“Control” will be recorded as one of the most widely-used words this year, second only perhaps to “unprecedented”. (Ugh!) We do not have a predictable game plan or timeline for getting our teams back to the office, our kids back to school, and our lives “back to normal”—and the resulting anxiety that creates is due to what experts say is our perceived “lack of control”.

I may be a contrarian, but I believe this can actually be the year of taking control; companies that can empathize deeply with their customers (B2B or B2C) and put them in the driver’s seat will enjoy more success, improved loyalty, and greater lifetime customer value. 

I don’t mean to minimize the devastating effects of COVID or the uncertainty that still remains around getting our economy on track for sustainable and equitable growth, but this is a unique opportunity to bake “control” into your customer experience strategy. The difference between an average and a great customer experience is how much control you (as the consumer) have over that experience, and when you feel in charge and engaged as a consumer (or even as a co-creator), your satisfaction with and loyalty to the companies you interact with improves significantly. 

Let’s start with a little history. Do you remember having to wait until your day off, or having to take a few hours off work to go to a bank teller to get cash or deposit a check? Nope, didn’t think so. Entire industries have removed the “friction” that caused a frustrating customer experience. From mobile banking to mobile flight check-in, the days of being a victim of someone else’s availability have decreased significantly. Today, consumer-facing companies like security check-in company Clear are removing even more friction (such as worries about disease transmission) by adding “touchless” to their value propositions. 

Yet, there is still a lot of friction in our lives! Just a few short months ago, we were prisoners to our tetris-like schedules—sometimes without realizing it. Rapid progress has been made in many sectors with “on-demand” services, from healthcare to at-home fitness, but now is the time for all industries (B2B and B2C) to accentuate their focus on the customer and design control into the user experience.

From stress to solace – watch for regulatory changes that can accelerate your go-to-market

Telehealth or telemedicine has been around for years, yet due to regulatory hurdles and lack of consumer awareness, very few people used it. According to a recent Kaiser Permanente study, 48% of physicians are now delivering virtual care compared to 18% prior to COVID. A recent McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer survey shows 46% of patients are now using virtual care visits versus 11% pre-COVID. 

The investment opportunity has not gone unnoticed either; health tech drew $10bn in venture capital investment in the first three quarters of 2020, vs. $8.8bn in 2019. What is most stunning about this sensational growth is not just the amount of care ($250bn) that can be virtualized (and the significant cost reductions associated with that), but more importantly, the opportunity to dramatically improve the consumer/patient experience. 

Much like the old-school banking example above, many people have a hard time leaving their homes, their jobs, or their towns to get access to medical care. Now, with increased collaboration between technology companies and healthcare providers, the patient has more control over their own care and experience. 

From discontent to delight – look for new channels to deliver your product/content

Similarly, prescription delivery services—both B2B and B2C—are growing rapidly.They have successfully created a “new normal” for people who rely on both one-time and regular prescriptions. With the onset of COVID and the subsequent restrictions on access to physicians and pharmacies, industry giants like Walgreens and CVS have been joined by a new group of prescription delivery start-ups. These range from delivery service providers like ScriptDrop, to full-service online pharmacies like Alto, and include consumer subscription services like The Pill Club and Nurx

Prior to COVID, 1 in 4 Americans between ages 50 and 80 relied on prescription by mail, primarily due to insurance requirements and/or cost savings. Now, with these new services, those numbers are set to increase for all demographics—young and old. These new entrants have taken the friction out of getting your medications by creating a pleasing consumer experience—one that provides simplicity of use, easy access, and peace of mind—putting customers in control of their health by way of their prescriptions. 

From passive to passion – discover new intersections between platforms, content, and customers 

What’s next? In this world of on-demand services, online education is ripe for innovation and growth. It will take the right combination of content and platform delivery, however, to make the leap necessary to engage the most discerning audience—our tech-first youth. EdTech companies can take a page out of the at-home fitness playbook; consumers now have complete control over their fitness schedule, content, and the platform this is delivered on. 

Today, the synchronous/asynchronous experience students are having with online education is no different than it was 10 years, where the best innovation was (and still is) Khan Academy. Imagine a world where classes, educational content, educators, and the channels for delivery more closely resemble personalized entertainment with an experience that is on par with Peleton, Fortnite, Discordand MasterClass. While the content engagement side of education still represents a challenge, the platform/delivery side offers exciting opportunities to revolutionize a consumer experience—putting more control and delight in the hands of a highly engaged customer base. 

Now is the time for customer empowerment, and the formula for designing an awesome experience is straightforward: customer-centricity + empathy + engagement + co-creation + control = brand loyalty!

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