How to survive in the Age of the Customer

It’s hard to know exactly what the future will look like, but we can say with certainty that the customer will be at the core.

The rate of change is mind-boggling, with the next 20 years tipped to exceed the changes seen in the previous 200.

Many say that we’re living in the information age, but we’ve moved beyond that – we’re living in the customer age.

If you want to survive, you’re going to need to do things a bit differently.

Age of the Customer

No longer is business offering services that it thinks customers may want – customers are actively shaping the development of products.

The customer is now squarely in control, and expects more.

The rise of customer-driven services such as Airbnb, eBay and Uber have been underpinned by the ability for customers to leave detailed feedback on each service provided.

Because users are able to provide direct feedback on service and have others see that feedback, they feel in control of the experience.

Meanwhile, customers’ insatiable desire for new experience means that companies are constantly needing to innovate to keep up.

If you aren’t innovating in your business, then you’ll be behind because your competitors will adapt and change.

Remember Kodak, Trading Post or the Yellow Pages?

These businesses either don’t exist anymore or are fighting for relevance – because they tried to survive in the age of the customer by largely doing the same thing they’ve always done.

In short, customers are as picky as ever and they feel they have more control over businesses providing goods or services to them than ever before.

So how do you make sure you’re top of mind for this new breed of customer?

Getting Closer to Customers

Customers also want businesses to get closer to them, to understand their pain points and come up with a solution to solve them.

However, customers are also more wary of businesses trying to get closer to them in order to make a buck.

The question is whether you can get closer to your customer to learn what they need without making them suspicious of your motives.

There are three ways to do this:

1. Learn from past and others

This is about building on the knowledge you’ve gained over the months and years of operation of solving your customers’ problems.

It also involves seeing how other companies in the same industry have approached problem solving.

Creating a step-change sometimes involves looking at how other industries have approached a problem and seeing how that can apply to your business.

For example, when building fuel tanks for their rockets, Space X was having problems getting enough large metal tanks.

They reviewed who else created tanks, and approached manufacturers experienced in food processing and dairy.

2. Listen to what people want

This is about asking the right questions at the right time – you can’t innovate if you don’t listen.

It isn’t enough to listen to what people say they want, but to look underneath to see what they need.

Sometimes, it’s not actually about asking a question but just observing how your customer uses your product or service.

If your customer is using your product or service in a way which isn’t unlocking its full potential, then there’s learning in that.

It’s about gathering clues on what would actually help your customer – whether through asking questions or just observing.

You can then combine those hints into a tangible product or service that you can then test on your customers.

3. Look at underlying need

People don’t buy product or services – they buy outcomes.

By looking at what your customers are trying to achieve by using your product or service, you’ll have a better chance of coming up with something different.

The needs remain the same, but it’s the how that changes.

For example, think about the need for entertainment and connection on an emotional level.

This need has been satisfied in different ways over the past centuries.

From sitting around a campfire to telling stories through to books, radio, plays and movies.

Now we’ve moved to on-demand mediums like Apple TV, Netflix and YouTube.

The desire to connect, share experiences and build empathy and understanding is still there, just met in very different ways.

Keep up with the expected pace of change in the decades ahead by ensuring you’re pushing for improvements.

That way your business can continue to thrive.


You can hear more from Jill at an upcoming web-event on how you can boost sales by engaging your prospects.