Age of the Customer

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CustomerFountainBlue’s September 15 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘Age of the Customer’! Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Polycom, who provided on-site support and helped lead the interactive discussion.

Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on how to lead and thrive in the Age of the Customer. 

Change is impacting leaders and companies across geographies, across industries, across roles. Technology is keeping up with the changes, and even helping facilitate the changes. Customers are becoming even more verbose, more demanding, more specific, and more diverse. In general, they are seeking:

  • An easy, simple, consistent and intuitive interface so they can perform the customized tasks that are most useful to them;
  • Background information and context for new offerings and how they compare to other offerings, and how they would improve how THEIR customers are supported; and
  • Real-time, relevant, ongoing data/information/solutions which provide clear value.

In response to the changing needs of the market and customers, our executives have the following advice.

  • Embrace market-driven innovations. There’s much less tolerance for technologies in search of a customer. If you conclude that a product is missing something AFTER it’s been built, it might be easier to make the product changes rather than to change the minds of the customers!
  • Be ever listening to what customers say AND what they mean. Remember also that the most active/profitable customers are the most important ones and pay close attention to their current and anticipated needs.
  • An acquisition-and-integration strategy can help companies strategically pivot to a more customer-driven offering. When undergoing an M&A, don’t get so distracted by the internal organization that you lose focus on the customer opportunity, the customer experience.
  • Have a clear understanding of current and prospective customers and the segments, niches, and opportunities they represent. Empower these customers to partner with you to serve their current and anticipated needs.
  • Measure and report on results, but don’t focus so much on the data that you’re reporting on the wrong metrics, or making conclusions which don’t make sense. 
  • Filter so that you can tailor messages to audiences, but don’t filter so much that your funnel gets too narrow as you will miss many prospects.
  • Whether you’re a growing start-up or a corporate running a business unit, ask yourself strategic questions about the growth opportunity ahead – what are the trends, why are customers buying, what needs are you serving, how large is the market, etc. Your success will depend on whether you can continually serve the needs of those customers, so you must continually ask yourself these questions.
  • Often there is a complex ecosystem around a solution, so there are many stakeholders playing multiple roles. For example, in healthcare, the ‘customer’ might be a patient, an insurer, a hospital, a pharmaceutical company, a caregiver, a government agency, a nonprofit, a hospital, and/or any combination of the above at any given time. Serving each customer throughout the process is critical to the success of a company and its offering. 
  • While we are all forced to go broad with our communication, with our technology understanding, with our offerings, we are also asked to go deep and be specialists where appropriate. It’s a rare individual who can do both at the same time, but including people who can do both sides each a critical success factor.

Below are thoughts on some hot opportunities ahead, given our focus on customers.

  • If we focus on minimizing the churn which comes from product/technology updating, what are the opportunities ahead for platform and service offerings?
  • Your strategy should focus on where the data is – the platform rather than the hardware, the AI rather than the cloud.
  • Look not just at existing and growing markets, but also at the adjacent markets.
  • Every technologist has a different background, and every company has different processes, technologies, and preferences. There’s a huge opportunity for rapidly integrating tech professionals into tech companies.
  • Beware of hyper-segmenting yourself, doing so much filtering of ideas and information and people that you’re not exposed to other ideas, other ways of doing things. Indeed, these diverse ways of thinking and doing things are the heart of innovation.
  • Offer frictionless engagement and participation which is easily personalized. 
  • Make it easy for users to regularly engage – which would mean recurring revenues and corporate stability.
  • Look for opportunities for the digital leveraging the cloud, ML, AI, databases, etc., while also addressing the physical realm with the IoT, 3D printing, custom-designed products, etc.

In this Age of the Customer, leaders and companies must do things differently. 

  • We must be more strategic, so that we can understand and deliver to the needs of the customer. 
  • We must be more collaborative, working with partners across the ecosystem and with customers to deliver real-time information, personalized products and solutions, and more. 
  • We must be more inclusive, so that every perspective, every voice can be considered in planning and delivering to customers.
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