The potential of real-time, that we have described as a child at the moment, is growing up. But it is still only a teenager. And a slightly wayward one at that.
Largely because our industry cannot help but go ‘technical’ whenever the chance arises, we look at real-time from one end only. We talk of integrating this with that, of IN platforms and policy management systems, but we should think about it from the point of view of a, um, customer.
Let us think of the grown up real-time potential as Jeeves, of Jeeves and Wooster fame. And let us consider self-service as if Jeeves were there, walking a respectful pace behind, ready with umbrella or cigarette lighter, depending on his master’s slightest whim.
“What ho, Jeeves, I feel like something different this evening.”
“Very good, Sir.” A muffled cough, one that, to the untrained eye, contains no hint of disapproval.
“Yes, Jeeves old chap?”
“Er,” a slightly stronger clearing of the throat that even the untrained might now notice to be less than enthusiastic, “We seem to be going to Chinatown, Sir?”
“Absolutely, Jeeves, Biffy swears by the place. He says you can get almost anything around here.”
“Er, yes, Sir. And possibly some ramifications, I shouldn’t wonder.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure, Jeeves. Though, I must say, those rami things do sound a bit on the dodgy side.”
At this point, the teenage version of real-time, seeing Wooster bounding into Chinatown with a ‘devil may care’ attitude and a well pressed trouser, would probably do a passingly good impression of a mad man in charge of a fire hose and bombard him with offers.
Wooster would, quite quickly, become irritated by the sheer noise and lack of relevance in the offers and make his own decisions about where to eat, drink and spend a jolly evening.
Which might indeed have ‘ramifications.’
The Jeeves version, having mastered his disapproval with a hardly noticeable tremor of the upper lip, would perhaps look up an old diary and spot that his master had been to Chinatown once before, with some slightly, eh hem, inappropriate companions. He might see that he, Jeeves, had made the arrangements and that, indeed, it seems he has a contact for the proprietor of the establishment. He might then send the proprietor a message, asking whether he could offer his master a special deal, it being before the theatre rush.
This information he would then pass to his master, in the form of a recommendation, with, perhaps, an incentive of a free glass of something bubbly. And then, he, Jeeves, would guide him safely, respectfully, to the door.
This is the difference between where we need to be and where we are. At the moment, we are still at the stage of actually considering ‘selling’ customers’ data back to them – ‘give us your information and we will give you some money.’ Or of serving up every special offer that is available, based purely on customers’ location.
And we all acknowledge that this is not good enough.
We need to be Jeeves-like in how we filter and deliver information, if that is the nature of our customer. We also need to understand our customers enough to know that some, many perhaps, may be irritated by subtle, Jeeves-like recommendation and might need more suggestions, based on price or loyalty points, or …..
Loyalty is becoming a big differentiator, at the moment taking hold in other industries. Banking is one. Millenials (or those belonging to ‘Generation Y’) are far more likely to choose a bank with a) mobile banking baked in and b) a customizable rewards scheme as part of the package – the road to loyalty.
The key to delivering loyalty is partnering – and common sense. Partners need to understand that loyalty must mean something. It needs to say ‘you, our customer, get value here’ – and then deliver real value. It should no longer be a simple ‘thank you, here is a point or two for shopping with us.’ Those days are gone.
We need to think about proper value, proper loyalty and proper personalization. That way, we can deliver what our customers want and help real-time grow up and reach his potential.
“Loyalty, personal whatisit Jeeves?”