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How to Move Into the On-Demand Economy

The rise of the on-demand economy is disrupting billion-dollar markets — from retail, travel and transportation to healthcare, financial services, insurance, cable and utilities. In fact, a recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 72% of American adults have used on-demand services.

While we’ve become accustomed to witnessing startups and digitally native companies launch on-demand services with relative ease, the reality is far different for established enterprises with legacy systems that they have to integrate. For many companies, adapting to an on-demand model requires organizational restructuring, not to mention disparate systems that need to be connected to make that possible. Often, it’s difficult for enterprises to keep pace with the changes to meaningfully transform their business for the on-demand economy.

By 2025, leading enterprises will operate entirely on-demand — using software and mobile devices to connect to global and distributed networks and using a combination of AI and chatbots to handle customer service, payment and transactions and other business processes. According to Gartner, three out of 10 jobs will be converted to software, robots or smart machines.

These realities both threaten and present opportunities for enterprises. But the biggest risk of all is for businesses is to pretend the changes aren’t happening. Enterprises need to embrace the change to both redefine their role and the value they bring their customers, all while automating key areas of their business, ensuring compliance and stimulating growth.

See also: On-Demand Insurance: Ultimately a Bust?  

The on-demand economy has raised consumer expectations across industries. It places the customer firmly at the center of a business. We’ve seen Amazon set a new standard for retail customer service. Uber and Lyft have used a distributed workforce to disrupt a $60 billion local transportation market, while Airbnb has changed the travel and vacation rental market, and Lemonade is changing the insurance industry. The elevated experiences provided by these companies, and those like them, combine to raise the customer expectations across all industries.

What’s even more interesting is what has become known as the “experience gap.” It’s based on the fact that 80% of CEOs believe they are delivering a superior experience, but only 8% of customers agree. And given that more than half of customers today say they’ve switched companies solely because of poor user experiences, it’s clear that companies that fail to embrace change and the shift to consumer-centric solutions are at a strategic disadvantage. This experience gap is the catalyst for a lot of disruption because it’s catching businesses off-guard because they’re not yet deploying the new tools that can close the gap.

As such, competition doesn’t manifest itself through traditional means. Instead, competitive differentiation stems from the quality of experiences businesses can deliver to their customers.

So that brings us to the question of “how” to deliver experiences consumers expect.

How can enterprises join the on-demand economy and deliver experiences that are synonymous with being always-on and personalized? In broad terms, there are elements or “steps” of digital transformation that enterprises can undertake to get them in the right place and ready to meet the needs of today’s demanding consumer. And, the process is not as complex as one might imagine.

Enterprise Transformation for the On-Demand Economy

1. Enabling messaging as a customer engagement channel

The first step is to enable a secure messaging system that can adequately serve the needs of consumers. This means it needs to offer all the necessary functionality that consumers experience in other channels such as payments, scheduling, CRM integrations, file transfers, customer service and marketing. In addition, the communication platform needs to meet security and privacy standards to ensure no breaches in compliance.

The fact is, traditional channels — such as telephone and email — are no longer the primary channels through which people communicate with each other. The adoption of messaging has been rapid, and it shows no signs of slowing down. With this in mind, businesses large and small need to follow suit and begin the transition to messaging by including it in their channel strategy.

The reason messaging is such a key part of the on-demand economy is that its very premise is on-demand. Messaging allows consumers to respond in their own time and send messages whenever they like. It harbors a strong sense of immediacy that’s unmatched on other channels. And it’s a channel that’s easily accessible through the smartphones that people carry with them everywhere they go.

2. Messaging across all devices and channels

This same messaging capability then needs to be plugged in effectively across all devices and channels to connect with customers in real time. So, whether the primary interface is a mobile app, website, social network or otherwise, it’s the same high-value messaging experience.

3. Scale through business process automation with chatbots and artificial intelligence.

The third step to entering the on-demand economy is scaling the always-on messaging experience through the use of chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies work to automate the whole operation and provide a cost-effective solution for scaling 24/7 connectivity.

The future of business communication is firmly based in the on-demand economy. So enterprises must be focused on making processes easy to access and intuitive to move through. Despite all the extraneous features and services that will be enabled through technology, the biggest drivers of innovation will be utility and simplicity across the customer experience.

See also: Insuring a ‘Slice’ of the On-Demand Economy

What It Means for Businesses to be On-Demand

To be truly on-demand is to be at the beck and call of customers and consumers — to deliver experiences that provide consumers with access to information and services when and where they need it. It’s a simple concept with massive implications. Each day, consumers embark on an infinite number of journeys. For businesses to play a role in these consumer journeys, they need to meet them where they are along the way. And that is the the premise of the on-demand economy. Businesses no longer have the control — consumers are the ones who are empowered. It’s therefore essential that businesses adopt the on-demand model to retain and build their customer’s loyalty.