Is the digital experience all it’s cracked up to be, in trucking and elsewhere?

April 3, 2017
Making digitization efforts acceptable in trucking

As we all know, trucking is in the midst of a digital revolution of sorts; with the industry experiencing all sorts of disruptive effects as a result (go here and here for more on that).

But here’s the thing: are the human beings caught up in all of this “digitization” happy about it? And are they looking forward to more of it? That’s a key point for as I’ve noted in this space before, people will play a critical role in making this “digital transformation” a success.

Yet a new study from IBM is discovering that not all consumers are “digital enthusiasts” as the technology giant put it; and this “lack of enthusiasm” is something trucking needs to keep an eye on, not just in terms of the internal acceptance of its “digitization” efforts but how its customers, the shippers, are reacting, too.

Based on a poll of 600 company executives and 6,000 consumers, the new IBM Institute for Business Value study The Experience Revolution: Digital Disappointment – Why Some Consumers Aren't Fans finds while many firms believe customers want to try new digital customer service initiatives because of their “digital fluency, the desire to self-serve, and have more control over the experience,” consumers are actually more concerned about getting quick, convenient, and affordable results.

The study highlights what IBM called “the disconnect” between what executives think consumers want and consumers' preferences, causing some consumers to be disappointed with companies' digital customer service initiatives.

In fact, roughly 70% of surveyed consumers who reported having tried to explore products using virtual reality, use interactive digital displays in a company's physical store, or interact with a device or computer via voice command to engage with a business felt the experiences were disappointments. As a result, they decided not to adopt these digital initiatives for regular use. 

"Companies have an opportunity to win and lose customers solely based on the quality of the experience they provide," noted Robert Schwartz, global leader for strategy & design at IBM iX. "It's not enough to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.”

IBM’s study also found that executives are “severely underestimating” the role generational differences play in consumer adoption new digital experiences. When asked if customers' age would determine how quickly they'd adopt digital customer service offerings, only 38% of executives said they thought age would make a difference. Yet when IBM polled consumers, it found there were numerous instances when Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers responded differently.

For example, while 24% of Millennials regularly locate products with a company's mobile app while shopping, only 8% of Baby Boomers do so. And among the group of consumers who said they were familiar with companies' digital customer service initiatives, but hadn't tried them, as many as 70% to 80% of Baby Boomers said it was because they weren't interested.

[And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “generational differences” trucking must learn to navigate. Go here, here, and here for some more examples.]

When it comes to implementing digital technologies that enhance customer experience, IBM’s study offers some advices to ensure a strategy is met with enthusiasm from consumers.

Now, none of this necessarily applies to trucking directly, but motor carriers should think about how they might apply to the world of hauling freight:

  • Design digital experiences to meet customer expectations, not your own. Use this transformation as an opportunity to eliminate underlying customer pain points and reinvent customer service – from the customers' point of view – making it faster, easier or more convenient than traditional channels to engage.
  • Analyze customers' root motivations, desires and pain points. It is important to recognize the generational differences among consumers, but at the same time, not stereotype individuals simply based on their age. Having a detailed and multidimensional understanding of customers is essential. By applying advanced analytics and cognitive technologies to comprehend both structured and unstructured customer data from a variety of sources, companies can build detailed customer profiles that will help determine the right digital customer service initiatives to invest in and the best approach for customer adoption.
  • Make customer utility and simplicity the core values of digital customer service transformation. Customers have already formed ideas about how they engage or transacting digitally with businesses. Executives should conduct thorough research to understand what these expectations are and then iteratively test their digital experience with customers to make sure it is simple to use and gives customers the utility they want.
  • Design marketing strategies to address specific needs of your customer base. When launching a digital customer service initiative, it is vital to clearly promote the benefits that customers value, such as time savings, convenience and faster results. Segmentation and personalization can also be used to attract those customers who aren't especially motivated to try it.

One thing is for sure: all of the changes being wrought by new digital endeavors are here to stay – there’s no escaping them. It’s up to trucking to adjust, adapt, and make them acceptable to its customers and own workforce alike.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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