Even if you don't reside in Silicon Valley or the world of technology, chances are you've heard the beginning rumblings of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." The First Industrial Revolution began in 18th century Britain with the mechanization of the textiles industry and the birth of the factory. Fast-forward to the early 1900s, when Henry Ford invented the assembly line and mass production capabilities ushered in the Second Industrial Revolution.
Mass adoption of the Internet introduced the Third Industrial Revolution, which completely upended the ways in which we live and work. Now, experts are starting to weigh in on the Fourth Industrial Revolution - the rise of digital lifestyles and the new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies, business and even the human body.
You may not recognize all the ways this digital revolution has impacted your life, but it is quickly shaking up long-standing industries. If you've ever used Uber to grab a ride, or looked up something on your smart watch, you've participated in this Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Behind this first wave of digital leaders is a whole host of newcomers such as Shyp, Stash, and Homepolish who are challenging the status quo and shaking up traditional business models. These disruptors are gaining rapid traction forcing older established companies to radically reinvent themselves.
The driving force behind this is the rise of the smartphone as the most ubiquitous personal technology around the world, with 87% of people confessing they have their smartphone at their side, day and night (Google, "Micromoments"). Consequently, your relationship with your mobile operator - the conduit for all your digital services and applications - is a critical one.
Unfortunately, too many people feel dealing with their phone company is like paying taxes - a necessary evil. However, this is all changing as classic 'phone companies' are now rethinking what they sell and how they sell it to you. While these companies have historically acted more like railroads, providing the tracks for others to deliver goods and services - the real value is in the products and goods that get delivered to customers no matter where they are. With consumers embracing app-based commerce, and willingness to pay a premium for on-demand delivery, the telco that sold you that smartphone is in the best position to offer you more of what you want, exactly when you want it.
As a long-time veteran of the telecom industry, I have had the luxury of hearing firsthand what customers want and how telcos today are looking to fulfill those expectations. Today's customer expects:
Control: With personalized shopping services available to the mass market, today's customer craves a level of service and specificity previously unimagined. After all, who better to determine what mobile plan is right for you, other than you? Soon the days of paying one-size-fits-all subscription fees will be behind us, and customers will be able to pick and choose the types of services they want, when they want them. Don't want to commit to a big data package? No problem, but need to use Waze for an hour to get to that meeting on time? Done, just click on a button and pay for an hour.
Instant gratification: Click expectations are high. And they should be, as plenty of digital companies are able to instantly fulfill customer requests - requiring a high level of sophistication designed for the digital environment. When you decide you want to pay $5 a month for unlimited YouTube streaming, it should and will be an option you can add directly from your phone with the click of a button. And the telco will make sure your purchase applies to your iPad and your smartwatch, too.
The right to change their mind, anytime: Even with more choice, customer loyalty can still be earned. Consumers will place a high premium on overall experience, particularly when that experience feels personalised. Don't like the bundle you signed up for? Change it or tweak it, directly from your phone - without breaking a contract, talking to a person, visiting a store or paying hidden fees.
In a few short weeks, I'll have a chance to share ideas with thought leaders in the telecoms sector at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We will discuss how operators can better meet tomorrow's consumer expectations, identify the most impactful moments with their customers, and strive to exceed expectations in a digital-first world.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution could also be called the "Reign of the Customer", and today's mobile operators are seeking the smartest ways to reimagine their brands and make life easier, safer and smarter for customers just like you and me.