The Biggest Disruptors Are Those That Are Customer Centric

Each day in sales and marketing news, it seems like there’s a new article on technology and disruption. It’s the claim of these articles that technological innovation has disrupted yet another entrenched, dominant corporation’s majority share of the marketplace. The most common technology disruptors included in the lists are Netflix, Uber, Amazon, and others like them.

But is technology really the cause for the downfall of major companies? We don’t think so.

While technology is certainly a huge component, the true disruption to businesses is not investing enough time or resources in improving the customer experience. Not being customer centric is ultimately what leads to the demise of companies and the dwindling market share for major brands. Below, we detail exactly how four industries left room for disruption all on their own.

1. Video Rentals

Image Source: The New York Times

Netflix’s technology didn’t cause the death of Blockbuster, Family Video, or countless other movie stores. It was only an accessory. In fact, Blockbuster even had the chance to buy Netflix for $50 million, but they passed. Instead, Blockbuster continued along their path and tried to make their own DVD delivery and kiosk services way too late. Blockbuster cards used to be a fixture in everyone’s wallet, so how did they get to that point?

Blockbuster got too confident at the top, with millions of members and hundreds of locations across the country that they started to lose their sense of need. More interested in maintaining the status quo and less interested in helping customers, Blockbuster felt the hit when Netflix started mailing DVD’s for a flat rate subscription that resonated with consumers. And before you say that technology broke this camel’s back, remember that Netflix was simply a website that mailed DVDs in its original form — something Blockbuster could have easily done on its own. Instead, they continued with their inconvenient brick and mortar model until it was too late to recover.

2. Taxi Companies


Image Source: slideshare.net

From the time it takes to get a cab to the high fares, taking a taxi can be a poor experience. Besides getting from point A to point B, the taxi industry doesn’t focus much on passengers and their experience. And since the emergence of ride sharing apps in popular markets like Los Angeles, the number of taxi trips dropped 30% overall.

Ride sharing apps like Uber made hailing a cab an easy experience, one where you can quickly see your car, your fare, and your driver’s rating level. Instead of catering to drivers, Uber catered their business model to the riders. Today, taxi companies have come out with their own cab hailing applications, but it still doesn’t solve several customer pain points like high fares and exorbitant routes. Uber’s technology certainly enabled them gain ground faster than any other business before them, but their focus on improving the rider experience is what caused them to win out against the traditional taxi industry.

3. Hotels

Image source: Skift

Hotels typically have great customer service. But, in general, hotels have been slow to adapt to today’s new consumer — the Millennial. Over 80% of Millennials prefer experiencing travel destinations like a local, not a tourist. This spells bad news for hotels: Properties that house and cater to tourists. A fact that isn’t going unnoticed by Millennials and Boomers. Hotel rates themselves have also steadily risen year over year, according to Statista, causing travelers to look into more alternative options.

Airbnb saw this gap as an opportunity to create a more authentic vacation experience for travelers, but also allow hosts to make a little extra money for their mortgage or rent payment. Inspired by the experiences of staying with friends and family, Airbnb created a business model that greatly benefitted both travelers and hosts at great prices. Airbnb continues to grow today at a phenomenal rate, expecting to gross $3.5 billion annually by 2020, which is a 3,400% increase from their profits in 2016.

4. Retailers

amazon customer service

Image source: visualcapitalist.com

Walmart, Target, and other big box retailers have been struggling for the past few years. The way we shop as consumers has changed dramatically, and our favorite stores have been slow to evolve. In the world of instant gratification, retailers haven’t adopted convenient shipping or ordering experiences, causing customers to turn to other options like Amazon, Overstock, and more.

Starting as a hub for digital books, Amazon has certainly evolved to meet consumer needs. Now an e-commerce platform where you can buy almost anything under the sun, and have it shipped to your door that same day, Amazon is the king of convenience. But they got to that point, Jeff Bezos created a culture obsessed with the customer. In fact, Jeff famously brought empty chairs into company meetings to represent the customer – “the most important person in the room.” Yes, Amazon is an innovative solution, but it was their focus on helping customers that made them into the giant they are today. CEO Jeff Bezos put it best himself, “We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”

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