Do We Really Believe the Customer Is in Charge?

Wherever you look, more and more people are writing about how the customer is now in charge of the conversation between buyer and seller. We point to the internet in general and web 2.0 tools in particular. We note the range of choices for consumers and the intense competition that creates among companies. And we write that we must create great products, deliver on our brand promises and exceed our customers’ expectations.

All of that is true. But do we honestly and genuinely believe it? Yes, I’m sure that many of us do. Most of us, though, really aren’t walking the talk.

Here’s what I mean.

In order to give “them” a better online experience, we load their machines with our cookies, which enable us to push more of what we want customers to buy onto their screens. We place online ads based on keyword searches or browsing history. And it gets worse. Some of us stoop so low as to bait web surfers with what appears to be what they are seeking, when in fact it is nothing of the kind or little more than a glorified link farm.

We see it in other places as well. Software companies deciding to no longer support older software so that you must upgrade to the newer version. Products having new formulas or packaging that don’t work as well as before. Mobile phones and services coming in bundles with extra stuff we don’t want or need.

Don’t get me started on credit and mortgage companies.

Another prime example: our local newspaper has called on numerous occasions wanting us to buy a subscription. I asked them if I could get delivery on Sundays and major holidays only. I won’t read the paper the rest of the week. It would be a waste of paper, time and effort on their part. Politely, the person on the other side of the phone tells me that I can buy a Sunday subscription that will include the rest of the week at no extra cost.

I, the customer, offers the newspaper, the seller hemorrhaging money, an easy way to be more profitable. Charge me the same amount that you would anyway, just make about 200 fewer deliveries per year. Of course, they want to put a paper in my driveway daily. It improves their overall circulation, which they use to justify their ad revenue. Instead of delivering what I want, and changing their ad revenue model, they forgo the subscription in it entirety.

It’s time we stop talking about putting the customer in control and start actually doing it. You might find it to be a highly profitable proposition.

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One Response

  1. