Trend 9: The customer becomes king

Trend 9: The customer becomes king

New technologies and business models are enabling citizens to interact with infrastructure in new and unexpected ways.

Top view of people walking on concrete floor

One particular effect of some new technologies is that they are enabling citizens to interact with infrastructure in new and unexpected ways. And that is forcing infrastructure planners and providers to rethink their role.  

Consider, for example, how navigation apps like Waze are not only showing consumers the fastest route to their destinations (thereby changing traffic patterns) – they are also influencing ridership patterns on public transit and in carpool lanes.  

The popularity of ride-sharing models indicates that many consumers would rather take a point-to-point journey (at the right price point) than use a set-route mode (like buses). The shift towards virtual working, live-work environments and online shopping suggests that consumers may be less focused on central business districts and more focused on access to good information and communication technology networks.  

Customer demand for real-time information and insights indicates that access to data is quickly becoming just as important to customers as access to physical services. So, too, is access to peripheral services and retail options (though not if it comes at the expense of excellence in the core service). 

Governments, planners, investors and stakeholders are recognizing that consumer expectations and needs are changing. And that means their traditional assumptions about how consumers use their infrastructure also need to change.  

Thankfully, new technologies and approaches are allowing infrastructure planners and owners to achieve unprecedented insight into customer expectations and patterns. As we noted in Trend 2, we expect to see infrastructure owners and operators start to build their data and analytics capabilities in order to uncover new insights about user/customer patterns and expectations. In other cases, technologies are being used to digitize the infrastructure experience.

This year, we expect consumers to seek a larger voice in their infrastructure options. That will require governments to focus more clearly on understanding actual user choice – whether that be their transportation route, time of energy consumption or health needs, for example. Indeed, we believe that future infrastructure plans will need to be informed by real-time and predictive customer insights rather than historical patterns and expert opinion. Ultimately, this should lead to a massive democratization of infrastructure planning; those that recognize this fact early and embrace it will reap the benefits.

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