What On-Demand Teaches All of Us

Liz Gannes published a well-done series on the on-demand economy on Recode.  She talks about the rise of food delivery startups, on-demand rides, on-demand laundry services, etc.  There is certainly a huge wave of these startups that are all harnessing the power of having every worker walking around with a GPS-enabled smartphone (as I’ve said before, the smartphone is a great logistics device).  

Many of them are taking off and making super-happy customers in the process.  There’s something magical about the first time you order from Sprig and your dinner gets to your door in 10 minutes flat compared to the typical 45-90 minutes that traditional restaurants take. 

The on-demand economy has taught us all that turnaround time is always important.  Even if your service normally takes 1 month to deliver, if you can do it in 2 weeks, you will amaze customers.  It doesn’t have to be “on-demand,” but you should always strive to improve the speed of your service.  Nobody will ever want it to be slower. 

Sometimes it’s very difficult to deliver massive cost savings or massive quality improvements, but turnaround time improvements are frequently achievable.  Analyze everything about your process and find ways to cut wasted time. 

Speed should be a key performance metric of every business service, from taxis to analytics software. 

Speed applies to everything.  We always want things to be faster.  It applies to business software solutions just as much as it does to consumer services.  

A few examples: 


Omniata delivers analytics and engagement software.  The performance is incredible – processing billions of events and allowing custom reports in fractions of a second.  Just the simple notion of being able to create reports and see instant results has caused a behavior change in users. They are more likely to create and use more reports, and therefore get more value out of the platform. 


At oDesk, we found improvements in customer satisfaction when we decreased the time between a job posting and the first supplier application.  In the beginning, everything was manual and it would frequently take us 24-48 hours and a few phone calls to get the first applicants to a job.  Once we built and scaled the marketplace, we were able to get those first applications in a matter of a few minutes which was amazing for customers. 


Google took their blazing fast search results and just kept trying to make them faster.  Here is Marissa Mayer on her usage of Google Instant

“One of the things I’ve seen in my own personal usage,  is that while each search is faster, I spend more time doing searches. Because I actually the results coming in and out as I’m doing my searches… I learn things as I go. And after I’ve actually fulfilled my query, a lot of times I’ll see interesting suggestions, so I’ll scroll around and learn different things and so I think ultimately, it may increase engagement of our users.”

-Marissa Mayer


Jeff Bezos has known it all along too. 

“What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.  It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

-Jeff Bezos (full quote and more here)


Davy Kestens at Sparkcentral has known that speed was critical since he started his first business.  He personally provided customer service solely through Twitter.  He replied in a matter of minutes to customer support requests instead of typical customer service centers that offer “ticket response times” of under 24 hours.  24 hours?!?!  That seems like an eternity nowadays.  Sparkcentral helps large customer service organizations respond to requests in a matter of minutes, providing a huge speed improvement for end customers.  


So, what is your speed metric?  How can you constantly increase the speed of your service?