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The connected customer and modern social contract

The connected customer and modern social contract

In an era where all Canadians are connected more than ever, it is not surprising that companies are investing substantial time and resources into becoming more customer-centric. But when does customer centricity become 'unsettling'?

In this year's survey, we asked Canadian CEOs how they think their organizations are doing in the area of 'personalization'. Four of five said they believe they are meeting or exceeding customers' expectations for a personalized experience. Just one in ten CEOs said they were disappointed about the value they achieved from previous investments into personalization.

Customer expectations for personalization

I suspect this overwhelmingly positive self-assessment is based on success being realized from invesments made in 'Digital Era' technologies, (mobile, social, web, analytics, cloud). With these, Canadian corporations have been able to move from a 'Push' model of customer engagement (not personalized) to a 'Pull' model (personlized). The next chasm to cross in the progression of personalization will be the 'Predictive' model. It is at this point when the ultimate intimacy of personalization can be tailored down to the individual. To achieve this, Canadian corporations will need to invest in and operationalize 'exponential technologies' (AI, cognitive, blockchain, among others). While the possibilities of this are tantalizing to Canadian companies, it must be approached with caution. Personalization can quickly move from the positive realm of 'this company knows me and presents me with what matters' to 'this company knows way too much and is pestering'. Or worse still, 'this company has my data and lost it or sold it'. Without a clear and equitable value exchange between data giver and taker, this modern version of a social contract will be broken and difficult for Canadian corporations to earn back.

So what else did we learn is on the minds of Canadian CEOs in this year's survey? Well the years 1982 to 2004 and the cohort of Millennials (Generation Y) that were born in that time sure are. Specifically, our data shows that Canadian CEOs are worried current sales models, distribution models and brands may not work with this generation. What's more daunting is their concern that current leadership and decision-makers aren't able to truly connect with or attract Generation Y with existing digital offerings.

From my perspective, there is significant reason to worry. We live in an era when a 22 year old has never experienced a day without the Internet; a 15 year old has lived their entire life with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as their communication platform; and, a 10 year old today does not know a time when smartphones and tablets were not glued to their hands. So are customers more connected? Of course they are. But what is more striking is how connected the next generation of major purchasers will be.

While seismic generational shifts are nothing new, today's CEOs are faced with a magnitude, pace and diversity of change that is at a peak never imagined. That said, they also have a level of scale and sophistication of data and analytics, which, if used properly, could be the difference between success and failure. Used improperly, however, and the modern social contract will break – along with reputations.

Ultimately, this year's survey shows that Canadian companies are making strong progress on their customer agenda. Now is the time to accelerate and enter the exponential era. Proceed with caution, deliver more value than you get, focus on the unique needs of Generation Y and the modern social contract should remain intact.

From push to pull to predict:

  • Push (where we've been): A world in which customer focus meant developing and distributing products and services based on the assumed or created needs of broadly defined customer segments.
  • Pull (where we are): In an age of digitization, companies are increasingly able to refine and verify their understanding of what customers want, and then personalize products, channels and new ways to engage.
  • Predict (where we need to go): An evolving era in which the most advanced companies take steps to understand and analyze a sophisticated array of customer information so they can anticipate and meet customers' needs when, or even before, customers know what they want.

Source: Me, My Life, My Wallet,


*All statistics result from the 2018 Canadian CEO Survey.