The attributes of a customer-obsessed company

  • Read our feature on why brands should be wary of the rise of consumer espionage, here
  • “To catch a thief, it takes a thief” find out why from an ex-hacker, here
  • Find out how brands should deal with online and social problems in our Q&A with Eric Roach chief executive at XYDO, here
  • “Consumers are much more likely to listen to a message from each other in social media terms than they are from a brand” says Mumsnet co-founder, read more here

1. Be nimble, emphasising speed over strength

Customer-obsessed companies embrace management structures that permit rapid pursuit of customers in new markets and new channels. Rather than defend turf, companies following these strategies continually seek ways to pivot the business to gain new opportunities.

After all, speed matters. When Toyota responded slowly to the charges of defects in its accelerator pedals, automotive site Edmunds.com found that consumer intent to purchase the company’s products fell by almost 50%.

2. Be flexible, valuing versatility over lock-in

Lock-in mechanisms, such as mobile phone contracts, proprietary technology and frequent flier programmes, don’t create loyalty, they just create barriers to leaving. Customer-obsessed companies worry more about being flexible to meet customer needs and less about ways to block their users from fleeing.

3. Be global, embracing worldwide supplies, demands and markets

Your current and emerging competitors are finding new markets. They’re obsessing about how to tap the 800 million new middle-class customers that Goldman Sachs predicts will rise in Brazil, Russia, India and China and are ready to make substantial brand investments in multiple categories. These forces undermine companies that concentrate on sourcing and selling from a home-country perspective only.

4. Be smart, providing information-rich services over dumb products or transactions

The new consumer uses channels – especially mobile – to seek information everywhere, instantly. They scan the barcodes in your store and know your competitors’ prices; they get a flash message when his favourite band is spotted in town.

If you’re customer-obsessed, then your every product and service needs a halo of quickly updated information in the cloud, as well as apps and pages to deliver it in a customised way to smart devices.

Source: Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer (Forrester, June 2011)

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