The “gig economy” has come out of the shadows, and is quickly redefining how we think of the customer experience. Two factors are powering the gig economy engine: The fact that millennial workers are looking for alternatives to traditional employment, and that the back-end cloud technology has matured to the point where the traditional employment model is becoming obsolete.
Given that gig platforms are here to stay, companies – even traditional ones – need to take a look at how companies like Uber, AirBnB, FitnessTrainer and others are using gig tactics to ramp up quality and the customer experience.
Four areas in particular where gig economy platforms are inherently superior and offer a better customer experience are:
• Gig platforms cater to underserved areas
• Gig providers respond faster
• Gig providers have a closer and more personal connection with customers
• Immediate feedback and reviews help keep the experience positive
One of the biggest flaws in the development of traditional business for example, is the tendency to gravitate towards higher-income, densely populated areas and ignore the rest, a factor that has most recently led to what is now being called a “retail Armageddon” marked by closings of thousands of retail stores. The taxi industry is also guilty of this – yes, it’s remarkably easy to get a taxi very quickly in New York City, especially in Manhattan – but the industry as a whole has not paid much attention to customer service in decades. Outside of a handful of high-traffic metropolitan areas, service is spotty and wait times long.
In general, services obtained through gig platforms are delivered more promptly. In a Heritage Foundation study, analysts compared wait times for service in the taxi industry, finding that for example, in a low-income section of Los Angeles, average wait time for a taxi was 17 minutes 42 seconds, while wait time for an Uber was an impressive six minutes 49 seconds. The report noted that ordering a taxi from outside a well-travelled area can involve a wait time of 30 minutes or more, while ridesharing apps connect drivers to the nearest customer.
Is the fact that Uber is faster to respond than traditional taxis an indicator that Uber drivers are any better than taxi drivers? Not really. What it does indicate though, is that the Uber model, which depends on a technological foundation and a new model of driver engagement, is inherently faster and more efficient by design, and as such, better serves the customer. The taxi industry flourished for years based on the “fat and lazy” model of business growth, that is, it had the market cornered, and there was no reason to improve anything. Now faced with competition from competitors who have a better idea for customer engagement, they are crying foul.
The immediacy of the gig
“One of the biggest reasons customers like gig platforms is because of the immediacy,” said Andrew Marcus, co-founder of FitnessTrainer.com, a gig economy platform for personal fitness trainers to connect with people looking for fitness education and guidance. “Customer expectations are at an all-time high because they have more information and more options than ever. Gig platforms recognize the power the consumers have at hand, and the need for immediate response, and that remains the primary focus of most platforms.”
Filling unmet needs and delivering on the customer experience
“We’re also seeing gig platforms filling unmet needs that traditional providers either can’t touch, or don’t want to,” said Marcus. “Larger, institutional providers cater to whatever demographic their research department tells them to, and usually that means where the most money is. That’s fine for the corporate bottom line, but that approach will always leave some consumers out in the cold. Gig providers fill that gap, providing a more personalized level of service to customers that may not be able to find the same level of service from an institutional provider.”
Finally, the customer experience can be elevated through the gig model. While those larger, institutional service providers have sophisticated tools, metrics, and marketing departments, in the gig economy, perception drives success. The smartphone-driven gig model promotes a much higher level of accountability through instant reviews, both on the part of the provider and the customer.