We live in the "instant service" era, ushered in by constantly changing on-demand technologies. Consumers are in the market for immediate service and the companies that are technologically nimble enough to provide it have been rising to the top of their respective industries. Uber, Instacart (instant groceries) and Drizly (instant alcohol) are examples of companies that swooped in to disrupt traditional industries with instant service models. Many consumers are savvy enough to recognize companies that aren't figuring out a way to incorporate "instant" into business strategies—and much of today's marketplace is dictated by that perception.
Furthermore, consumers are differentiating between hype and real businesses. For example, in the app world anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of all downloaded apps are used once and then eventually deleted by users. Pressure is high while patience is low. What's the key to succeeding in this high-pressure environment? It takes a combination of flexibility, on-demand service, convenience and transparency to really resonate with an audience after the first experience.
Under-Served Industries That Lag in Technology
Take taxis: an industry that's withstood the test of time and stayed true to its traditions. In 2007, it made waves when New York became the first major city to require that cabs have televisions; and it took until 2009 and 2012 for cities like Boston and Minneapolis (respectively) just to make credit card payment a requirement. These efforts were mere blips in terms of real technology break-throughs, and the industry was prime for a shake-up. In 2009, a transportation company was founded that develops, markets and operates under a mobile app... Uber stormed in and annihilated taxis.
They achieved all this in a remarkably short period of time by elevating the level of service to instant through technology—something that, in itself, is a lucrative business model.
Established Companies: Evolve or Die Trying to Catch Up
The airline industry has struggled to achieve loyalty—travel brands are known for relying on rewards and free gifts to keep customers coming back. But forward-thinking airlines understand that the instant service that resonates most with travelers needs to take loyalty deeper than just the surface.
KLM, a carrier airline from the Netherlands, recognized this level of demand for customer service—and for instant service—and combined both into a lucrative social media model. Its extensive presence in the social world has not only become well-known, but has become central to several of the services they offer. KLM updates its Twitter page every five minutes with an expected wait time for a customer service response. The company has a staff of 100 people to answer questions via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, 24/7, and in over a dozen different languages. It's instant service, but also a marketing initiative that helps sell millions of dollars' worth of flights thanks to the loyalty it generates.
Established companies have found a great deal of success in building supporting services around "instant," just as KLM infused it in customer service.
Business lines centered on instant service are starting to make a significant impact on loyalty. Since self-service in the banking industry has picked up pace, customers are increasingly relying on these capabilities as a key differentiator for making bank provider decisions. A survey from SNL Financial recently found that more than half (54 percent) of respondents have switched accounts based on which bank had the better app. Accessibility and flexibility—such as cashing checks outside of bank hours—are the services consumers demand.
Some industries as a whole are behind when it comes to technology. In real estate, instant service is tough to come by—property managers often run their businesses under traditional models that affect consumers with instant expectations. Modern property managers are adopting services and technology that are pushing the industry to adapt, such as offering online and mobile rent payment.
Today, the instant consumer is raising the bar for startups and established companies to come to terms with an "innovate or die" mentality. Consumers expect technology to solve problems in the most instant and elegant ways—and deliver on tomorrow's value, not yesterday's problems.
Consumer expectations will continue to evolve when it comes to instant service, and push boundaries across industries. What industries have you been most impressed with?
Brian Donahoo is the CEO of AppFolio