3 Big Trends Shaping our Future in CX
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and where we’re headed, not just as a CEO, but also as a consumer. It seems like everywhere I turn, the topic of “customer experience” (CX) is dominating the conversation, and I wondered how we got here. That, of course, started me down the path of pondering the larger forces causing us all to focus on treating our customers with more care than yesterday. Here are the three trends that pop out to me as being particularly important and relevant to our daily lives in parking:
Trend #1: In 2020, Gen Z will make up 40 percent of the population and will be the largest generation on the planet. I read somewhere that the largest generation always dominates, and dictates, our consumer behaviors because they influence their parents and their children. Thus, it’s their perspective and their desires that carry the day on important decisions of consumerism.
What makes Gen Z different and why is CX so important to them? To understand, we must first go back a generation when the baby boomers ruled the world. Baby boomers were raised in homes where their parents were the center of gravity for the family unit and “called the shots” regarding what to eat, what to watch, where to vacation, etc. Gen Z is the first generation to “flip the script,” replacing their parents as the center of attention. In other words, the family unit got democratized with the Millennials and hasn’t looked back since.
My acid test for this? I’m a boomer and my mother never asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner (except on my birthday). Am I right? Now that I’m the parent, with two Gen Z children, my wife and I don’t lift a spatula or a cell phone without asking our kids what they want for dinner. My children’s predilections extend well beyond what we eat. In fact, our children’s’ opinions are considered, and most often followed, when we decide where to go on vacation, what we do on the weekend and the things we spend our time and money on otherwise.
They are the center of attention in our house, and Jill and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Furthermore, our children came of age during one of the most significant economic crises of the century, and that experience has caused them to turn away from material things and gravitate towards experiences.
You see, experience matters, because they saw material things evaporate and because they were given a voice in nearly everything that happened as they came of age. The family got democratized in the late 90s, and now these children are becoming the driving force behind what experts now call the “experience” economy. Bottom line – your customers now care a lot more about the experience that you are delivering to them.
Trend #2: Automation and the use of technology to replace humans is sweeping the world. Everywhere you turn, a kiosk or your cell phone has replaced a human in places like airports, restaurants, movie theaters and gas stations. In fact, parking was a leader with this technology when it replaced human cashiers with automated parking kiosks nearly 20 years ago.
The parking industry is currently in the middle of yet another cataclysmic shift, as new ways to reserve and pay for parking are taking off. The use of technology is making it easier than ever to order what you want or accomplish a task, like parking, without ever interacting with a human. In fact, Millennials and Gen Z children are more comfortable than any generation before with technology, having grown up with iPads and iPhones in their hands seemingly from birth.
And some experts believe they prefer NOT to speak with a human when accomplishing these tasks, until something goes wrong, at which time they expect to be responded to almost instantly (more on that later).
Trend #3: Social media platforms became ubiquitous as the Gen Z and Millennial children came of age, and they became accustomed to sharing their opinions and their experiences with everyone, including people they know and those whom they have never met. I spent several hours combing through numerous marketing sites reading about how challenging it is to market to this generation because they expect to interact with a brand across any and all social platforms, not just one.
The implication for us in parking is substantial as we attempt to find, market to and interact with the next generation of parking consumers. Furthermore, as they execute their parking experience, you can expect them to share every detail, good and bad, about that experience, with their followers or in the form of online reviews.
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that if you create a positive experience, a consumer will tell one person, and if you create a negative experience, they’ll tell 10. This generation doesn’t play by those rules. If they have a negative experience, they feel a duty to “warn” others about their bad experience, thus one bad experience can be broadcast to exponentially more than 10 people. The positive side to that, of course, is that, if you treat them well, they will tell exponentially more people and reward you with their loyalty.
What are the implications of these trends for us in the parking world as we enter the next decade? There are several important things to keep in mind. The next generation of parking customers is particularly sensitive to how you treat them – remember they grew up as the center of attention in their families and that won’t change as they transition to their own households. We must create positive, or even great, experiences for them, or you risk “letting them down.”
Furthermore, they expect technology to be available to them that makes the parking process seamless. They can buy nearly anything they desire with their cell phones and that must include parking. Finally, regardless of whether they have a good experience or a bad one, you can expect them to broadcast that experience far and wide. You’ll need to be prepared to monitor that broadcast and react accordingly.
Here are some things that you can do right now to prepare yourself for these technically savvy consumers:
1- Monitor the experience you are creating for your parking consumers on a daily basis. Is it clear how they enter and exit your facility, how they pay for parking and how to get help if they are confused?
2- Seek ways to introduce and leverage technology to make the parking process easier and more seamless. Better still, if you can actually enable them to find and pay for parking using technology.
3- Build processes to engage your consumers where they are on social media platforms, so that they can get to know you before they visit your facility. This also means that you must monitor how they feel about your parking facility online, and be prepared to meet them where they are on all of the social media platforms, and “fix” a problem when they call it out.
4- Above all else, do whatever you do with authenticity. This generation are absolute “bloodhounds” when it comes to phoniness and false promises. They’ve grown up with an Internet that begs to be challenged and demands a discerning eye to spot the genuine article. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver, and when you fall short, fix it quickly.
It’s true this generation is different, however, in many ways they are the much the same: they want to be treated well, they are willing to pay for things of value and they want it to be easy. The biggest difference is that they grew up with technology and would prefer to solve their problems using that technology. Not to mention, their “megaphone” is much bigger, and because they grew up in an environment where their opinion mattered, they feel compelled to speak up. Listen well!