Australian organisations need to take advantage of technology and Web-enable their contact centres to capture the new breed of consumers that have emerged, known as I-Cons.
Defined by contemporary author Ross Honeywill, the term I-Con is short for I-Consumers. The "I" reflects a need for individuality and a hunger for information. It also acknowledges the influential role these consumers have had on the evolution of the Internet.
I-Cons currently make up 22 per cent of the Australian population and are found in every age group, income level, and occupation. They are equally represented in both genders and easily reached through the Internet, which is their communication channel of choice. More than any other medium, the Internet allows I-Cons to be in control of their lives through 24x7 self-service and collaborative commerce.
It is critical for Australian organisations to identify and pursue I-Cons as a key target market because of the dramatic influence they have over the economy.
I-Cons have aggressive spending habits. Compared to traditional consumers, I-Cons buy twice as many books, fly three times more frequently, eat at restaurants five times more often and spend seven times more on clothing. They insist on individuality and authenticity, have an urge for the edge and cherish change. I-Cons choose experiences ahead of transactions and require a meaningful interaction filled with information.
The vast majority of customer relationship management (CRM) strategies currently in place throughout Australia, however, fall short of providing I-Cons with personalised service and the information they demand.
Consider the level of service currently offered by your bank, airline or telephone company. Are customers able to access the relevant information they need when they need it? Do organisations really have a relationship with their customers? Are individuals currently treated as individuals? Would the current level of service offered be seen as acceptable in the minds of I-Cons? It comes as no surprise that often the answer is no.
The average call centre experience provided by Australian businesses is not up to standard for I-Cons. While traditional consumers have low expectations of service providers and call centres, I-Cons demand high-quality service - and lots of it.
In service-based industries such as insurance and financial services, the quality of service provided by an organisation is the key factor that will differentiate them from their competitors. In this instance, I-Cons are likely to reject the poor service by switching to a competing organisation in search of the meaningful interaction they desire.
I-Cons require a completely new approach from marketeers, software vendors and consultants that is fresh and customised to their way of life. Marketeers need to acknowledge that this new breed of consumer exists in our society. It is important they understand the value streams that determine how I-Cons behave and make their purchase decisions.
For software vendors and consultants, the commercial future of the contact centre has less to do with what improvements can be made to technology and more to do with how the technology can be used to energise I-Cons and nurture the relationship. Current CRM strategies need to be reviewed and reworked to address the very specific needs of this new breed of consumer - this alone will create new value for business.
For Australian organisations to succeed in the future, they must work with contact centre specialists to develop tools and strategies that facilitate high-quality collaboration with I-Cons.
With the Internet being the I-Con's channel of choice, the contact centre of the future must be Web-enabled, self-serving and able to nurture individual relationships if they are to satisfy I-Cons' needs.
When you consider that I-Cons wield almost half the discretionary spending power of the entire economy and offer business a high-value opportunity, it seems well worth investing in this relationship and getting it right!
Fausto Marasco is the CEO of contact centre solutions provider Premier Technologies.
Ross Honeywill, I-Cons: the essential guide to winning and keeping high-value customers, Random House September 2001, ASBN: 1740510798.