Ten questions you always wanted to ask about Customer Experience

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This is a slightly enhanced (and translated) transcript of an interview about customer experience I did for valantic. The interview challenge was to stay short and concise, and to keep it within two minutes. In order to not lose the spirit of this 120 second challenge, I kept the transcript short. This might raise a question or two. Happy to discuss, as always.

So, interviewer, let’s get going!

What’s the meaning of the claim ‘The Age of the Customer’?

‘The Age of the Customer’ is a term that is roughly synonymous with ‘The Customer is in Control’. Both terms basically express the notion that today’s customers have far better access to information than they had a decade ago, before the social media and mobile revolution. An important consequence of this revolution is that customers’ trust business statements about their products and solution is far lower than in earlier times.



What does this mean for businesses?

That is simple. The knowledge advantage that businesses have has decreased considerably. With that the possibility of businesses to distinguish themselves based upon their products and services shrinks. Therefore businesses must appear far more authentic and focus on an engagement model that fits their brand; this in a way that results in a positive perception by customers.

Customer Experience Management – What do you think of this term?

I do not like the term customer experience management as the customer experience is solely in the realm of the customer. What a business can do is engage with customers in a way that with a high likelihood results in a positive experience. I prefer the term customer engagement management as the business is at least involved in the engagement process and therefore can act and react meaningfully to customers’ actions or reactions.

How would you describe a perfect customer experience?

Customers want to achieve a goal when interacting with a business. If they achieve this goal with minimum own effort, even joyfully, and feel like a human interacting with a human, then a perfect customer experience is the result.

Why is CX getting more important?

Competing products and services differ less and less. And in a subscription economy it becomes simpler and simpler to change over from one vendor to another. Therefore a main distinguishing factor for a business is its authenticity and how easy it is to work with it. And this is at the core of CX.

Which trends do you foresee in the near future?

We will see the convergence of communication channels and a development from omni-channel to channel agnostic or something I would call ‘channel-less’. Customers do switch from one communications channel to another without further thought and they want a seamless communication regardless of the channel, solely based upon their current context and intent.

Where shall businesses start to work?

Businesses need to look hard at where the pains and the possible gains are and start it from there. There is no silver bullet, and every business faces individual and different challenges. These need to be determined on a one by one basis.

What are the biggest obstacles facing companies in the area of CX?

The biggest obstacles are organisational and data silos. These silos lead to process breaks which in turn lead to a poor CX and poor customer experiences.



What is the role of innovation?

Innovation is what enables businesses stay agile enough to successfully navigate the volatile environment we are in. And innovation in this context is not only a matter of technology but also of the business model. Both need to be adaptable around a stable core.

How can businesses manage to consequently place the customer at their core while fulfilling the high legal requirements?

In order to keep the customers at their core, businesses need to always keep in mind what customers want – and what they do not want. At the end of the day this, especially the latter, is the reason for establishing rulesets like the GDPR.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Great post Thomas. You scratched the surface on a lot of really important questions. If I may, I’d like to mention the influence Forrester has had on so many of these areas, especially regarding the 1st and 4th questions. For any readers wanting more context on the age of the customer, I’d recommend doing a google image search for the phrase “we have entered the age of the customer” to quickly see how we’ve gone from: the age of manufacturing > to the age of distribution > to the age of information > to the age of the customer.

    On the 4th question, your answer is spot on – love it! This roughly follows Forrester’s methodology for measuring great experiences along 3 areas: 1) Meets needs 2) Easy and 3) Fun/enjoyable. What I love about it is the simplicity and universal application.

  2. Hi Thomas: your article immediately reminded me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant (please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant). The idea that the “customer is in control” is not the way I perceive things many times, though I also know in certain circumstances customers are on the plus side of the power tug-of-war. But in my client work in Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), I routinely see vendors exploit their power, whether it’s information, monopolistic, market, or something else.

    I could compare consumers to pawn in a chess game, though in some cases, pawns have more power. List brokers who engage in predatory marketing of vulnerable consumers comes to mind. No consumer power in that and the practice continues to flourish. (Please see The Dark Side of Lead Generation http://customerthink.com/targeting-vulnerable-consumers-the-dark-side-of-lead-generation/)

    Each day, there’s more corroboration. I can’t read a newsfeed or periodical that doesn’t contain disturbing artifacts of the erosion of customer power: Facebook’s deceptive and injurious data collection practices. Google’s home security devices containing an embedded microphone, which – whoops!,– the company didn’t disclose to customers. (Google made a statement last week that the omission was an “oversight.”)

