Customer

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May12Panel

FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks was on the topic of Age of the Customer. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at WD and our panelists! Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such seasoned, well-spoken and diverse set of leaders on our panel, representing a wide range of companies, roles, backgrounds and cultures. They also had much in common:

  • They worked hard to prepare for success through their academic choices, their professional positions, and their direct experience.
  • They have a wide range of experiences working with a broad breadth of customers, which qualifies them well to communicate the needs of the customer to staff, executives, providers and partners and all others in the ecosystem, while also providing them the credibility and influence to lead initiatives which transform how companies proactively meet the needs of the customer.
  • They each had a broad view of who the customer is, and are laser-focused on serving the needs of those customers.
  • They don’t aim to please every customer every time, but they do make sure that the team and company get it right when things don’t go as planned.
  • They understand enough about the products, the processes, the people, the solution, and the needs of the customer so that they can orchestrate comprehensive, customer-facing initiatives involving an ecosystem of stakeholders, all focused on providing exceptional service and solutions for each niche customer segment.
  • Each leader came from different industry backgrounds, and each found her way into technology companies. They leveraged their experience and perspective to transition to the technology industry, and to rise among the ranks once they’ve landed there.

Below are our panel’s thoughts on why customers are more empowered today:

  • The advances in IT and technology and the reach to a large volume of people worldwide is creating larger markets.
  • Allowing the larger volumes of customers to connect with each other gives more power to each customer. As a consequence: 1) Customers can better vet solutions with online information or networks of others prior to making purchasing commitments, and are no longer dependent on companies for the information they need to make a commitment. 2) With access to other customers and to online information, customers can more clearly envision alternative offerings. 3) There’s a plethora of offerings for almost every solution, so customers can be more discerning about which offering would best serve their needs.
  • With the large volumes of offerings and customers, there are also changes in regulations and laws worldwide. 
  • Because of the sheer volume of information hitting customers, there is little patience to wait for load times for example, and little tolerance if information isn’t available in the format customers need at the moment (think it’s got to work on their mobile device NOW).

Below is collective advice from our panel on how companies can better anticipate and serve customers.

  • Accept that the customers are empowered and create processes to ensure companies gather quantitative and qualitative data about current and anticipated needs, hire, develop and retain people who are service-oriented, and influence the company’s vision and direction to ensure a culture and mindset that puts customers first.
  • Collect and follow the data about what customers are looking for, and how satisfied they are about the service provided by your company. 
  • Be empathetic about the needs of the customer – in vision and in execution (product, service, UI). Measure your company’s success in this area, and train everyone to have that customer-empathy mind-set.
  • Be the customer spokesperson at every opportunity. Do things great and small to perpetuate that customer-centric mentality.
  • Connect customers to each other in community, and collaborate with those communities to proactively serve niche customers. 
  • Consider creating and supporting a customer advisory board, which would be a great way to get proactive and ongoing input from your most influential customers.
  • Create and serve niche customer communities where it makes sense, and empower them to define their needs.
  • Create efficient and scalable solutions which are based on the needs of the customer. Don’t be so customer-centric that you would design one-offs for each individual customer, regardless of how many other customers would need that solution and how much it would cost to deliver that solution!
  • Make every customer feel important, no matter how much or little they might impact the bottom line. With that said, listen and act more responsively to the customers who represent larger current and potential markets.
  • No matter where you sit at the table, no matter what kind of impact or knowledge you might have about a problem or solution, take ownership of a customer’s issue or problem and make sure that she or he gets served. Propagate and reward that mindset within your company.
  • The customer is always right, unless they’re not. Work with them to get it right if you need to, then serve them well, within or outside the direct connection with your company.
  • Collect the detailed data around customer expectations, preferences and aversions and respond based on that data.

In conclusion, our panel attests that it’s a ‘Buyer’s Market’. The customer will remain empowered for the foreseeable future. The companies who recognize, accept and even embrace this change will gain and maintain market leadership.


FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks was on the topic of Age of the Customer.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO,FountainBlue, CMO 888 Steps
  • Panelist Amy D. Love, VP Corporate Marketing, TriNet
  • Panelist Anshu Narula, Engineering Director, Partners and Marketplaces, PayPal
  • Panelist Suchitra Narayen, VP, Legal and Associate General Counsel, Supply Chain Legal, Oracle
  • Panelist Margret Schmidt, VP Product Development & Chief Design Officer, Tivo
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