CIO Insight: You say that customers, once they have been exposed to the Internet, behave differently. Their expectations about what's possiblespeed, conveniencechange.
Grantham: It's not simply that they buy something online and wham, their expectations change, and that's it. What we're seeing is that consumer expectations are continuing to change; customers are continuing to become more demanding. This isn't static. The bar is being raised now, continuouslyonline and off. The Internet triggered a fundamental change in the balance of power between customers and sellers. We all knew it would happen, but we all thought it would be more isolated than it's becoming now. The customer isn't king yet, but he is expecting to be, more than before, demanding to be treated with more attention. Communications technology, applied to the marketplace, gives individuals more attention through interaction. Now, many people are used to getting that attention and interaction, and they want more.
Think of the time you first discovered Amazon. You bought a book, and now you believe every book merchant should also do things like Amazon does. Further, now you believe that your groceries, your dry cleaning, your watch, your plumbing should also be available this wayno matter who from, online or off. Your kid's school uniform? You should be able to go onto a school's Web site and watch your kid "try on" that uniform virtually; just type in their measurements and then get a perfectly fitting uniform delivered to your doorfast, Amazon.com-style. Your online book-buying experience now has you thinking that if your local school or your local Safeway can't deliver your stuff in 24 hours, what's going on?
It's an entitlement thing. You see what's possible when one merchant applies the Internet to the shopping experience in an important way, and then you want everyone you deal with to be able to offer the same type of experience or convenience value. And that entitlement thing spreads to other markets, to other roles in your life. It laps over into the workplace. You are a more demanding consumer now; you're also more demanding on the job. You want more from a business; you want more from a job.
The locus of control has shifted away from the organization to the individual. These new rules of the game are evolving daily, challenging businesses to accommodate what I call this new society of one, this new individualism we're seeing in customers, workers and throughout society.
To be sustainable, companies are going to need to absorb the lessons of this new social psychology of customers, employees and competition.
Overall, what this means is the creation of the real-time customer. It showed up first in e-commerce, of course, in the auto industry, where people were starting to price-shop for autos online. People marched into showrooms armed with comparison-shopping data from the Net, much like a few of them used to when they read Consumer Reports. It was business' worst nightmare. They couldn't snow customers anymore, or at least as easily. But now, you're seeing a more educated consumer everywhere. You're seeing this customer-power effectand it has huge implications on how you run a business today and how you run it tomorrow. Your strategy has to change, not just about how you sell something, but how you make it, deliver it and so forth. So we've got this snowball rolling downhill, and it's picked up speed, and there's no going back. No business can tell a customer who's getting steamed and wants someone to accommodate him, "Well, you know, pal, that's just not the way we do business."
Since the early days of the Net, marketing experts have predicted consumers might want to be pampered more.
What's new here is that nobody expected this new behavior to be quite so pervasive, or occur so soon in the evolution of the Internet. Nobody thought that expectations from one sector would just automatically carry over to another. New customers want you to handle them better. Don't do that, and you'll experience a steady loss of your customer base. It's that simple.
And there's something else going on. Customers now expect to get information along with the things they buy and the transactions they conduct. They want an experience, they want knowledge wrapped in with the widget they buy. They want context. In healthcare, of course, it's not just, "Give me a prescription for the medicine." Now I want to know what it does, what it does to my body, how it interacts with other medicines and if there is, perhaps, a natural remedy available that does the same thing.
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