    Sure, I can quickly and easily comparison shop the price for dog kibble 24/7, but compared to my personal data that gets sucked into the online data engines up in just that endeavor, it seems I’m the one on the short end of the power equation. And that goes for billions of others who carry mobile devices (location tracking), install home assistants (eavesdropping), shop for products (brand sentiment / intentions).

    Come visit the Northern Virginia area where I live and you’ll pass many massive enigmatic buildings. My region has become one of the largest repositories of data in the world (see https://www.bisnow.com/washington-dc/news/data-center/data-center-builders-scoop-up-northern-virginia-land-as-region-outpaces-rest-of-world-in-demand-93068). To me, these are not emblems of growing consumer power. Instead, these windowless buildings are clear physical reminders of the massive power and strength that vendors hold, and are continuing to expand.

  3. Thanks for your comments and praise, Jimmy. Unluckily the brevity of the interview didn’t let me delve deeper. This is maybe something for a later post … I am often using a model, which I call the simplified Markov pyramid of customer expectations that is similar to what Forrester says. You e.g. can see it in my recent post What the heck is customer centricity http://customerthink.com/what-the-heck-is-customer-centricity/. Actually I have my concerns about both of the terms ‘Age of the Customer’ as well as ‘The customer is in control’. The customer is not in control, nor has her age arrived (if that ever will happen). What has happened is that there is more information that gives more choice. And with changing needs there will be more business models that should enable switching vendors. However, vendors are not dumb, either. And they usually have the funds that help them work with changing behaviours of customers.

    Thanks again for commenting and I am happy to discuss!
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  4. Hi Andy, thanks for your thoughtful comments. And you are perfectly right: The customer is not in control. I treaded fairly careful in answering that first question, for some reasons. One reason being the need for discussion on this topic. Another one is me having concerns about those two statements (see my reply to Jimmy Diffee above, too). I had a discussion about customer being in control with Nimble, too (as a proxy for MS, I think).

    What has changed is the ability to gain information from ‘trusted’ sources, which is something that got pounced upon as well by using these trusted sources. The spread of influencers is probably a good example supporting your argument, too.

    I regularly think of a pendulum when looking at situations like this (or, considering the military background that I have, too the eternal struggle between attack and defence. Every attack system gets countered by a new defensive system, which in turn spurs the invention of another attack system … ad infinitum.

    The flip side of the argument about the (data) price that we pay, this is also a consequence of us not being willing to pay for services that do not ‘suck’ data or at least not a lot of it. We could e.g. use DuckDuckGo as a search engine instead of Google … but we do not, for various reasons, good ones and bad ones.

    This is where GDPR and co come into play which hopefully do not end up as toothless tigers.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Andy
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  5. What is largely missing, and perhaps most important, in your set of questions is the role and contribution of committed (not just satisfied or engaged) employees in customer value delivery.

    Several years ago, in worldwide customer service experience research conducted for a major high-tech client, to drive stronger downstream customer behavior, it was found that processes and customer interaction had to take service employees well beyond the basics of knowledge, efficiency, and friendliness. Consistently, and irrespective of continent or country, the most effective reps showed true empathy for the customer’s issue, literally “owning” the issue as if it were theirs as well, walking in their shoes. and making a true emotional connection.

    What wasn’t so completely understood at the time is that that this level of employee commitment and personal investment also positively impacted the employee experience. This was something of an epiphany for our client, representing an unanticipated ‘bonus’ result.

    Customer experience pros can argue back-and-forth about whether a vendor can create deep emotions such as bonding and love in a customer. There are lots of articles and studies around stating things like “Highly engaged customers are loyal customers”. There’s little doubt that engaged customers can, and do, help shape the brand. They can also provide useful feedback and build brand-based communities. Today, is that enough?

    From my perspective, at least, experiences that drive customers’ emotional brand trust and bonding can be both shaped and sustained. That’s largely a function of organizational culture, customer-focused processes – – and the direct and indirect contribution of employees through ambassadorship behavior.

    On the employee side of the equation, ambassadorship builds both passion and partnership, enhancing the customer experience. And, as importantly, it also enhances the employee experience, something HCM and HR execs are just coming to realize and leverage.

