Let’s be honest and admit that the internet has changed business forever. Like it or not, it is the customer that is in control of the success or failure of your firm. In fact, most prognosticators are proclaiming in unison that 2013 will be the year of the customer. If you have defined a food chain that does not have the customer at the top, you might be in trouble.
Already, consumers have plenty to read about businesses, and the most important material they read does not originate within the walls of your company. Business leaders and marketers have been saying for years that the best kind of marketing – the most powerful – is word of mouth. With the explosion of social media networks and review sites, and their ability to broadcast a message about your firm that will travel faster and farther than ever before, you should grasp the power of the customer.
What does the customer want? Some customer expectations are consistent across industries, product types, services, professions, etc. Other expectations are defined by the brand and the willingness of the brand to listen to its customers. Here are a few of the things customers expect.
1. They expect a satisfying shopping experience, whether you sell B2C or BB, whether you sell online, through a sales team, or in a brick-and-mortar store.
2. They want personalized products, services, and attention. They want to be heard, and they will buy from the company that provides what they say they want.
3. Customers do not want you to deliver a product to meet their needs and desires that also meets the needs and desires of everyone else. They are demanding personalization, and they will buy from the firm that provides it.
4. Customers want to engage with your firm. They expect rewards for loyalty and for positive reviews of your company or your products, yet they do not trust companies that try to buy positive reviews. They want you to have conversations with them about product development, their needs, their assessments of your product line, etc. If you listen to them, they will listen to you when you tell them what you are developing and ask for their input.
5. Customers prefer to do business with a firm that gives back. Generation Y (and X) prefer buying from companies that are committed to helping to create positive change in the world. They also expect you to be honest about what you are doing. If you are a paperless business, tell them – they will value you. If you use only renewable energy sources and green building products, they will respect you and reward you with their business (assuming, of course, you have a good product).
6. Customers listen to their friends, co-workers, and family members when they recommend products, services, or companies.
7. One recent survey found that 87% of people and businesses research purchases online before they contact a company. You need, therefore, a good website that is accessible by mobile. You might need to re-evaluate your sales strategy in light of the fact that the initial questions leading to a purchase have been answered long before a prospect contacts your firm.
Embrace the year of the customer and you will live long and prosper.