Is Netflix on your radar as a major threat to your company? If not, why not? Or do you believe that digital darwinism and disruption will respect the artificial borders of industry?What companies like Netflix are doing today has a tremendous impact on the way you do business, and how your company is perceived by customers and employees. And that the fact that you work in an industry far removed from what companies like Netflix, Uber and Tesla are doing has little to do with how much their way of doing things will affect you.

Here is my main point: The experience that Netflix offers it customers in availability, personalization and customer service creates expectations among your customers on what form their relationship with you will take. Because they will not change or adapt their expectancy just because they shift from watching a film to interacting with you in some capacity. And if what you offer fails to live up to the standards they have come to expect they will judge you all the harder for it.

Everyday life is being transformed

I’ve written about how everyday life is affected by digital transformation before. What I wrote about then is the widening gap between the level of technology that a lot of people have access to at home, and the level of technology they have available at work. The latter is often a lot older, limited and more difficult to use, because companies are either falling behind in the digital/IT arena or have never begun a transformation. My point then was that as employees we find this widening gap more and more difficult to deal with, and in the end it can have an impact on where we want to work. Millennials in particular already have a hard time adjusting to outdated and obsolete practices in many companies.

But this is as much a reality when we interact as customers with different companies. And if we encounter a great user experience with one company that will shape how we expect to be treated by all companies, in every aspect of life. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

The screen to screen experience

I think Netflix is doing a great job of delivering a seamless experience as a user moves from one screen to another. I can watch half an episode of whatever series I’m binging on at the moment on my tablet and pick up right were I left off on my smartphone or laptop. If Netflix can offer this, why can’t I have the same experience with any company or organization I’m interacting with? Why should I have to accept having to start all over again if I contact them on a different device, or have to restart my shopping or application? My point is that Netflix and other sites with great user experience is setting the bar for every company with a digital presence.

Working with Big Data

Bernard Marr wrote a post on LinkedIn a while back, The Amazing Ways Netflix uses Big Data To Drive Success. In it he highlights how Netflix is collecting and using data from all its 50 million subscibers around the world in order to understand viewing habits. It helps them do several things: Like improving how movies and series are tagged and categorized. Or making decisions on content production. It’s a very efficient way of developing new products and improving on existing ones, based on data rather than assumptions. A lot of companies, in both B2B and B2C still have a long way to go both when it comes to gathering data and using it as part of their decision making process.

Content curation

When you think about Netflix and content your first thought is probably the original productions they offer, like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. But I would like to highlight another part of what they do with content and that’s their work with recommendations. You might think they do an excellent job on this, or that what they suggest is nowhere near what you’d like to watch, but the important point here is that it’s an impressive act of personalizing content. According to one article Netflix have as many as 300 employees that only work with content curation. Just like Spotify they are putting some serious efforts into creating recommendations, and they will only get better at it as time passes. And the effect this creates among your customers is that they will ask why they can’t have a personalized experience when they interact with you. Because you and most companies certainly have the data necessary to get started. I suspect that most people would like to have everything from news to shopping personalized and adapted to their own needs. Not to mention everytime we have to deal with government agencies and similar institutions.

Customer service

Considering how widely stories about great customer services get shared it’s easy to come to the conclusion that most companies are not that good at taking care of their customers. Again, this is an area where Netflix excels. I’m not just thinking about the cases that get a lot of exposure, like the Star Trek one. When I have had a reason to contact Netflix Customer service I have been impressed by their attitude, speed and interest in solving the issue. I’ve heard similar stories from others. Every company has customers and they expect you to treat them well, so this is another area where they will compare what you are doing with companies like Netflix, Zappos and so on.

Working at Netflix

Another field where Netflix is getting a lot of attention is how they work with corporate culture and how that translates into the everyday work life for employees there. The presentation Culture, put together in 2012 tells the whole story in 124 slides. Some of the items that have gotten most attention is the lack of policies on expenses, dress code and vacations. Instead the focus is on getting the job done. You can read more about it in this recent LinkedIn post from Christophe Jouin. Going back to what I mentioned at the beginning of this post, how the divide between how people, especially millennials, want to work and what most companies offer, this is another area where a lot of people are bound to ask the question why they can’t have the same set-up as a Netflix employee. What will you tell them?


The point I’m trying to make with these five examples is that our existing and potential customers increasingly will compare how easy it is to use and interact with our products, services, customer support etc with companies like Netflix, Amazon and Zappos. They will expect us to deliver the same ease of use, personalised experiences and high quality. And if we don’t they will be frustrated and disappointed. The next likely step is that one of our competitors will adapt and develop, or that our whole industry will be disrupted from an outsider in a way that we could not forseee, just like Uber, AirBnB and Tesla are doing right now. And our employees will also look at companies like those I’ve mentioned as places where they would prefer to work.

What we need to do is study these companies and the way they are doing things, and then take the best of that and instill it into our own industries and companies. And we need to do it sooner rather than later, because their way of doing things are becoming the gold standard in the minds of people, whether they act as consumers, decision makers in B2B, employees or citizens.

This was originally posted on LinkedIn in April, 2015