“Brands must empower their community to be change agents in their own right. To that end, they need to take on a mentoring role. This means the brand provides the tools, techniques and strategies for their customers to become more effective marketers in achieving their own goals”. – Simon Mainwaring
Companies must empower customers – we can just stop here!
There are many reasons to empower customers – doing so will encourage them to speak well about your company and in business, customer testimonials are more powerful and effective than any other kind of promotion or advertisement. When a company is able to empower customers by giving them what they want and helping them to succeed, customers are more than happy to boost the credibility of the company by recommending it. A company must empower customers to become their brand ambassadors and their ultimate marketing tactic. However, this is probably not as easy as it sounds – a company should be able tap into the emotions of its customers. When customers are satisfied and happy emotionally by a company and its offerings, they would be convinced and willing to share their great experiences with others seeking similar products and services.
Earlier, to empower customers meant giving them a choice albeit between limited products and offerings only. This then moved on to empowering them by access to myriad information sources and with the onset of the internet people could read about many more products and services before making a decision to buy. This meant that customers did not need to depend on companies alone for information on what to buy. To empower customers now means that they can ‘educate’ themselves, search for information they need and then use the information to decide which company / brand they would like to associate with and whom they can trust. The internet is able to empower customers by giving them access to peer group reviews, expert advice, testimonials about current and past customers of a company – information that not all companies would be willing to provide or take the time to collate information in a readable format for their customers. However, companies that make such effort, not only empower customers, but also win their trust and confidence, which in turn surges them ahead.
Companies now empower customers by spoiling them with choices. A single product category now has variants and it is depends on the customer to choose. Companies must continue to empower customers by maintaining a flow of information – not just from the company to them but also back from them. Companies have understood that to empower customers, means more power, reputation and success to them. When customers are happy, they are liberal with expressing their delight – but they are also equally vocal when a company fails to live up to their expectations. When companies empower customers, they willingly give the customers a voice, for example feedback surveys. Such methods are structured and well-defined ways to allow customers to express themselves and provide the company with a disciplined manner of collecting, collating and analysing customer information and views.
The thrust is that companies must be able to consistently, empower customers to ask specifically for what they want and know that they will get it. Companies must continue to provide tools, service and a robust infrastructure in order to deliver on the promises made to customers in a more timely and efficient manner. Empowering customers would better place companies to improve their own operations and step up the management of the day-to-day processes.
The focus to empower customers seems to have worked. Of course, not all companies would agree that giving customers so much power is a good idea. Customers now switch loyalties at the hint of trouble, are able to dictate the kind of products and services that should be made, are forceful when expressing their like or dislike of a company via social media and have extremely high expectations from companies with regard to customer service. Even though all this seems like too much empowerment, it has forced companies to work harder and make continuous improvements in all areas. Most companies have accepted the reality that customers are smarter now and to empower customers is a lot better than having customers who do not care.
Companies can empower customers by asking them what they want – customer needs and wants change regularly and hence it is good idea to keep with these changes. Customers no longer, it seems, want to remain on the sidelines. They want to be directly involved in aspects of the business that relate to them. This need has made customers more willing to participate in polls and surveys, be part of advisory boards and networking events, comment and take part in social media ‘discussions’ and a host of other activities. Companies cannot empower customers by assuming that they know what customers may want. The ‘knowing and empowerment’ can happen by understanding their view of the company and remaining empathetic while dealing with their problems. Empower customers by first empowering the teams that deal regularly and directly with customers – give them the tools and support they need to give your customers the best. The more a company understands its customers, the easier it would be for customers to feel engaged and connected with the company. Empower customers by personalizing your company’s approach towards them – connect with them on an individual level and as far as possible lend the human touch in all interactions.
In the buzz of daily operations and other business aspects, it is easy and highly probable that a company forgets the reason they are in business – its customers. Customers are highly perceptive and would be able to tell if there were to be a drop in service levels. It is never a good idea to make customers feel unvalued and ignored – these feelings take away from being empowered decision makers with a company. If companies do not pay attention to their customers, they can be sure that their customers will go over to a company that will empower them.
Companies can no longer ‘think’ that they are looking after their customers well. There is no place for intuition in today’s competitive environment – to empower customers, companies must back themselves with robust processes and updated information. Customers want control but companies must maintain control too – it must be a balanced win-win situation. Companies must be able to empower customers and yet control their attitudes, behaviour and mind-set by providing the best quality both in customer service and in their offerings. When a company can master the art of empowering customers, they would be able to meet both, their emotional and business needs more efficiently and effectively. This in turn would mean that customers remain engaged and attracted to a company because they perceive huge benefits and rewards in being associated with it. A company can empower customers by revamping and realigning its available resources, knowledge and skill base and placing them as tools controlled by the customers. The truth is that customers want to feel empowered and companies that find innovative ways to accomplish this, will not only remain in business but will also trounce their competitors repeatedly and gain sustainable success. Sounds good?