As they grow, it’s surprising how many companies seem to get further and further away from what made them successful in the first place—their customers.
In the “enterprise” environment, factors such as culture, systems, metrics, and rewards tend to focus more on activities and transactions than on softer measures, such as customer relationships, perceptions, and expectations. It’s with some justification that executives at smaller companies believe they’re closer to their customers and feel they are more deserving of their customers’ loyalty than executives at larger companies.
In general, people feel the same way, noticing that the experience of being a customer for a smaller company tends to be better than the experience of being the customer of a big company.
Why Does It Seem So Hard For Big Companies To Serve Customers Well?
You’d think that larger companies, with more resources, greater customer awareness, and dominant market share would win this battle hands-down. After all, most big companies started as small companies. And they got bigger because—in theory—they were better able to understand their customers than their competition. At some point, they had to have had an intimate understanding of customer needs, and did a good job meeting them. Voice-of-the-customer (VoC) wasn’t an abstract research input into a customer experience analytics dashboard, but something management listened to and often lived with every day.
Yet as growth occurs, the distance between executives and their customers appears to grow as well, and companies have a surprisingly common tendency to turn away from customers in favor of things like operational efficiencies and product development.
The Growing Company Advantage: A Focus On Smarter Customer Experiences
It’s no secret that the ways customers interact with and gather information about companies is changing. Business buyers or consumers demand more and get it from more places than ever.
As I’ve discussed, our world is at the early stages of a shift in customer relationships, technology, and innovation. And as this shift continues, smart customers are leveraging opportunities to get smarter—and are looking to the companies they deal with to help them do so.
But many big companies can’t easily bridge the multiple internal silos that deliver experiences. In fact, by their own admission it’s the No. 1 issue they have. Employees don’t have access to customer histories, much less their wants and needs. Their Web sites don’t remember what people purchased, what they did, where they looked, or what interested them.
With many companies, the experience of customers dealing with them across departments or divisions feels broken, if not downright schizophrenic. Customers are asking themselves: “Why can’t these experiences be smarter?”
And of course, they can be.
Does Your Company Have What It Takes To Give Customers What They Want?
This creates a significant opportunity for smaller, fast-growth companies when it comes to leveraging the ever-more-powerful-and-pervasive technologies available to them to see, to hear, to learn from, and to speak to their customers in new and more intelligent ways. And in the process, delivering customer experiences that are not only tailored to customer needs, but have the ability to evolve, drive new sources of revenue, and create the kind of loyalty that most companies only dream of.
There’s little doubt that significant challenges exist in managing the transition from small and customer-centric to bigger and customer-centric. But they’re not insurmountable.
Customer-centric companies like these will leverage innovation to automate the process of building stronger relationships. They will sell more products and simplify supply chains through real-time, crowdsourced social CRM and opinion-gathering, intelligent, interactive touchpoints, smart products, and more. They will learn from their customers, eliminating practices that waste their time—better meeting their needs and simplifying their lives, and giving them exactly what they want, right when they want it, wherever they may be.
No matter their size today, these are the companies that will become the big companies of tomorrow. You don’t have to be a start-up to succeed. But it might help to act like you are.