    There have been a number of professional and academic studies, in multiple industries, linking employee attitudes and behaviors with the value customers perceive in their experiences.. Through targeted research, and resultant training, communication, process, and reward and recognition programs, what we define as ambassadorship formalizes the direction in which employee engagement has been trending toward for years. Simply, the trend is optimizing and connecting employee commitment to the organization and its goals, to the company’s unique value proposition, and to the customer. This creates a state where all employees are focused on, and tasked with, delivering customer value as part of their job description, irrespective of location, function or level.

    In other words, though there needs to be coordination and management of initiatives through HR and a CXO/CCO, everyone in the company, from the file clerk to the CEO, has this day-to-day responsibility embedded within their job descriptions..

  6. Hi Thomas: thanks for sparking this interesting conversation. A confusion I frequently see is concluding that greater consumer access to information equates to greater consumer power. While this is sometimes the case, we also know how the perception of having information can be weaponized and turned against consumers. e.g. Fake product reviews, phishing schemes, financial services scams, medical misinformation. Yes, consumers sometimes have improved access to information, but our abilities to extract understanding from it, let alone to vet its validity, remains limited. I’ll admit to occasionally wanting the insights of a team of data scientists when I book a hotel or rental car.

    Compare that to growing analytical sophistication that vendors are building. Consider this excerpt from the Sloane Management Review:

    While the sales function has historically relied on metrics, today there is far more sales-centric data, and far richer data, than ever. It comes from social media, from website interactions, and from A/B tests, just to name a few. To help make sense of all the available data and to improve sales effectiveness and efficiency, organizations are turning to machine learning. Smart machines are becoming trusted sidekicks in sales departments as they make opaque processes more transparent, provide analysis to inform decision making, and offload low-value tasks.

    The article, Sales Gets a Machine-Learning Makeover (https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/sales-gets-a-machine-learning-makeover/) was written in 2016. I am not advocating that this provides vendors an “unfair” advantage. After all, it depends on how vendors use the data, and it’s clear that consumers are sometimes beneficiaries. My concern is that by asserting that customers are in control, we play into the hands of those companies who possess overwhelming information power. That consumers have unprecedented power is exactly what they’d like us to think.

  7. Very well stated replies. Thomas, you asked for more discussion on the topic of the customer (not) being in control…so I’ll add my perspective. I personally don’t see the issue as black and white. I hear the arguments in favor of vendors having more access to data and resources, making them the controlling party. But is that really the point?

    Claims like “the customer is in control” and “we’re in the age of the customer” are intended to be inspirational (IMO). They are obviously generalizations that represent the shift that’s happening where the customer has not only more choices, but a voice to help guide others. Different industries are at different points on the scale, and you’re right – the customer may never fully be in control.

    Personally, I incorporate these inspirational ideologies to motivate companies in my vertical (new home construction) to change their ways and embrace a customer-centric viewpoint. The message resonates with the target audience and is being used for good.

    I’d like to think that’s how many others in this space are using the widely-held claim, but that’s just the optimist in me.

  8. Michael, you are right with your important observation. No question about employees, nor about culture. I might have chosen to add an explicit mention of the importance of high employee morale, but left it at the allegation level.
    The only thing that I would contend is that an organisation can shape experiences. It can contribute to it, help the customer shape the experience. The experience itself is in the world of the customer. If customer got up on the wrong foot then the best intent of a business might backfire.

  9. Hi Thomas – it’s hard to generalize. In some transactions, customers have greater information power in the value chain, and in others, vendors do. It depends on which market, which product, and the situation at the time. Similarly, I think it’s impossible to have equal information power between buyers and sellers. Our capitalist system depends on information imbalances. In the simplest sense, vendors know the price at which they’re willing to sell a product, and buyers know what they’re willing to pay. The delta or gap is overcome with marketing and negotiation. If there were perfect information equivalence between buyers and sellers, I doubt much could get bought or sold.

    I think a more useful – and attainable – objective is achieving fairness between buyers and sellers, not equality.

  10. Jimmy, thanks for your balanced point of view. Personally, I think of them as marketing blurbs from vendors to their customers that shall create some kind of FUD. Still, my reaction is similar to yours. It is necessary to embrace customers and their needs. The message resonates, as you say, but there are too many organizations undisturbed by it and some do not walk the talk. How do you think can this be improved?

