In 2015, behemoth US research firm Forrester, wrote that we are in the Age of the Customer.

We may be paraphrasing a bit here but put simply – ‘give your customers a better experience and they’re happy’. Normally this means you’re happy as you make more dosh. Quid pro quo.

Note: For more info on this from Forrester, maybe head here https://go.forrester.com/age-of-the-customer/

The new age

Because customers, clients, users — whatever we call them, are really important. Actually scrap that. Customers are more than important. They’re vital to our survival.

Previously we’ve had The Dark Ages, The Industrial Age, The Age of Information and more recently, The Age of Austerity. Now it’s the customers turn to have their own age.

For years, companies and brands had it all their own way. And customers (that’s you and I) had to put up with whatever they gave us. We’re too polite to complain anyway.

We’ve been on a heck of a journey to get to this new age.

Back to the 1970s & 80s for a moment, there was a scarcity of consumer choice in those days. I’m remembering what characterised customer choice back in the day. So by scarcity of options, you had to accept things a bit more.

  • Three then four TV channels
  • Limited mail order or ‘catalogues’
  • Price increases (not a lot of discounts)
  • Limited availability
  • Medieval opening hours matched only by…
  • Archaic customer service

That boot is now firmly on the other foot. And boy are customers kicking companies with it.

With choice, transparency, social-sharing coupled with an appetite to share good and bad experiences. There are no more hiding places for poor customer service.

We know that customer experience is now a genuine differentiator in a crowded market. Thing is, it might be the ONLY strategy left to adopt. Eek!

So a few years on, how are we doing?

Well, there have been lots of high-profile tech-powered businesses that have launched and grown in recent years, with customer-focussed business ideas displaying amazing customer centric UX/UI development..
BUT we generally feel it’s an area where people talk a good game but many haven’t genuinely modernised how they behave.

Some of our mantras – ‘give the customer what they want’ and ‘we should research our market’ – are argument winners, as they are impossible to successfully argue against. Hence people say it, but not always live it.

Small businesses, who account for over 99% of all private sector businesses and employ around 15.7 million people are close to the coal face. Unlike corporates with assets and investments to sweat, small businesses are at the sharp end of the customer experience. They/we are all too aware that staying relevant and competitive is crucial in order to survive.

This old customer experience piece in Computer Weekly puts it well and I quote:

“It has become hard for firms to stand out from the crowd in pricing, products or services. Now customer experience is the big differentiator.”

It feels like small companies often want to innovate, but don’t have the means – and large companies have the means to innovate but don’t have the immediate need.

‘Make things people like’ not ‘make people like things

If ever a term summed it up then there it is. HOW you deliver a service is sometimes just as important as WHAT you’re actually delivering. That’s why my Pizza just got Deliveroo’d. Yes it’s the same Pepperoni flavour but it somehow tasted better because I made it with my thumbs and an iPhone. A small victory for a sad man — I know. But I’m far too lazy for anything else.

Like Deliveroo (others are available), we all totally get that technology can glue together engaging and scaleable experiences. Ones that enable the customer to access services, pizzas or products with a click, swipe, tap or voice command.

Services are the UK’s big success story, making up more than three-quarters of the UK economy. Who’s best placed to push that forward? Well I think it’s people like you.

There is a £ sign we can put against delivering certain factors – speed, quality, service, clarity, providing a sense of gratification. We know it exists, we just can’t work out how many £ ‘s it delivers. But it exists.

Is there a big train coming for you?

Innovation can be your biggest friend, but it can also be your biggest enemy too. Others can out-innovate you and take away the business that is your oxygen. Today’s business is not guaranteed tomorrow.

Executive officers and senior staff sometimes have an uncanny knack of focussing on the company’s successes – so much that it controls the internal dialogue and prevents people behaving in a healthy, cautious way. It can breed a dangerous complacency.

King Canute could not hold back the waves and nor can any single company. Is your company truly innovating? Are you moving as fast as your competition? Are you at risk to a new market entrant?

If the answers to these questions aren’t yes-yes-no, then our challenge would be – you should do something about it.

You probably have the all or most of the skills you require in house, but if you want some help in providing the ingredients and structure for customer-centric innovation then please get in touch here.