The Key to Success in a Customer-Centric World

The Key to Success in a Customer-Centric World

Last week, I delivered the opening keynote at the annual TravelManagers conference in Bangkok. The theme of the conference was “Adding Value” – an important principle in the life of a travel agent. And it’s not just for travel agents; we all have to add value in our business, so we can stay relevant and competitive.

This basic idea isn’t new – after all, business has always been about adding value. But the way we add value has changed now, and it’s because the role of the customer has changed.

bangkok-pics

For example, I recently pledged $200 to a Kickstarter campaign for a fitness gadget called “Vi”, which is promoted as “The First True Artificial Intelligence Personal Trainer”. This is a great example of how business is done in today’s customer-centric world. By investing a small amount of money, I’m involved in the product right from the start. I get regular updates, see videos of the production process, and feel like I’m part of its development.

I’m not just a customer – I feel like a partner.

This is the way businesses interact with their customers now. In a customer-centric world, your customers want to be involved.

Earlier trumps faster.

The typical product/service development phase goes like this:

earlier-trumps-faster

To involve your customers more, follow this rule: Earlier trumps faster. The earlier in the process you involve them, the better.

Let’s look at an example at each stage, working backwards from least effective to best:

  • Feedback: Ask customers for feedback after you deliver the product or service.

    Example: Many businesses do this with feedback forms and online surveys. This is better than nothing, but it’s the latest stage in the process.

  • Support: You help your customers, but you also give them a forum to help each other.

    Example: Some businesses – such as telcos, tech companies, and others with a strong online presence – do this with customer forums.

  • Promotion (sales and marketing): Ask your customers to promote and sell for you.

    Example: When a customer signs up with Uber, they receive a referral code to pass on to family and friends for a $20 discount on their first ride (and the referrer also gets a $20 discount).

  • Delivery: Ask your customers to actually provide the product or service.

    Example: In the Welsh town Monmouth, the local council has created a Wikipedia site about the town, and local residents manage the Wikipedia pages. Tourists visit the site by scanning a QR code on a ceramic plaque attached to each place of interest.

  • Design: Involve your customers in designing your product.

    Example: Auckland City Council uses the Streetmix.net service to announce proposed changes to road layouts, and their customers (the local residents) can suggest changes online.

  • Choice: You can even ask your customers to choose the products you offer!

    Example: This is exactly what happens on sites like Kickstarter, with the Vi product I mentioned above.

How can you involve your customers more in your business? Remember: Earlier trumps faster.

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