  11. Hi Andrew, yes generalization is a hard business, although the ‘simplest sense’ that you mention is imo already misleading, because there often also is an imbalance of negotiation power, especially in B2C markets. If there were perfect information and negotiation equivalence, there would be a fair price, without further need for negotiation. And then their powers would be equal, too, I think. So, in consequence: Aren’t fairness and equality equally hard to achieve?
    Rgds
    Thomas

  12. Forrester defined “Age of the customer” as a shift in power to consumers, not a statement that customers were “in control.”
    https://go.forrester.com/age-of-the-customer/

    Thomas offers the perfect example — the advent of subscriptions:
    “And in a subscription economy it becomes simpler and simpler to change over from one vendor to another.”
    The rise of “Customer Success Management” is evidence that vendors are working harder to keep customers these days. In the old days, software reps could sell licenses and run!

    As already noted, while it’s true customers have more power (Google, social media, aggregation sites, etc.) it’s also true that companies are still working hard to create exit barriers and to weaponize the data we create.

    I’m not sure how to create a scorecard about who is “winning” at the game of control, but you can see disruption in most every industry, giving customers more options.

    I think Andy’s right that every industry is different but I’ll dare to generalize as follows: Customers have more control when there is intense competition from several similar providers. Vendors have the edge when they have a unique product (e.g. Tesla) or market dominance (cable companies until recently).

  13. Correct, Bob. Age of the customer seems to be different than ‘customer is in control’. But then they could hardly repeat someone else’s slogan. I still think that they are essentially the same, albeit the age of the customer is somewhat measured.
    Customers are getting more options, that is true, and good, as long as it is not the choice between pest and cholera 😉
    But can we equate options/choice with control?

  14. I don’t think “control” is the right word. It has too much of an absolute connotation — at least to me. Either your are in control, or you’re not.

    I think “power” is better. Consumers generally have more information power than years past, hence the ‘age of the customer.’ That doesn’t give them complete control, but it allows them (us) to make better choices, assuming the market allows. (I can’t choose my utility company, no matter how much information I have.)

    Fun fact: I used the term “customer age” quite a few years before Forrester starting promoting “age of the customer.” I’m pretty sure they mean the same thing.

  15. The distinction between ‘control’ and ‘power’ matters for this discussion. When I’m mired in traffic, I’m in control of my car, but I have little power the the context of my situation. To a great extent, my ability to proceed depends on external factors. Some vendors keenly understand the difference, and give customers the illusion of power. e.g. “Choose from any of our three convenient payment plans.” (control) . . . . What’s typically not stated: “Regardless which one you select, you’re required to conform to the terms of our contract.” (power).

    I use the Porter five-forces model with clients because it’s an excellent – though flawed – representation of power among trading partners in a value chain. My 2011 article explains the model and contains links to other commentary about it. (Please see http://customerthink.com/porters_five_forces_beats_sales_triggers/ ).

  16. Bob, that is a great observation, although I would not deem the power customers have as sufficient to claim the age of the customer 😉 – the scales continue to be at angles.

  17. Andrew, do you think one could say that companies are ‘countering’ the age of the customer by giving the illusion of power and/or control? I do think that power gives some control but that is probably a semantical distinction.

    Rgds
    Thomas

  18. I appreciate your perspective, Thomas. You certainly have a firm position against the claim, as does Andy. I’m curious…what do you think would have to happen before one could appropriately claim we’re in the age of the customer?

  19. @thomas: I think that companies offer consumers choice because that’s what customers often (though not always) prefer. Maybe it’s a response to Henry Ford’s infamous quote, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” As I indicated in my earlier comment, choice also creates the perception of control.

    @Jimmy: of course, it’s possible to make all sorts of claims, and I can’t assess which claims are appropriate, but rather which ones are credible, at least to me. I think the Digital Age is easier to peg to a year or decade because we know which technologies coalesced to provide capabilities. Same for the Industrial Age being tied to mass production.

    I can’t really say when the Information Age started. With the printing press? When public libraries were first created and expanded? When computers were first developed? All are plausible.

    For me, proclamations that we’re in the Age of the Customer ring false in light of the massive forces that are shifting power away from them. Consider the consumer damage that occurred with the Equifax, Home Depot, and Target hacking. The evisceration of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Wells Fargo’s massive consumer fraud. Facebook’s admissions of customer data abuses. Opaque and tenuous advertising claims for vitamins and nutritional supplements. Widespread predatory marketing by list brokers. The record number of student loan defaults, and the associated credit damage that has occurred. These trends and forces are not small blips – they reveal a different reality: we’re not in the “age of the consumer.”

