Established companies can take a page from the disruptors by inspiring emotion, establishing trust and more PHOTO: Thien Dang

There was a time, not too long ago, when customers’ choices for entertainment and communications were limited to a few providers and services. Fast forward to today’s media and communications environment, where customers enjoy an ever-increasing array of choices.

The flip side of that, though, is that it has never been more important to differentiate your offerings through personal, purposeful and consistent experiences that create meaningful and lasting relationships for your customers.

Disrupting the Status Quo

To understand the competitive nature of the market, Accenture surveyed 5,000 US-based customers of communications providers — the Keep Me Index (KMI) — to measure the connection between sentiment, voice of the customer and loyalty more accurately.

The survey found that new or emerging digital entertainment companies, such as Netflix, Pandora, Google Fiber and SiriusXM are doing this the most successfully today.

Home entertainment and communications used to be far less complex, with limited choices for the consumer, given the few phone companies and cable providers available to meet their needs. Today, digital natives and disruptors have emerged to challenge the status quo and offer a variety of new services.

Awesome Versus Emotionless

There are three main areas in which disruptors excel, but there is plenty of room for traditional providers to step up their game and compete effectively.

Think about your typical cable internet provider and what words come to mind? According to Accenture’s research, many customers used emotionless words like ‘TV provider’ or ‘cable.’ At the other end of the spectrum, more than two-thirds of customers surveyed described disruptors with positive words such as ‘convenient,’ ‘awesome or ‘cheap/affordable.’

Disruptors Establish Emotional Connections

When it came to disruptors, half of the 10 most popular words customers used were positive in sentiment, compared with three out of 10 positive words for wireless companies and only two out of 10 for cable. On the other hand, there were no negative words used to describe disruptors and only a handful (‘expensive’ and ‘horrible’) for traditional companies.

These findings indicate an emotional connection between disruptors and their customers, that creates customer loyalty, while cable companies are considered ‘just another utility.’

Trust Is Everything

Another area in which disruptors distinguish themselves from traditional companies is the degree of customer trust. A lack of affordable options and unreliable service ranked the highest in reasons for distrust.

Disruptors, however, scored 77 percent in trust, compared with 46 percent for cable and 64 percent for wireless. These findings seemed largely based on disruptors’ ability to provide reliable services at affordable or reasonable price points. 

The Perception of Value-Added

Disruptors also lead the way in creating lasting and meaningful relationships and customer loyalty based on customer perception. In fact, the disruptor with the lowest score in perception at 65 percent still scored higher than the top-ranking traditional provider at 63 percent. 

The reasons customers expressed satisfaction with their traditional providers were related to quality of service and price. However, customers were satisfied with disruptors for reasons beyond the product that extended to value-added services.

Two Can Play the Disruption Game

While disruptors may have a lead in building loyal customer relationships, Accenture’s survey clearly identifies some opportunities for traditional companies to catch up. Those include:

1. Offer a High-Quality Product or Service

According to the research, the product itself is at the core of most negative perceptions, viewed as too expensive or unreliable, and plagued by poor-quality service, limited choices, or inability to customize service options.

2. Sell at Price Points That Meet Value Expectations

By contrast, the top reasons that digital disruptors’ customers were happy extended beyond the products themselves to include the perceived value of the overall experience, as well as service innovations. That means that traditional companies must invest first and foremost in the reliability of their products because no one wants to pay a lot for a product that doesn’t work as expected.

3. Implement More Dynamic Pricing Offers

What’s more, it’s time for traditional companies to challenge the orthodoxies of their traditional pricing models and consider more dynamic and predictable ways either to offer everyday low or personalized price points or to find ways to improve the value proposition of their existing products and services. 

4. Go Beyond Basic Service to Create Something Customers Can’t Live Without

Offer something that makes customers’ lives easier or better and be a valued asset, not just another utility. The KMI research shows that digital disruptors lead the way in creating positive, emotional connections with their customers. The importance of developing a brand proposition that shifts customers away from seeing your company as purely a utility and toward seeing your company as a value-added part of their lives is vital. Think in terms of how to go beyond basic service to provide something that customers can’t imagine living without. 

Finding Ways to Disrupt the Disruptors

There are many lessons we can learn from the relationship between disruptors and their customers, including the importance of creating an emotional connection, establishing trust and cultivating and positive overall perception.

However, it’s worth remembering that traditional providers have often been a part of their customers’ lives for many years and have established themselves as an important resource for their media and communications needs. By reassessing offerings and potential niches of opportunity, traditional providers can look for ways to disrupt the disruptors as they concentrate on deepening their relationships with customers.