Today’s uncertain political and economic landscape will give rise to a new breed of customer who is risk averse, self-aware, and prides themselves on having high ethical standards, according to new research launched by The Institute of Customer Service today.

‘Customer of the Future’ is a breakthrough research report which identifies 12 ‘factors of change’ that will shape the business landscape in 2025. It also highlights possible scenarios facing UK organisations and suggests how they can start future-proofing themselves.

The research predicts that the ‘customer of the future’ will be:

- driven by fear: increasingly frequent public breaches of online security and the looming threat of a large scale cyber-attack will mean customers are fiercely protective of their personal information, and demand robust assurances of its ongoing security

- self-aware and focused on the ‘here and now’: mass consumerism will be phased out as customers demand genuinely personalised service. Living in a tougher economic climate their focus will be on using disposable income for instant gratification over long term planning

- influenced by the ‘network economy’: competing organisations will collaborate to build market share, ensuring customers have access to better value and innovative products

- battling contradictory impulses: as they grapple with a desire for personalisation and a reluctance to share data, tomorrow’s customer will be unpredictable, spelling an uncertain future for organisations looking to target and satisfy them.

Jo Causon, Chief Executive of The Institute of Customer Service, comments: “Customer behaviour is changing, and the future promises vast, exciting opportunities for new products and ways of delivering service. Yet in a climate of expanding choice, customers will also want integrated services and simple, straightforward experiences from companies they can trust.

“The challenge will be for organisations to understand both sets of needs and be able to move seamlessly between them.”

Leigh Calton, Head of Proposition Development at Ageas, said: “We are very proud to co-sponsor the Customer of the Future report by the Institute of Customer Service. The report outlines the main factors which will affect decisions that customers make in the next decade, which is a topic that’s very important to Ageas as we strive to fulfil their ever-changing needs in the future.

The report highlights the need for organisations to be agile and create quick and easy user experiences. For those organisations able to keep up with a dynamic and changing environment, this opens a whole new world of opportunities to innovate, create and develop products and services in a way that is compatible with expectations and needs of customers of the future.”

Seven steps
The report makes seven recommendations designed to equip businesses to get ahead. One of the most immediate challenges will be for organisations to tighten their processes around data – aspiring to a future scenario in which consumers give their personal information with confidence, and are assured of its long term security. This innovation needs to also translate into designing customer experiences that embrace seamless integration and convenience, and recruiting and retaining quality employees, who will embrace the challenges presented by future customer behaviour.

According to the report, external influences also need to be considered. In a changing consumer market, the remit of legislators and regulators may shift in focus to maximise their efficiency, and organisations must ensure they are nimble enough to adapt.

Causon continues: “Of course, none of us can claim accurately to predict the future, but that does not mean we should not try to forecast and prepare for it. Looking ahead, successful organisations will be those who can do more than embrace change – they will anticipate, identify and drive it.”

An infographic, detailing the key findings, can be viewed here.