The Changing Role Of The Customer In Business


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The last several years have brought a radical change in the relationship between the customer and business as a whole. More and more customers are collaborating with businesses and technology is playing a key role in this new collaboration.

An increasing percentage of interaction with customers is coming by way of social networks and online communities. These interactions include suggestions for product improvement, requests for help, information requests and even customers assisting their counterparts directly. These customer conversations are driving the need for the business to respond in a timely fashion and to also convince potential customers of their ability to adequately take care of their needs.

This is causing the establishment of a close collaborative effort between the business and the customer base. Sales and any other part of the organization that is in direct contact with the customer needs to listen closely to the conversation in order to hear what the customer is saying. Any data that is gathered needs to be analyzed so that not only does the business then understand which customers comprise the target market, but also how those customers think and how they communicate.

Even more importantly, with more customers using online communities and social networks, it is essential that the key phrases that the business uses are the same as the key phrases that the customer uses in their posts on Facebook and LinkedIn or in their tweets on Twitter. It also allows the business to search engine optimize its web site because the language used to describe the content and the keywords used are the ones the favorite customers are accustomed to.

So now, the business has a marketing message that resonates with the customer because it is geared towards solving the customer pain and is in a language the customer understands. The customers can begin to feel that the business is listening and that they are being heard.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Smith
YCHANGE International
Jim Smith mentors entrepreneurial start-ups and counsels small to mid sized companies that are looking to expand or are under performing or under capitalized.


  1. Hi Jim Your post got me thinking that all this social media “stuff” does not apply to 90% of businesses who can actually pick up the phone or visit their clients. I mean many SME’s around the world with clients in the 100’s rather than the 1000’s. The question is do they have this dialogue ? In my experience the answer is no. So while social media can facilitate customer dialogue, perhaps we need to step back to first convince all businesses of the need and the skills required for this dialogue to take place. Social media may just have forced us “back to basics.”

  2. Ray:

    You are soooo right. I teach a class in marketing for small businesses and I stress the need to have direct conversations with customers in order to understand the customers pain and also to get a feel for the language the customer uses. This does not have to be web based only. Social media is also ‘word of mouth’ and that is as basic as it can get.

    Thanks for the comment.


  3. I absolutely agree; the secret to driving customer satisfaction is meeting customer needs quickly and effectively. And that means knowing your customers and anticipating their needs so you can provide a personalized experience that gives them what they want, when they want it, via the channel they choose. In many cases, that’s through social networks. In other cases, it’s through email, text messaging or phone. Therefore, companies must focus on personalization and preference management that is driven by the customer.

    By asking customers a series of simple questions, businesses can tailor the kind of information their customers receive, as well as when and how they receive it. For instance, businesses shouldn’t just ask customers if they wish to receive information about the company’s products or services; instead they should ask:

    • What kind of information would you like to receive? Be specific. Does the customer want reminders or advance notice of special services or offerings?
    • Do you want to receive this information via phone, email, mail, or do you prefer to have it texted to you?
    • How often would you like to receive information?
    • What time of day do you prefer to receive communications?

    Now that you have asked some basic questions, you can make better choices about how to engage with customers. And, once you have delivered relevant and personalized information to your customers – ask again. In fact, keep asking. When the customer comes back and says, “Yes, you’re right. I want that kind of information. Please keep sending it to me,” or “I would prefer to receive information about ….,” then you will know you have created a virtuous circle of customer preference. This customer-guided approach to customer engagement can transform a business into a profit-generating machine because companies are built on individual happy customers, one at a time.

    Scott Zimmerman, Business Leader at

  4. Thanks, Scott.

    I might also add that you need to understand the words your customer uses in reference to your product/service/business (area) so that you can better communicate the information the customer requested and complete the virtuous circle.


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