. The other winners will be those who create and finance the new machines or figure out how best to use them to gain competitive advantage. Great wealth will be created in the process.

Ready to use technology, data, and analytics to take your customer experience One Louder? Or maybe just one level above crap ?A great first step is downloading a sample chapter from Blue Goldfish. Based on over 300 examples, Blue Goldfish explains how successful companies use technology, data, and analytics to drive customer loyalty and advocacy.

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Editor’s Note: This post is an excerpt from Blue Goldfish: Using Technology, Data, and Analytics to Drive Both Profits and Prophets.