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Are we in the Customer Era?

At home this morning, I was reading Indianapolis Monthly magazine and ran across an article about a new Google tool, the Ngram Viewer(Fair Warning: if you decide to go try it, plan on losing the next 20 minutes of your day!)

When you enter words or phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing the incidence of those words in a corpus of books over the selected years.  Published late last year, this cool new “Culturomics” tool mines the text of 5.2 million books and spans the time frame of 1800 to 2008.

As an example, here are the results for the words “customer” and “employee” over the last century. 


Books mentioning employees seem to have been a hot trend in the 40s and 50s, and are again on the rise.  The customer line has been on a steep climb since 1980.  In the mid 90s, the customer line crosses the employee line indicating that there were more written mentions about the customer heading into the new millennium than the employee.   Are we living in the Customer Era?   Is this a time frame that will be marked in history for enlightenment around customer centricity?   But look at the end of the trend line.  The Ngram Viewer stops plotting at 2008, and the customer curve is in a decline since around 2002.  Maybe its happenstance, but that coincides with some tough market declines.   It’s counter-intuitive to those of us in the the business of listening to the voice of the customer, but have recent market conditions caused some to take the focus off the customer?  

Krista Roseberry
Vice President, Consulting Services

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