At our recent G-Force Melbourne event, I sat down with keynote speaker and renowned author Rachel Botsman. Botsman is a global thought leader on the power of collaboration, changing customer journey, sharing through digital technologies and how they transform the way we live, work and consume. TIME Magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World.”
Below is a Q&A recap of my conversation on the changing customer journey in this new collaborative economy.
Q: Your book, “What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing The Way We Live”, came out in 2010 as we were in a downward global economy – what has been the biggest surprise for you in consumer behavior since publishing the book?
A: When the ideas included in the book started to emerge, people assumed it was a reaction to the recession and consumers wanting to be thrifty. It was hard to see how this philosophy would integrate into existing platforms and user behaviors, but that is what we are starting to see today. The big game changer that demonstrated that the collaborative economy has potential is the technological shift – especially the explosion of mobile. It is now possible to unlock the idle capacity of all kinds of assets, from seats in cars, to rooms in homes, to underutilized skills in ways that can transform industries like transportation, hospitality, and utilities.
Q: In the collaborative economy, what opportunities do you see for companies when it comes to customer experience, how do they approach it in this new world?
A: Customers are no longer passive consumers, they are also providers, and move on both sides of the marketplace – buying and selling products, as well as influencing the purchases of others with recommendations and reviews. Businesses need to think in a new way to engage with ‘customers’ – if we can even call them that – who understand the sharing dynamic. There is a massive opportunity today for business to develop services and engage with users around their platform that makes those exchanges and experiences easier.
For example, when people look at the success of Airbnb they think it’s about the rental spaces, but it’s about the entirety of the trip experience – the complete journey. Think about the entire ecosystem in place with Airbnb: how you decide where you want to go to in the world, how you find that place, how you get to and from the airport, what happens when you arrive. Airbnb is focused on the guest experience and they gather feedback from every guest, and have them review the host. By doing this they realized that it is the host who really is in control of the value and delivery of the experience. So, now their platform and systems are focused around empowering the host to provide that great experience from the moment the customer begins to interact, through to and during their stay, and post-trip to get their feedback.
Q: How important is a 360-view of the customer, being able to know across channels what has happened with the customer?
A: You see a lot of companies with a real fragmentation and lack of integration as it relates to customer service and the overall customer experience. A company may develop great customer service across individual channels with separate technology, but often the different arms and legs do not speak to one another. Customers are frustrated, being on the phone with customer service, turning to social media, only to come back to a live agent who doesn’t know the context or previous interactions on the issue.
Q: Which industry do you think will be transformed next?
A: Financial services is ripe with the disruptor signs, like complex experiences, broken trust, and redundant intermediaries. Also logistics, such as AustraliaPost or FedEx, because shipping is such a friction point for so many people and when there is a break in supply and demand, innovation happens. Education is another area where there is a room for growth, unbundling knowledge from the physical buildings and freeing knowledge up from the control of the ivory towers.
Q: In the next step in the Collaborative Economy, what should customer experience executives and professionals focus on?
A: My next book will be centered on collaborative thinking, and that’s a good place to start. You don’t need to just think about launching a new business in this space, you need to look through this collaborative lens to be a business in the future. Many companies are struggling on how they can participate in the collaborative economy. Design is similar, you don’t need to be a designer to be able to think creatively on how to solve a problem. You don’t need to be a collaborative innovator to be thinking collaboratively.
Read Botsman’s latest article on collaborative thinking in Harvard Business Review: Sharing is not just for start ups. Follow her on Twitter @RachelBotsman or visit http://www.rachelbotsman.com/ for more information.
Follow this author Rachael on Twitter @RachaelRoyds