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CUSTOMERS FIRST
4 December 2014

customer

The Age of the Customer®

According to Forbes and others, there has been a shift in the millennia-old marketplace dance, which has existed for more than 10,000 years.  The market has moved from the “Age of the Seller” to the “Age of the Customer®”.

Why is it so?

Jim Blasingame explains – In the Age of the Seller, it was the seller who controlled the product and the product information.  It was only the buying decision which was controlled by the customer.  Two out of the three elements were controlled by the seller.

In the switch to the Age of the Customer® the seller still controls the product or service and the customer still controls the buying decision but now the customer has easy and immediate access to product and service information, without it being controlled, distributed or filtered by the seller.

It makes the old saying “the customer is always right” somewhat more powerful doesn’t it!

This change in the market has been largely caused by technology, so how can technology be used to benefit the seller in this new age?

Forrester Research Inc. is of the opinion “While CIOs have always needed to keep tabs on new technology, disruptive technologies are now driving the business.  If you have any doubt just ask your customers.  In the age of the customer, businesses are relying on emerging technologies to help them increase revenue, improve customer experiences and deal with disruption.”

Forrester comments on the “The Top Emerging Technologies Through 2020 — The CIO Perspective,” by Frank E. Gillett and Brian Hopkins which identifies 15 emerging technologies which CIOs need to understand and adopt and puts them into four groups:

  • Business innovation platforms: Four categories of technology convergence will result in packaged solution innovation: Customer analytics, digital experience solutions, customer-driven design and Internet of Things.
  • Interaction platforms: Three categories of emerging technologies are moving to expand human-computer interaction beyond PCs, mobile devices and displays: Next-generation connectivity, wearable technology and natural computer interfaces.
  • Aggregation and delivery platforms: These platforms have the capability to amass information your customers need and deliver insights at the point of decision across all channels. These technologies include real-time data sourcing and delivery, advanced analytics, digital identity management, and software acceleration platforms and tools.
  • Infrastructure and context platforms: Four emerging technology categories make up the bottom of the platform stack for business technology. These provide a flexible, high-performance infrastructure for managing the applications and data to understand customer context and adapt to changes: advanced silicon devices, software-defined infrastructure, cloud integration and big data management.

Between now and 2020, Forrester says CIOs can help their business succeed by implementing emerging technologies to achieve four key objectives: transform the customer experience, accelerate your digital business, embrace the mobile mind shift and turn big data into business insight.

Gary Marshall, CIO of SunGard Availability Services says “A CIO’s and IT’s value proposition is to improve business.  Traditionally, IT sees tech solutions as its core capability, but I think that should be its second value proposition.  The first should be an understanding of the business, then comes mapping technology to the business needs, and the third part of the value proposition is to improve business performance.  In other words, IT is not a back office function, but a front office driver. The notion of IT as an enabler is dated.”

Social media, blogs and customer reviews on websites i.e. technology, are playing a huge role in the customer experience.  Satisfied or dissatisfied, customers will voice their opinion in these ways and it is out there for everyone to see and the flow-on effect cannot be underestimated.  We have all been influenced, positively or negatively by reviews and comments we have seen online.  Harnessing this information and using it to drive business initiatives will even make a positive out of the negative.

At DBS Bank, David Walker’s advice to fellow technology leaders is the same, whatever approach they take: “Think and act like a customer. Steer investment into areas that create the right customer experience. Ensure the word ‘customer’ is used often among the people you lead. Ensure they understand that it’s important to you, and it will become important to them.”

Fifteen years ago the late Steve Jobs said “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.”  Sage words indeed and look where Apple Inc. is today