Our Customers Have Changed


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In the last 10-to-15 years our customers have completely changed how they behave. This isn’t just about the digital revolution or the proliferation of apps. This is about how the behaviour of customers has changed.

Customers have changed how they buy.

A huge portion of customer buying journeys are completed without any interaction with the people in the business. In the customer buying journey that does require them to talk with a sales person, about 60-70% of their buying journey is complete before they talk with you.

What customers need and want from businesses has changed.

When they need it has changed. And how they need it (the experience) has also changed. We need to adapt our customer engagement practices to be aligned with the way customers engage and buy today.

These are my top five ways in which customers have changed


1. Customers are sales resistant.

No one wants to be sold Anything that looks like, sounds like or feels like selling, and the customer’s resistance rises. After decades of dodgy sales practice and stereotyped pushy sales behaviours, people today do not even really want to talk to anyone, especially someone they think is going to push them towards, what customers perceive, is best for the sales person and not the customer. In short, customers have had enough of being sold.

Today customers buy, they won’t be sold to.

2. This resistance to selling has triggered a self-service revolution.

Customers want to do it themselves. It seems the optimal experience for a customer today is not when they can access the experience and advice of someone from the business to help them make a decision, but when they can make the decision and purchase themselves. If they want advice, they will check in with their social networks first.

3. Customers have more information available to them than ever before.

Not only about the products, services features and benefits, but also about what other customers, friends and colleagues are saying about the supplier or product. So much content, expert reviews, ‘independent’ sources that have done the comparisons for them and the reviews and comments from other customers. Especially those reviews and comments from other customers, real people just like the customer, with no bias (well, not much). Customers will do their research, read the reviews of other people, ask around and then decide for themselves.

4. Customer expectations are rising.

About service, product performance and the companies they chose to deal with. Some businesses have really nailed the customer experience, and with that then our expectations as customers have risen. Often to the point where the service and experience that a lot of organisations provide is no longer good enough. Or by comparison, seems ‘clunky’ or ‘unprofessional’, not what the customer expected. At that point the customer disengages or worse becomes a detractor.

5. We have entered into an experience economy

Customers are making their purchasing and advocacy decisions far more on their overall experience.
We all could probably identify half a dozen examples of where we spend based on the experience, our favourite coffee shop or restaurant. Additionally, if we connect with the purpose of the business, we will connect on a values and emotional level. Customers definitively provide word of mouth based on the overall experience they have, and the connection they feel.

Experience is important – how the engagement is done is critical.

But there are also macro changes. For example, consider the music business. It has been digitised significantly. However not that long ago music artists and bands made records/CDs and then went on tour to promote the sales of their albums. Today, artists produce music and songs which are digital, cheap and easily accessible. So now, they produce music so that when they go on tour so that their legion of fans come to the show. This is where the majority of the money is for these artists. They now produce music, so that they can sell concert tickets. What does the customer buy, an experience. Expensive tickets to hear the same songs they have on their phones – but it is about the experience they have at the concert. This industry has transitioned to the experience economy.

Call to action

How are these changes affecting your customers..?

Are you still using the ‘tried and true’ sales and marketing tactics from last century..?

We need to adapt our customer engagement practice to suit the new environment our customers are in.

We need to improve how we communicate the value we create for the our ideal customer. We need to align our engagement approach with how customers buy.

And today, it is no longer about closing sales, but opening relationships with customers we would love to have in our portfolio.

Mark Hocknell
Mark is a Customer Centric Business specialist with experience spanning three decades, from line management to consulting and academia. Based in south east Queensland, Australia, Mark led one of the first, large scale CRM deployments for one of Australia's leading financial institutions. For the last fifteen years Mark has consulted to leading organisations in Australia, as well as small-to-medium sized businesses. He is the author of Profit by Design: how to build a customer portfolio full of profitable promoters.


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