The Customer Centered World

Since the dawn of time and until fairly recently in our evolution, mankind thought and believed that the earth was the center of the universe; that everything revolved around the earth and was subject to its absolute control.  This geocentric view survived and evolved for thousands of years.  The automotive industry, for example, was similarly centered on itself since its beginnings. The industry built vehicles and customers bought them.  Sure the customer had choices, in Henry Ford’s original case, black.  But customer choice was constrained by what the auto manufacturers told the customers they could choose from…in other words, what the manufacturers decided was reasonable and “profitable” for the manufacturer to build at the time.

The same processes drove other industries, High Tech, Aerospace and Industrial Machinery. “Customers need our industry, so we deliver what we thing the customer wants on ‘our’ terms”, was the positioning delivered for decades.  This thinking was true of other industries, like petroleum and utilities and consumer products as well.

Yet, while we today may think this was not so wise, it was indeed profitable for the auto manufacturers and the industry centered model contributed to 100 years of expansion across the globe.  And along the way customers were blissfully happy and content with the situation. The industry designed and built cars and trucks and customers bought them and drove them.  Other industries followed similar paths to success independent of the customer.

Then suddenly something cataclysmic to that industry centered universe occurred.  The industry swung off its normal course.  The information age dawned!  Suddenly the notion that information was power came to become the staple thought of customers. 

Armed with information shoppers in all industries, Aerospace, Automotive, high Tech and Industrial Machinery become educated buyers, buyers not subject to mystery or to confusion or manipulation.  They shopped and bought vehicles with facts, knowledge and insight.  Suddenly a new “sun” was born.  And we evolved to something very similar to the heliocentric universe.  And the world circled around the customer.

Today’s customer expects to be the center of the design, manufacturing and ownership world.  Industries cannot sustain themselves itself without the customer and without the customer’s wallet.  Indeed it never could…information had not yet ignited the new sun!

Customer Centricity, putting the customer at the center of the industry is monumental.  The customer of today is more involved than ever in the design of new vehicles.  Certainly, technology and regulation drive innovation but more than ever customer preferences contribute mightily to what a product is.  Customers demand performance, they demand styling and they demand technology and personalization.  In fact, they define these things.

Customer expectations for product design and capability is influenced by more than just the any single  industry. Customers are continuously having their expectations raised by other products and technology; many times those expectations are established by other industries.  My smart phone does this, why can’t my vehicle for example and it’s built in connectivity do it also and just as intuitively?  You get the point, I’m sure.  Product designers are challenged to meet those ever changing expectations.

Customers always expect higher levels of sales and service performance as well.  When they are in the shopping cycle, they want the industry to know and understand what they want, what they demand, their personal preferences and aspirations, in short to have a keen understanding of themselves and their lifestyle.  They expect differentiated offers based on their personal information, customized for their choice and consumption.  They expect offers targeted only to them and even expect additional incentives or “nudges” based on where and how long they are in the shopping cycle.  You earn their business and loyalty by knowing and interacting on the customer’s terms!

In the ownership phase customers, likewise, expect ever increasing attentiveness and service quality. Customers expect that service companies know everything there is to know about them, their preferences, how they want to interact and schedule service.  They also expect service companies to “know” about their vehicle or other product…effectively creating yet another centricity, that of product centricity.

Yes, information turned customer physics upside down.  The world now revolves around the customer, and his or her preferences, nuisances and behaviors.  Industries have finally realized that they do not exist except for the customer spending his or her money.  Without customers, there is no need of industry.

Please join us at SapphireNOW in Orlando, on May 5-7, 2015 (Session ID 20738) to understand how you can gain competitive advantage by putting the customer at the center of business.  See how Samsung is gaining that advantage by focusing on the customer across all business processes from design innovation through ownership and operation delivering the best customer experience for the customers of our customers.

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