What Uber can teach us about customer intimacy!

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My job involves a lot of travel.    Before Uber came along, this used to be a bit of a challenge. Back then, we had a number of contracts with different taxi companies across various countries; for the same company would rarely operate in more than one country. There were also a number of logistical […]

My job involves a lot of travel. 
Before Uber came along, this used to be a bit of a challenge. Back then, we had a number of contracts with different taxi companies across various countries; for the same company would rarely operate in more than one country. There were also a number of logistical issues involved. Either I or someone else would have to arrange for a pickup before hand, I had to have a local phone number to contact, in many cases they would not accept a credit card and would only take payments in local currency and so on and so forth.
All of that is now a thing of the past. Now whenever I travel (if the country has Uber), I know that with Uber I can get a taxi when and where I want it and that the service experience will be fairly consistent no matter where I am. The sense of freedom that this has given me is tremendous and it is for this reason that I am a regular user. In my view, Uber can teach us a lot about customer intimacy.
However, before I get into that, let me be very clear- by customer intimacy I mean the ability to build strong emotional bonds with customers. 
So what can we learn about customer intimacy from Uber? The following are a few of the key principles which stand out:
a) Knowledge of the customer:
The traditional definition of customer intimacy was all about customizing your services to particular clients based on your intimate knowledge of their tastes and preferences. This was best exemplified by some top-end hotels which would anticipate guest’s preferences based upon their previous history and requests.
Today however, thought leaders are increasingly talking about the concept of collective intimacy enabled by digital technologies. In contrast to one-on-one provider and customer relationships, collective intimacy deepens EACH relationship via insights developed ACROSS all relationships.
Uber is continuously monitoring demand and supply to calculate the price of your trip or to recommend the shortest and quickest routes. It even tells drivers where to hang out so as to match existing demand in the shortest possible time.
It isn’t just chance that no matter where I have been in the world, I just have to tap the Uber icon and am immediately greeted with comforting presence of at least a number of those familiar steel-grey figurines moving across my screen, indicating taxis that are almost always close at hand.  
b) Ease of use:
This is where Uber beats traditional competitors. The user interface is intuitive, it’s just an arm’s length away on my phone and it’s amazingly easy to use. The fact that it is an app means that I don’t need to store different phone numbers or to co-ordinate with third parties. Instead, I get consumption at point and a seamless experience when and where I need it. In short, it’s freed me up from almost all of the hassles that troubled me earlier. 
c) Ability to pivot/flip or change plans:
In my experience, Uber has also shown an amazing flexibility and resilience in being able to adapt to different circumstances and meet my changing needs.Uber monitors the traffic situation to continuously suggest the route that will take the shortest time. There has also been an instance, where an Uber driver suggested that I take the metro due to the roads being packed on account of a football match. These are all examples of the service adapting to my goals in a manner that left me delighted.
So what can we learn from Uber?
The first lesson we can learn is about the importance of knowing our customers. I am not talking about superficial, reactive knowledge but of knowing our customers to the extent of being able to anticipate their needs, perhaps even before they themselves are aware. This necessarily involves interacting with many different stakeholders throughout the eco-system including both seniors and juniors, as well as people working in different departments. 
As demonstrated by Uber, this also means making use of Big Data and Analytics in a way that enables us to ask the right questions even when we may not know the solutions. It means a level of engagement where we work together with the client to define and predict a problem rather than just getting involved after the client approaches us with one. 
Today, apps like Uber have gotten customers used to a level of flexibility and convenience that they are increasingly demanding from every other aspect of their lives. Consumer’s attention spans are low and so is their patience. Our client’s too, expect to deal with a single face of Capgemini anywhere in the world rather than having to sign multiple contracts in multiple jurisdictions. They expect that whoever they are dealing with should have a good understanding of them and their business. They expect that such institutional knowledge will be carried smoothly from context to context without excessive time spent in schooling new teams or personnel about a particular engagement.
Our clients also expect a high degree of flexibility. They expect to be able to scale up or scale down their requirements on demand or even to entirely change them midway through an engagement with minimum disruption from Capgemini’s side. 
If we have to meet the standard that has been set by companies like Uber, then this is the minimum that we need to do. In fact, Capgemini has already started to move in this direction. The world is clearly changing, and we are changing with it. Are you? 


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