Whether they are consumers or business buyers, today’s customers are often more tech savvy than the companies that serve them. They have increasing access to insightful, comparative information on suppliers and their offers; they now have the ability to express satisfaction or shout out their discontent to friends and peers and they are ready to switch providers when needed.
To serve today’s generation of consumer and business customers, companies must accept that customers are now in charge, and winning their business means creating a customer-led marketing culture.
This simple notion is in fact driving a fundamental shift in the way companies must adapt to do business with today’s customers. A customer-led marketing culture has various consequences for today’s marketing leaders at both B2C and B2B companies. Here are a few:
Customers dictate the agenda
Companies should no longer expect customers to turn to them solely based on past successes and reputation. If they don’t serve customers’ evolving demands and behaviour they will simply be left aside. Microsoft’s stubborn reliance on Window PCs and Blackberry’s keen focus on e-mail devices hurt both companies as its users have clearly shown preference for newer, more sophisticated mobile computing devices. Under Staya Nadella’s leadership Microsoft recently changed course by starting to give Windows away to tablets and mobile devices makers in an effort to win back its client base. While it’s a bold move for the software firm, customers will have the final say.
Customers set the terms of engagement
Thanks to changes in technology new use cases have emerged, allowing customers to choose how and under what conditions they do business with their suppliers. Airlines like AirFrance-KLM now let customers interact with them over a range of channels – phone, ticket office, mobile messaging, Website, Facebook, Twitter or Mobile Apps. Depending on your given context and preferences you have multiple ways to get flight information and book ticket, manage trip preferences, get travel change notifications and obtain your boarding pass. Companies who don’t offer the interactions and service levels that clients expect will see them migrate elsewhere.
Customers increasingly expect to collaborate in developing products
Today’s information technology enables us to connect and communicate with others regardless of time or place. This has bred an always-on, social and collaborative culture among today’s generation of clients. A few companies are already using such capabilities to give their clients a say in improving existing products and developing new ones. Salesforce.com with its Cloud-based CRM, marketing and customer service offer gives users dedicated channels to recommend improvements and additional features to its service platforms. Following careful scrutiny, certain ideas are integrated in their product roadmaps. The most popular new and improved features are announced publicly at Dreamforce, the company’s yearly user conference.
Customers want products tailored to them
In today’s age both consumers and businesses expect products and services that can be tailored to their particular needs and behaviour. For companies this means designing and bringing to market platform-based offers allowing each client to be fitted individually. Through its NikeiD service, the sporting goods provider gives its buyers the ability to customize a wide range of shoes and apparel to the desired colour, design and fit. Similarly, with its iPhone and iPad, Apple give users the choice of device memory, data connectivity and colour, as well as access to a growing range of Apps used to personalize each device to a growing range of needs. Following the BYOD movement, it has also included dedicated networking and security features for business users.
Customers expect companies to listen and learn
Today’s generation of consumer and business people are increasingly willing and able to speak out about their experiences dealing with companies, both good and bad. Besides helping friends and peers, they expect companies to learn about their experiences to improve. Companies like Oracle moderate public forums like the Customer Concepts Exchange on LinkedIn. This allows them to hear what’s really on their clients’ minds in order to keep its enterprise offer relevant to their changing needs. Similarly, our mobile service provider B&YOU uses its blog and other social network pages to actively responds to each client’s queries, complaints, while listening to feedback. Finally, third-party customer feedback sites like Trustpilot and Feefo now offer Web retailers the ability to easily collect, track and monitor clients review in order to learn about their experiences and improve.
Customers demand honest interactions with their chosen suppliers
In a world where customers are speaking out they demand to be treated with respect and for companies to take responsibility for their injustices. As Amazon Prime customers my family receives unlimited, next-day delivery on most items. That’s why after three redirected deliveries from one of their courier services we logged a complaint with the Web retailer. With few questions asked, the retailer took swift action and they have since fulfilled every delivery commitment, even after reinstating the courier originally at fault.
Companies like Salesforce.com, Nike, and Amazon have been successful in instilling a customer-led marketing culture across their organization. However most companies are still trying to figure out this customer revolution that’s charging straight towards them.
The challenge for marketing leaders at those companies is to create a competitive advantage using a deeper understanding of what their clients really value, while finding ways to give it to them better than the competition. Companies that are unable to do so will end up locked in a battle over transaction-based business from low-value clients.
In our following article we’ll look at some of the steps needed for creating a customer-led company culture.
To see how we can help you create value for your customers and generate added growth, visit us at: merkadoservices.com