If I owned a time machine and could zoom back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, I would love to ask an industrialist to join me at the Forrester CX Europe Conference which took place this week.

There would be a great deal that would bewilder my nineteenth century visitor. Things like individualised services, delivered in real time, on any device, anywhere in the world. Or innovations that make customer transactions faster, easier, and more impressive experiences. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and zero failure demand. Wow.

But what is striking is that our industrialist would recognise a theme that featured in every presentation. Something which was as important at the start of the Industrial Revolution as it is today: how we measure the success of a business. In one form or another the conference confirmed that established businesses still want to see business growth: selling more units, more quickly to more people.

To demonstrate, here are a few numbers from presentations over the two days (let me know if you have seen or heard an even bigger number).

  • one billion new consumers in India and China by 2030
  • US$25 billion of sales in a single day for Alibaba
  • one trillion transactions handled every day by Netflix

So what? You might ask. A business gives its customers better experiences, the business grows as a result, surely that’s the whole point? That’s the purpose of business.

Yes…and no. Or, in my opinion, yes today….but no tomorrow.

Willy Kruh, Global Chair for Consumer & Retail at KPMG, speaking on the last day of the conference told us that in 2018, millennials will become the biggest consumer segment in the world, numbering 2.5 billion people with a spending power of US$3 trillion.

What Willy didn’t cover was that millennials (I believe) do not agree that the whole point of business is growth. They believe in a more nuanced, multi-dimensional, human and sustainable purpose for business.

To see how this may affect the future of customer experience, look at the new breed of businesses that millennials are creating themselves. Businesses like Naadam Cashmere, which operates profitably, but pays its herders 50% more than traditional models, while reducing end-user prices by 50%.

Naadam’s purpose is wider than simply growth. It considers its impact on people and the planet. I believe that this affects their investment and operational decisions, and that then affects their customer experience.

For instance, Nadaam’s story is front and centre on their website and social channels. Customer service is by email, not live chat or AI bot. Delivery is three to five days, not next day, same day, or in an hour by drone ☺.  They show that when you trust customers to value your business purpose, you can trust them to understand your business decisions, in this case slower transactions.

I appreciate that the social purpose of business is not new; business leaders have been speaking about this for decades. What’s new is the commercial imperative.

As millennials decide where to spend their US$3 trillion I’m willing to bet that the value they place on business purpose will continue to rise. The implications for customer experience are vast and not easy or quick. But the businesses that embrace this change will have a new, and attractive, competitive edge that no amount of technical wizardry can compete with.

So, if your business purpose would make perfect sense to a nineteenth century industrialist, now might be a very smart time to re-think it.

Robbie Hearn

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robbie Hearn

Robbie Hearn

Founder

Robbie lives and breathes customer experience. A calm business and community integrator, he unlocks the potential of customers by weaving them into processes of each company