Wake Up! The New Customer Refuses to be Bored

NEW YORK -- Lior Arussy is not an author, consultant, or customer experience management (CEM) visionary, despite what his business card says. No, he insists -- he is a corporate marriage counselor. "I help customers fall in love with companies and companies fall in love with customers," he says. During his keynote presentation at Day One of the destinationCRM 2008 conference here this week, Arussy proposed that companies are often too focused on profits and neglect to see customers as individuals with unique needs and buying habits. A large photograph of an Automated Teller Machine pops up on the projector. "I realized what my clients were looking for was an ATM," Arussy said, half-jokingly. "They wanted the possibility of putting a card in and getting money out. They wanted this ubiquitous customer that will continue to let them have what they want whenever," he says.

He suggested to the thousanads of attendees that the stereotypical company has unrealistic ideals for customers. Organizations want the ideal customer to:

  • pay full price;
  • use the product as instructed;
  • never call customer services;
  • recommend you enthusiastically to 100 friends;
  • be available for a reference 24/7;
  • upgrade the solution when told;
  • suggest ideas to improve product design;
  • pay on time (early is best);
  • never speak to the competition;
  • never ask for special features or favors; and
  • send a thank you letter praising the company.

Yet, today's customer is everything but that. New customers are demanding. They push boundaries, they want to use a product in ways it was not designed for, and they want and expect to use the Web to accent individuality. "The new customer hates boring," Arussy said. To meet the needs of customers and shift from a competitive relationship to a collaborative one, companies need to define, deliver, and delight customers. "Many are trying to skip the define part and go to delight," Arussy said, reminding the audience that when it comes to customers, one size does not fit all.

Arussy, who is also a longtime columnist for CRM magazine, talked about customer segmentation, pointing out that organizations need and want to focus on the "money makers" segment - the group that is frequent and profitable. However, many businesses find that a certain segment is wasting the company's time and money. He calls this group the frequent and unprofitable, or the "FUs." Arussy encouraged the audience to ditch the "FUs" and spend that margin on wowing customers that will potentially return and seek value from the business.

Once an organization defines its customers, it can begin to deliver to them in new and unexpected ways. "If you don't define the [customer] experience clearly, no loyalty will work," Arussy said. "When dealing with the new customer [who is] pushing and extending and wants a new emotional connection, don't go for superficial shortcuts. It's not going to cut it." Instead, fine new ways to deliver, he suggests. Arussy offered several examples of companies extending products past what is expected. One example is that of Apple with its iPod and iTunes ecosystem. Another example, he said, is Commerce Bank, one of the only banking centers that caters to customers more like a retail store. Commerce extended its hours from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m, differentiating itself based on hours of operation and ultimately adding value to its interactions with busy customers.

"At the end of the day, the new customer is us," Arussy concluded. "The question is, ‘Would I do business with my company?' "

Following Arussy's presentation, Barton Goldenberg, chairman of the conference delivered a CRM State of the Union address, entitled "The Digital Client." Goldenberg, president of CRM consultancy ISM and author of CRM in Real Time (and, like Arussy, a frequent contributor and columnist for CRM magazine), delved into issues facing the CRM industry, and the industry's role within an ever-evolving Web 2.0 world. When speaking of "the digital client" -- a concept Goldenberg introduced at last year's destinationCRM 2007 conference and which he expanded on in his columns in the pages of CRM -- Goldenberg referred to employees, partners, and customers who have three overlapping demands:

  • to be always on and always connected;
  • to engage in multichannel transactions; and
  • to do business in an instant.

Goldenberg also took time to reflect on the momentum building behind the notion of the digital client. "I think it has made this tremendous leap over the last 12 months," he told the crowd, adding that customer insistence on features and functions developed with Web 2.0 in mind is no longer a demand found only among Generation Y, but now extending to Generation X and Baby Boomers. In fact, Goldenberg coted one statistic suggesting that the fastest-growing sector of Internet traffic is that of users ages 50 and up.

"We have to acknowledge that our digital clients are better informed about how to do business," Goldenberg told the attendees, emphasizing the CRM industry's challenge in dealing with the new consumer. "They talk a lot more and they are more in control of how they want to do business with you." That challenge, he said, is universal -- he implored crowd members to develop strategies to deal with the digital client.

Click here for more of our destinationCRM 2008 coverage.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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