  20. Hi Jimmy, sorry for my late reply. Am enjoying some days of skiing 🙂

    Yes, I do not like either claim, as they are simply not true and are on top of this creating FUD amongst businesses. They are only serving software vendors, ideally those within a newly introduced category of customer experience management software (which is a contradiction in itself).
    We have reached the age of the customer when all (well, most) companies are adopting an outside-in view and define their success based upon making their customers successful. Part of it is also that we need to have truly equal powers of negotiation and an information imbalance that is not tilted towards sellers.
    I know that this is a vision (and as such not achievable).
    Rgds
    Thomas

  21. Fascinating discussion! I’ll limit myself to three comments:

    Bob got it right when he said “Forrester defined ‘Age of the customer’ as a shift in power to consumers, not a statement that customers were ‘in control.’” When I graduated college and started my first real job (in direct marketing) it was 1977. Lest we forget, at that time paper catalogs were still a big business, and the ordering mechanism was a phone (maybe with a rotary dial). If you wanted to compare features of competitive products from different vendors, or compare prices of the same products sold by different vendors, you spread whatever catalogs you had on your kitchen table or drove to a bunch of stores. Today, comparing products and services is vastly easier online, and you can buy those products and services with a few clicks — that is absolutely a POTENTIAL shift in power to consumers.

    Second, sadly, not all customers do the minimal work needed to seize the power that’s available to them. At Forrester we have a consumer segmentation ranging from Reserved Resisters (probably not using all those spiffy new tools to empower themselves) to Progressive Pioneers (brand loyalty? what’s that?). So until and unless everyone jumps on the empowerment train it is going to be a shift in power, not a reversal of power.

    Third, of course companies are adapting. I’m sure you wouldn’t have expected anything else. Some are doing it by trying to have the best possible customer experience consistent with their brand and business mode (yay!), and some are playing fast and loose with everything from customer data to (as in a few instances cited in this thread) fraud (boo!). So I see this as a seesaw or pendulum that is not going to stop swinging any time soon.

  22. Harley, thanks for joining the discussion. You (and Kerry) and Forrester have been instrumental in the age of the customer message so it’s nice to hear Your POV here.

    Thomas, thank you for this: “We have reached the age of the customer when all (well, most) companies are adopting an outside-in view and define their success based upon making their customers successful.”

    I agree, and think this sums up the vision behind Forrester’s claim.

  23. Hi Harley, thanks for chiming in! So let me challenge you a little …
    The age of the customer is a seesaw or a pendulum? What you are basically postulating with your words is that customers are given the short end of the a straw. Hence a strong regulation regime is needed to balance out the powers. Could you elaborate on your statement? (but then I do not think you are, just for the records)
    And you are right, of course I expect companies to adapt (or else they die).
    Rgds
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  24. Is it really debatable that in the past 20 years there’s been a shift of power/control to customers? Granted there are exceptions, and some vendors are fighting back, but I think the overall trend is patently obvious. Customers have more choices in the market, have an easier time comparing options, and when things go wrong can complain publicly on social media.

    From an introduction to customer success management from a Gainsight e-book.
    >>
    Customer Success is a natural outcome of massive changes in the economy:
    • Globalization and technology have dropped the barrier to entry for businesses.
    • Lowered barrier to entry allows new entrants to disrupt almost every established category.
    • New entrants have created lower-friction business models.
    • Lower-friction business models make it easy for customers to try and buy—with shorter-term pricing (monthly or yearly); granular consumption (per minute, per CPU cycle, per user, per click); and easier deployment (cloud and mobile).
    • At the same time, this lower friction makes it easier for customers who “try” and “buy” to say “bye” and leave.
    • At the end of the day, customers have the power and customers have choice.
    • Customers with choice will choose to stay with vendors who deliver the outcomes and success they desire.
    • Indeed, customers will start expecting vendors to focus on success as more of them do so and as their applications as consumers (e.g., Uber) do such a great job at this.
    >>

    Yes, companies are adapting — by being more customer-centric (mostly). Why else would some 80% of executives claim they embrace Customer Experience (outside-in) strategy?

    If you disagree that most customers have more power/control, I’d like to see some evidence. And by evidence, I don’t mean an anecdote or two of companies abusing their power. Show me an industry where customers have less choice/power/control than they had 20 years ago.

