Yes! They have moved from being a minor player to play a lead role.
Specifically two undeniable truths have emerged, placing the Enterprise firmly in the spotlight:
Consumer behaviour drives commerce – which the Enterprise depends on
The Enterprise has to adapt to the new order or perish
Social Media burst in to visibility thanks in large part to the explosion of the web, galvanising consumer opinion across disparate individuals and communities, who otherwise were unlikely to be known to each other. But Social Media itself is only a single dimension of the burgeoning Consumer Behaviour ecosystem. Consumer Behaviour has always been in evidence, be it nurture, environment, responses to advertising, disposable income, peer pressure or need, to name but a few examples. These components and more, had been islands of influence, but are now inextricably linked and are creating a massive energy field that the Enterprise has to embrace. Likened to Pandora’s box, once opened, there is no turning back, the Consumer Behaviour ecosystem will only become more deeply integrated and influential.
Four years ago, some, 250,000 people watched ‘United Breaks Guitars ‘ on YouTube, before United Airlines saw fit to do the right thing for Dave Carroll; but was that really any different to the Libyans gathering in Martyrs’ Square to demand Gadaffi be overthrown? A protest yes, but not a consumer decision influencing mechanism. The question is, would ‘United’ have done anything without the aggregated power of consumers unknown to each other, committed to see fair play being applied?
Consumers have always had choice and now they have significant voice, backed up by influential muscle, no longer can Corporates adopt a dismissive or reactive culture. Choices for the consumer are becoming far more granular, across the full spectrum of products and services they consume, right down to the basic utilities flowing into one’s home, the consumer can now choose which supplier and the type of product/service being provided. So how do they decide? No longer the billboard, the clever TV advertising campaign, the most ‘liked’ supplier on Facebook, or other sensory receptor open to supplier manipulation – the consumer has taken control and sovereignty.
Consumer Behaviour is all about the consumer exercising independent choice, which multiplied out by us all (we are all consumers), awards business to enterprises. It can be transitorily fickle such as when we all boycotted Starbucks for a few milliseconds when we discovered it was not paying taxes – but it can’t be tamed. Like water rushing downhill, there is not only the inevitable direction to it but significant energy, which provides the opportunity for that energy to be used constructively, but is all too often interpreted destructively or obstructively. It is the role of the enterprise to invest far more urgency and resources than they have done previously, in understanding how to work with these new forces.
Taking a simple example. If an insurance business interacts with its customers through their preferred channels, using competent resources, it will almost certainly provide a better experience, for customer and company alike, ultimately leading to a reduction in costs. Reduced costs offers bigger profits. But wait. If you are communicating in a way the customer wants, they are likely to be happier. A happy customer is way more inclined to increase loyalty, reducing churn and more disposed to promote the company, encouraging others to your product/service. It gets better still, happy customers complain less, meaning your customer service operations can deal with real problems rather than noise. Fewer, more focused queries, will – with quality staff – deliver higher staff morale and that in turn reduces staff turnover, promoting lower costs (decreasing the need for recruiting and training) and driving a more experienced workforce.
It is easy to see how doing the right things and doing things right for customers/consumers positively impacts so many functional areas in a business, with the potential for a virtuous circle of benefits, and all from a shared constructive cultural disposition toward Consumer Behaviour.
Nick Rowley’s blog hosted by: Trevor B. Lee, EP International
Nick leads the Marketear Limited team in helping companies’ transition to a truly customer focussed approach.
He invites you to open a direct dialogue if these truths resonate in any way with your experiences and current challenges.