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For inspiration, customer advocates might want to go ‘Back to the Future’

One way to envision the ideal customer-focused company of the future is to reflect on a time when things were much simpler. Travel back with me, at least 100 years,—before mass marketing, large scale media advertising, big box retailers and lean manufacturing.   

Think about being a member of a small village in the late 1800’s and how commerce might have been conducted.  Imagine yourself as a member of such a community—maybe you are a local farmer, or a shopkeeper, or a blacksmith or other service provider.  You know all of your customers by name and how they each like to acquire and use your products and services. You personalize things because it makes good business sense and word-of-mouth is very powerful. You don’t dare mess with the quality of your offering and if you do have a problem, you fix it fast and make it right because you can’t afford not to. Not only are you a provider to most everyone in the community, but you are a customer of most them to, because in these simpler times, people really had to depend on each other.

In many ways, the aspiration of a truly customer-focused company in today’s environment would be to emulate the much more simple days of the past. Even though our companies are much bigger and our solutions are much more complex we are still seeking to interact with our customers on a much more personal way.   Various technologies are accelerating this impact. The Internet, social networking and mobile communications are serving to make the global marketplace look more like the modern day equivalent of the late 1800’s village. Word-of-mouth travels fast and much of the communication about the products and services are controlled by the customers, not the suppliers. So, what does this mean to us as customer advocates?

In the future, the customer experience will be even more heavily weighted to what the customer says it is. Your company will have less and less control over how the quality and value of your offerings will be assessed. Perhaps more impactful, will be the customer’s ability to communicate this message to anyone and everyone instantaneously.

Customer advocates must continue to condition their organizations for the new future by insisting that customer input be listened to, organized, analyzed objectively and acted upon continuously. Maybe the future isn’t that much different than the past?   

Originally posted in Customer Connection April 13, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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