  25. Hi Bob,

    sorry, couldn’t answer earlier and yes, I do disagree. Choice does not equate power nor control. Counter examples that you asked for include the prevalence of membership programs that are disguised as loyalty programs in retail, airline or other industries. These are more geared towards increasing the barrier of leaving than to convincing me to stay.

    Look into the (cloud) software industry. While vendors regularly claim how easy it is to switch they at the same time try to bind their customers through longer term contracts (which contradict the idea of a subscription economy). Then there is the regularly cited gap between what company execs think and say about their orientation and the actual customer perception. Lastly, as another piece of evidence, look at my last CRM evolution presentation where I cite some Forrester stats about what retailers think is important to their customers and what customers do think.

    I do not say that the situation isn’t improving but I do say that there is more competition that gives more choice. I actually think that Harley Manning is right with his pendulum metaphor.

    Am curious to read Paul G.’s position in his upcoming book.
    Cheers
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  26. OK, so your position is that consumers have less power/control/choices than they did 20 years ago?

    Remember my point was about the overall trend:
    “… in the past 20 years there’s been a shift of power/control to customers”

    Let’s take your favorite example — technology. Software to be precise.

    20 years ago Siebel was the leading CRM vendors. Reps sold licenses and disappeared. Shelfware abounded.

    Now we have cloud-based software. Sure vendors try to get long-term contracts and make it difficult to switch. But there are thousands of solutions available and a number of review sites like G2Crowd. Switching major vendors/platforms is still hard, but not harder than 20 years ago.

    You’re arguing that for customers to have more control, we should got back to the days of license software?

  27. HI Bob,

    my position is that there hasn’t been any change. There isn’t more nor less power/control as there was before. There is more information. And there is is an increased need for vetting the trustworthiness of this information. Maybe one should talk about data instead of information …

    I am arguing that in order to justify a claim like ‘we are in the age of the customer’, businesses need to drastically and consistently change their mindset and approach. And I am saying I think that those companies which do, will have an edge over the other ones. That is all.

    On a side track: The shelf ware issue is pretty much the same as it was. Vendors are selling more users (subscriptions) than their customers need. They are also selling ‘bigger’ editions than necessary for the customer via two means: The different tiers of subscriptions are built in a way that one needs to go into higher (more expensive) tiers because some essential needs are covered only in higher tiers. Second, customers are still lured into buying the ‘bigger’ edition that generally gives more features because they might need it in a few years. Additionally, vendors are trying to tie customers into long term contracts.
    From an outcome point of view this is the same as the shelfware phenomenon of the old days: Customers are tied in and are paying for software that they do not really use. One could say (and I am not sure whether I want to take this position) that many vendors have just transcribed the concepts and methods they applied before to another delivery model. That could be some food for thought.

    We haven’t reached a usage based billing stage yet.

    We could talk retail, too, or utilities, or banking, or insurcance, or telco, or travel, …

  28. Thomas, I think you’re giving “age of customer” a different meaning than Forrester. As Harley said, Forrester defined the term as a “shift in power to consumers” — not that businesses have “drastically and consistently change their mindset and approach.”

    That said, it’s clear from the massive investments in CRM and CX thinking, processes, and systems, that businesses have been responding. As the recent CX study revealed, they are in different stages of maturity. But they are responding… to something. A shift in power, or just out of the goodness of their hearts?

    You and Andy have brought up some great points about how *some* businesses have abused their power in the past, and other continue to do so. That doesn’t, in my opinion, wipe out the bigger trend.

    But it’s just my opinion. I wonder if there has been any good research done on the shift of power. Has it really happened, or it is just a perception? Or a marketing fiction promoted by vendors that want to seem “customer friendly”?

    To restate an earlier point, “power” comes from something. Consumer don’t get more power just because they want it, they gain power when there is more competition and lower barriers to change. And when their complaints on social media have real impact.

    That’s true in many industries, but not all. Not in cable until recently. Not in airlines with industry consolidation. Not in US public utilities, where consumers have no choice. But the broader trend, I believe, is a tilt in the balance of power to customers. Why else would we see so much interest in CXM?

    It’s true that businesses are either adapting, or fighting back, depending on your point of view. Using (and sometimes abusing) digital information is one method. Buying competitors is another. But have these tactics offset the gains consumers have made? I don’t think so.

    It would be interesting to study this further, to see if the Age of the Customer that Forrester proclaimed has really happened.

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