July 1, 2013
It’s no secret that the reality for any business supplying consumers has changed markedly over the past few decades. If we think back to what life was like back in Henry Ford’s day, we had incredibly slow development cycles for products and a situation where the supplier had all the power in the relationship. Imagine Elon Musk, Tesla‘s CEO telling customers today that they could have any color car they want so long as it’s black. The days of the power balance in the supplier/customer relationship being skewed to the side of the supplier are long gone.
In fact we’re entering an era where the consumers of good have significantly more power than do the suppliers – from creation of the goods themselves through to voicing dissatisfaction about the performance of an item – rapidly accelerating development cycles and the power of mass media have created a real situation of change for supply organizations – huge challenges, but at the same time huge opportunities. We now have organizations that were born with the idea of embracing their consumers as co-creators, product evangelists and ambassadors.
So I was interested to receive a review cope of a new book by the founder of customer insight company Customer CEO, Chuck Wall. In his book, titled Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers, Wall takes his experience consulting to organizations, and the aggregate learnings from his years of customer interviews and surveys to start to explain for companies can navigate what is an entirely new business dynamic. For anyone who has listened to technology companies articulating the opportunities around listening to, engaging with and harnessing customer conversations, this book will be yet another reiteration of an already well worn topic.
But that’s not to say the book doesn’t have value. There are a huge number of businesses in more traditional industries that have only just started to see the opportunities that putting the customer at the center of their world can bring. While to many it is completely obvious that putting the customer first, treating them with humility and leveraging their ideas is the way forward, there are a number of industries where customers feel under appreciated and treated like cattle. As a very frequent traveller, I’ve suffered the high and plunging lows of the airline industry as an example.
Wall takes readers on a simple three step path towards the new way of dealing with organizations – he suggests businesses:
- STOP seeing things through management eyes
- LOOK at things from a customer’s perspective
- LISTEN to customers proactively
As I said, all completely obvious stuff and I can hear the moans from the cognoscenti claiming that here is yet another book preaching to the converted. But The Customer CEO isn’t designed for the already converted, it’s designed as a field guide of sorts for existing businesses that know they need to do something, but just don’t know what. It’s an easily digested guide that starts organizations on a journey and as such should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in customer facing operations.