Keeping Pace with Today’s Customer

“Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer” – Macy’s Motto

Keeping pace with today’s customer would require a company to be omnipresent and ubiquitous – as much as is possible. Customers now are more aware, connected at all times – socially and for business and know exactly how to get what they want. They know that companies too are equipped with technology and access to information and hence demand the best in class service and expect that they would be able to communicate with a company through any channel that they deem appropriate. The number of ‘outlets’ to voice their opinion further adds power to their demands – a single negative or positive comment can potentially change the fortunes of a company. For companies then, keeping pace with today’s customer is both easy and tough – depending on how well or not they manage their operations, customer service and relationships with their customers. The point to understand is that for sustained success, companies must do whatever they can for keeping pace with today’s customer, thereby enhancing the overall experiences customers have with them.

Keeping pace with today’s customer does not only mean that a company remains present wherever customers are. It also means that the service they provide to customers would need to be tailor-made for the customer and customized for the channel of communication through which service may be provided. The channels of communication have gone beyond what people knew or thought possible – in addition to phone calls, text messages and emails there is now online chats, social networking, online self-service, content based marketing and several other ways to communicate and receive information via the internet. As these channels increased, so did the expectations and demands of the customers. Keeping pace with today’s customer is about allowing them a voice through any of these channels, consistently reinventing communication, enhancing their experiences and creating products and services that would serve their needs and make their life easier.

With no robust plan for keeping pace with today’s customer, companies could face the risk of failure and ‘death’. Customer behaviour and buying patterns have changed significantly and continue to change relentlessly. As a result, of this, companies just have to adapt and remain flexible in order to meet and even exceed these changing and fast progressing expectations. Today’s customer is empowered, informed, smart and ‘spoilt for choices’ – keeping pace with today’s customer would mean being two steps ahead of them in every respect and providing them with information and product choices even before they ask. It all depends on whether a company is customer-centric and willing to change fast enough to move from traditional methods to innovative and creative ways of serving customers. Given that this is a tough ask, it would require a mind-set change and company-wide endeavour – each person in an organization would need to pull their weight to ensure that the company is consistently equipped at moving ahead or at least keeping pace with today’s customer.

Prior to the internet revolution, customers would simply trust whatever their neighbourhood store would tell them and buy whatever they had to offer. In addition, the opinion and ‘advice’ of friends and family and prior experience served as guides before making a purchase. With the rapid rise of easily accessible information, customers now research and check everything online and definitely read the reviews of other buyers /customers, before they make any kind of decision to engage or interact. Companies therefore, need to be extremely careful when dealing with their customers – poor service and experiences would lead to damaging reviews, which could prove costly for a company on so many counts. Keeping pace with today’s customer then, is about ensuring that no link in the chain of events is weak for even a single customer.

With long queues, traffic snarls and a sea of people at seemingly every store in town, many companies face the challenge of lowered customer traffic at their ‘real world’ stores. People want to be able to ‘shop’ from the comfort of their preferred location using smart devices and apps. Keeping pace with today’s customer for companies would need becoming creative and innovative by providing customers with both options – online shopping and shopping at their brick-and-mortar store. It would mean educating and keeping customers informed of their latest products and providing them with a lot more information to keep them engaged and focused on your company and its products.

Almost everyone with an ‘online presence’ would have a social media ‘page’. Customers share their experiences, reviews, provide recommendations and even post pictures of products. A single comment / post can reach millions of other people within a matter of seconds – companies must ensure that they manage their customer relationships with care, such that these comments remain positive, thereby attracting attention and potential customers to them. Research reveals that customers expect almost immediate responses when they ‘communicate’ with and about a company via social media – keeping pace with today’s customer would mean ensuring that every comment and discussion be responded to in the time-frame expected. Not doing so could change a positive impression to a negative one sooner than a company would expect – proving to be highly detrimental for a company.

As mentioned, with so many choices, customer loyalty is tough to attain. Those companies that keep an eye on their competitors and use every opportunity to tip the scales in their favour would be better equipped at keeping pace with today’s customer. Customers are only concerned with getting the best at a competitive price and with little or no effort on their part. By tweaking internal processes, ramping up the quality of customer service, products and services and providing competitive pricing, a company would easily penetrate the customer base of a competitor. It may sound sneaky, but the fact is that in keeping pace with today’s customer, a company must consistently be able to exceed the demands of customers and remain many steps ahead of whatever their nearest competitor is able to provide.

Resting on laurels could be a self-defeating mind-set and in keeping pace with today’s customer, companies must constantly seek answers on questions related to customer satisfaction. They must remain aware of how customer behaviour and buying patterns may have changed. They must know whether their business has made the relevant changes to match the evolving behaviour. Their employees should be equipped to deal with and service these changes through training and proper care. It is crucial to understand whether their company is ‘future ready’ in its ability to anticipate and predict future customer behaviour and buying trends. A company’s ability to manage these circumstances would keep it relevant, competitive and sustainably successful.

While keeping pace with today’s customer is crucial, companies must remember that sometimes trends, ‘moods’ and customer behaviour could just be a passing whim. However, to know this, companies must make every effort to understand thoroughly their existing customers and their target audience. It would be wasteful and self-defeating for a company to change their products and services too often – customers would consider such a company as fickle, unsure and not trustworthy. Keeping pace with today’s customer is about finding the right balance between what customers want and need, building trust and relationships and ensuring that your company makes itself the preferred choice of customers for the products and service they offer – every time.

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