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Seizing opportunity is not optional

Most of us have some role in providing products and services to others. We might be an engineer, designer, executive, salesperson, assembly line worker, teacher, or even one of the search "bots" that have already analyzed this essay. But we each have another role. We also are buyers. Every day, we each exchange earnings and savings for things and experiences.


We aren't the customers of yesterday. We know what we want, how we want to receive it, and how to use our digital networks to learn about products and fulfill our own demands. The other role isn't as rosy. As sellers, we and our employers have fallen short in delivering to evolved consumer expectations.


Customers have improved their lot. Have we? That's the opportunity that lies right in front of us. Thought leader Brian Solis tells us:

If we are not creating the experiences that people want to have and share, then we're simply reacting to them." [1]

Today's consumer is empowered to change the balance in their favor and quite disposed to do so. Mr. Solis urges enterprises to deliberately destroy old approaches while creating new and improved services around consumers. That's all there is to it. We need to stop obsessing about our desired business outcomes, and put our customers first.


How do I put my customers first?


Understand what they wish and generously offer it to them. The ancients taught us a secret with a promise: give without strings and you will receive back tenfold. Empathy coupled with action speaks the loudest message to the ears of today's consumer. Before they will trust us, they require us to first earn their confidence.


Traditionally, most business leaders and their shareholders have believed that a free goods approach is impractical; that an exchange of value is essential to commerce. This is quite correct, even in our new economy. So is it possible for a firm to "give" and receive back in abundance? How?


Know that the customer is at the center of your new world.


A customer centric approach is the way to deliver what buyers expect, while earning a fair return. This is the needed approach: redirect investments to enhancing the client relationship. This should go along with continued product innovation that delivers a key part of the value chain. As Apple and Uber demonstrate, refined design, quality and innovation matter. They and a growing number of providers have reinvented offerings, creating new customer expectations that many firms cannot deliver at the moment, stopped in their tracks by roadblocks. Despite a firm's best intentions, these hindrances exist: ignorance of how customers have evolved, and internal resistance to change.


What can must be done?


The first order of business is a cultural transformation. Is this business change difficult? Of course it is. We are human. Just like our customers. As described at the outset of this article, we participate as both sellers and buyers daily. If we recognize this, we may learn that our challenges and experiences are "shared." In his writings, Solis illustrates this concept of "shared experiences" among consumers; but it can be the same way with consumer/vendor relationships. Understanding these shared experiences can help sellers begin to see the situation from a buyer's view. This understanding is the awakening to the best opportunity of this decade. But it is not optional.


Picture yourself

A perilous footbridge lies before us. Looking ahead, we observe that our customers are already making their way across the bridge. On the far side, they are meeting cheerful and inventive firms offering a new way. This is where new consumers are in charge of the relationship between themselves and a digital world of vendors and experiences.


Are you crossing the bridge yet? It seems to be a old rope span with missing wooden planks. Quite scary. But impassable? Calling to mind your personal career path to increased responsibility, you have overcome similar obstacles before. So why not now?


Now is the moment to seize the opportunity and step out over that wide expanse. Sooner than you think, that rickety old bridge will fall away, leaving you on this side, without the customers you need to thrive and grow.


Leaving it all behind, without Option B.

[1] The Technology of Us: Getting to the Heart of Humanity in a Technology-Driven World, Ken Tuchman, 2014 (http://technologyofus.com/)

Copyright (c) 2015, Jack C Crawford, All rights reserved.

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