The consumer of professional services is ever-more demanding and new technology has appeared affecting working practices that may have been previously stable for decades. It’s all about change, and change is deeply uncomfortable. Have we ever seen anything like it?
15 years ago I was part of a team that launched an internet travel company where consumers could buy air tickets directly on-line. This development was a massive threat to the travel agent in the high street, many of whom relied on air ticket sales as the core of their business. Typically traditional travel agencies did not offer much in the way of customer service – after all they had previously held all the information and all the power. How else could a traveller get hold of an air ticket?
In the mid 2000s the travel industry was in turmoil. It is estimated that in Europe and North America more than 15, 000 travel agents went out of business.
The smart travel retailers realised that to survive and thrive they needed to add value and to put the customer at the centre of their business. Over time they harnessed technology to add to that customer experience and stopped trying to compete directly with new the on-line shops, but rather to offer an alternative. They found niches and improved their service and listened to what people wanted. Today the industry has settled and it might surprise you to know that less than 40% of travel is sold online today worldwide.
I see a similar situation in the professional services market today. Yes, there are many disorientating changes happening, and new competitors are emerging and it seems harder to make a good living. However, the smart people are stepping back from all of this and looking for the opportunity in all this chaos, and embracing new ways of thinking, applying technology and managing customers. The challenge is to stand out and become known for excellence, and to always place your customer at the very heart of your business.