An ever increasing number of businesses are reinventing the way they interact with their customers by leveraging the investment they have made in marketing technology software. The proliferation of social media and advances in “adtech” and “big-data” analytics means that brands are now able to gain insights into their customers in ways never possible before. As these insights have started to float to the top of the company management structure, it is becoming obvious that having a customer-centric strategy is an essential part of doing business in the always-connected, post-GFC world. So what does being customer-centric really mean?
Customers have more power today that they have ever had. The immediacy and scale of social media is breaking down old company structures and traditional value chains. The proliferation of consumer data is adding to the pressure. Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM, was originally designed as a Business to Business [B2B] tool that was stretched and pulled until it eventually became a Business to Consumer [B2C] tool. But it was never really designed to manage today’s consumers who are generating (according to IBM) over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day – a number so baffling I can only assume it translates into more cat videos than anyone could actually watch in a lifetime.
Even the terms “Customer Relationship Management” and “Business to Customer” seem out of place in today’s environment. They both clearly focus on the business being in control, the brand managing the relationship, owning the data and holding it in a central spot. This structure doesn’t work for today’s market. Facebook has given people the power to ‘unfriend’ the relationships that are not working for them.
The customer of today wants control and to feel like she is managing her own relationships. And this trend will accelerate. Every time a technology has given more power and freedom to the individual the whole markets follow. Mobile phones, the internet, search and social media have all played their part.
Now a new customer-focused disruption is underway, fuelled by the data that all of us generate each and every day. Business leaders and smart observers know this already. Their conversations are focusing on becoming “customer-centric”, developing a cohesive customer experience strategy and allowing the customer to see their own data. It will soon become a clamour.
We are entering an age where the customer really does come first. We need to come to grips with the customer having more control and actually “managing” the relationship. So I propose using the term Customer to Business [C2B] to describe the technology and strategic frameworks that are evolving to deliver this new world order.
Let’s put the customer first. Focus not on spamming your customers but on providing real value. Don’t waste money on irrelevant marketing and more noise. Stop thinking about data ownership and spend more time on relationships. Put your customer first. Become C2B.