Making customer data more secure to gain their trust will need to be a priority for businesses in the future.

The warning comes from the Institute of Customer Service in its latest report The Customer of the Future, which includes seven recommendations designed to equip businesses to get ahead in the next decade.

One of the most immediate challenges will be for organisations to tighten their processes around data so that their customers give their personal information with confidence, and are assured of its long-term security.

“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,” commented Institute chief executive Jo Causon.

“Looking ahead, successful organisations will be those who can do more than embrace change - they will anticipate, identify and drive it.”

The Customer of the Future report identifies ‘12 factors of change’ that will shape the business landscape in 2025. It also suggests how UK companies should future-proof themselves to cope.

customer of the future

“In this research we identify the forces shaping the customer of the future, examine a range of future scenarios and highlight opportunities and key implications for organisations,” Causon says in the report’s foreword.

“What emerges is a complex, multi-layered, constantly evolving picture in which it will be more important than ever to understand how customers’ diverse needs, preferences and behaviours are changing and to develop strategies to adapt and respond.

“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.”

The Institute predicts an emerging breed of consumer ‘driven by fear’ over online data security as a result of increasingly frequent public breaches and threat of cyber-attacks. This will lead to them being fiercely protective of their personal information and demanding robust assurances of ongoing security. And they will be unpredictable and more reluctant to share data as politics and economics become more uncertain.

jo causon

Jo Causon

They will be ‘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’.

The report also predicts that consumers will benefit from the ‘network economy’ as competing organisations collaborate to build market share, resulting in customers getting better value and more innovative products.

However, as consumers battle contradictory impulses, grappling with a desire for personalisation and reluctance to share data, “tomorrow’s customer will be unpredictable, spelling an uncertain future for organisations looking to target and satisfy them” the report says.