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“The Age of the Customer”

Many pundits claim that we are in a new “Age of the Customer,” with advantages (and drawbacks) for both customer-facing companies and the consumers themselves. Nearshore Americas recently wrote an article on the effect of the “Age of the Customer” on IT. A summary of that article is below:

Access to information for customers allows them to make more informed decisions than was ever possible in the past. On the other hand, consumer-oriented companies have more, quantitative and qualitative data on customers, even at the individual level. Behavior patterning, voice biometrics, psychographic data, and predictive analysis give retailers the ability to specifically target their offerings towards customers.

Forward-thinking enterprises are rethinking their relationship and interface with their employees, in some cases looking at them as “customers” of sorts. Business processes and workflows are re-examined with an eye towards employee engagement, similar to how retailers may analyze their “customer journey.”

Embracing New Attitudes

‘Customer age’ should mean building simplicity and elegance in the way enterprises work and think, right from technology, people, and processes,” says Everest Group Practice Director Yugal Joshi. “It’s not only about ‘external-facing’ relationships, but the entire value chain. The way services are created and delivered. The way they are evolved and preserved. The focus should not only be on ‘revenue generation’ through commercial relationships and one more ‘sales channel,’ but fundamentally creating an efficient organization that runs lean. Digital transformation has the potential to perhaps provide more certain cost savings when leveraged across internal processes than the uncertain revenue enhancement through customer-focused strategies.”

What the Age of the Customer should mean for companies is the internalization of the concept that every person or entity a service is provided to, internal or external, as a customer. When this service attitude is embraced, not only is the soft benefit realized of increasing stakeholder engagement, but efficiencies are created and business processes are improved. Just as forward-thinking retailers are now focused on customer effort, the effort required to complete processes—not just for employees, but even applying this towards processes and workflows (man & machine) can be reduced, always leading to improvement.

As Joshi puts it, “Organizations need to focus on ‘stakeholders’ rather than just customers. Stakeholders should be everyone: employees, partners, different business units beyond sales and marketing, IT operations, and of course customers. Too much obsession over the ‘end-customer’ will be counterproductive. Unless the entire value chain is digitized, piecemeal adoption may only improve one aspect and create inefficiency across others. It is easier to get funding for sales and marketing initiatives as they are perceived to provide quick ROI.”

 

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