The Age of the Customer

Is customer experience your company’s top focus?

Are you really sure? It does not matter how successful your company has been in prior business eras. If you want to succeed in the current era, you must shift your perspective and you must focus on customer experience.


A Brief Economic History

This is a really exciting time to be in the customer experience space, but it is also a really challenging time. To put this in perspective I want to review the last 110 years of economic history. From 1900 until the 1960 we were in the age of manufacturing. During this time, if you owned a factory, you owned the market. From 1960 until 1990 we were in the age of distribution. During this time, if you owned a distribution network, you owned the market. From 1990 until 2010, we were in the age of information. During this time, if you owned the information, you owned the market.

Some people may be saying, “Hang on, wait a minute. Are we not still in the information age? We are being bombarded by information from every single direction.” Yes, that is true, but we believe that starting in 2010 we entered a fundamentally different business era and that is the age of the customer.

Now, of course you cannot own your customers today like you could own a factory or a distribution network or information in the past, and so the companies that are going to own the market for the foreseeable future, the next several decades, are going to be those companies that learn how to truly understand their customers and then engage with them in meaningful ways.

All of the previous sources of market dominance have been commoditized and so now a handful of people starting up a very small tech company, a product or services company or even just an enterprising individual with a smartphone can tap into global factories, distribution and information and compete with some of the largest companies on the planet.

That means that companies can no longer compete on product features alone, and we have seen this of course in the tech space but we have also seen it in product and services spaces as well. The reality is that companies are looking for something new to compete on and that new thing is customer experience. We have found that a handful of customer experience leaders such as Starbucks, Apple, Disney and Virgin have set new standards. What that means is that when your customers are interacting with Starbucks, Apple, Disney or Virgin, these companies are resetting your customers’ expectations about the type of experience that they anticipate having with you.

If your customers do not get the experience they expect, you are going to hear about it in very public ways. Customers have more power than ever, and this situation is never going to be reversed. So, the point of this is that it really does not matter how successful your company has been in these prior business eras. If you want to succeed in the age of the customer, you have got to shift your perspective and you must focus on customer experience.

This article was adapted from the webinar, No More Lip Service: Customer Experience in the Age of the Customer.


About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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