In the last 10-to-15 years our customers have completely changed how they behave. This isn’t just about the digital revolution or the proliferation of apps. This is about how the behaviour of customers has changed.
The What and How of Changed Customer Behaviour
Customers have changed how they buy. A huge portion of customer buying journeys are completed without any interaction with the people in the business.
In the customer buying journey that does require them to talk with a sales person, about 60-70% of their buying journey is complete before they talk with you.
What customers need and want from businesses has changed. When they need it has changed. And how they need it (the experience) has also changed.
We need to adapt our customer engagement practices to be aligned with the way new customers engage and buy today.
These are my top five ways in which customers have changed.
Customers are sales resistant.
No one wants to be sold Anything that looks like, sounds like or feels like selling, and the customer’s resistance rises. After decades of dodgy sales practice and stereotyped pushy sales behaviours, people today do not even really want to talk to anyone, especially someone they think is going to push them towards what customers perceive is best for the sales person and not the customer. In short, customers have had enough of being sold to.
2. This resistance to selling has triggered a self-service revolution.
Customers want to do it themselves. It seems the optimal experience for a customer today is not when they can access the experience and advice of someone from the business to help them make a decision. But when they can make the decision themselves. If they want advice, typically, they will check in with their social networks.
3. Customers have more information available to them than ever before.
So much content, expert reviews, ‘independent’ sources that have done the comparisons for them and the reviews and comments from other customers. Especially those reviews and comments from other customers, real people just like the customer, with no bias (well, not much). Customers will do their research, read the reviews of other people, ask around and then decide for themselves.
4. Customer expectations are rising.
Some businesses have really nailed the customer experience, and with that then our expectations as customers have risen. Often to the point where the service and experience a lot of organisations provide is no longer good enough. Or by comparison, seems ‘clunky’ or ‘unprofessional’, not what the customer expected. At that point the customer disengages, or at worst becomes a detractor.
5. The Experience Economy
We have entered into an experience economy, where customers are making their purchasing and advocacy decisions far more on their overall experience.
We all could probably identify half a dozen examples of where we spend based on the experience, our favourite coffee shop or restaurant. And we definitively provide advocacy based on the overall experience we have. But there are also macro changes.
For example, consider the music business. It has been digitised significantly. However not that long ago music artists and bands made records/CDs and then went on tour to promote the sales of their albums.
Today, artists produce music and songs which are digital, cheap and easily accessible. So now, they produce music so that when they go on tour their legion of fans come to the show. This is where the majority of the money is for these artists. They now produce music, so that they can sell concert tickets.
What does the customer buy, an experience. Expensive tickets to hear the same songs they have on their phones – but it is about the experience they have at the concert. This industry has transitioned to the experience economy.
What does this mean for your organisation?
How are these changes affecting your customers..?
Are you still using the ‘tried and true’ sales and marketing efforts from last century..?
We need to adapt our customer engagement practice to suit the new environment.
The best place to start is to look at developing a customer strategy to orient your approach to your customers.
You may also want to look at the Five Tenets of the Customer Centric approach, and the new imperatives for leaders in this age.
Additionally consider this:
Forrester is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world (their claim on their website).
Forrester are also trying to raise awareness about this shift that is required for businesses in the Age of the Customer. They say:
“This is not a passing storm after which we will return to a comfortable normal.”
“This new world requires leaders to think and act differently.”
Here is a link to their webpage on the Age of the Customer.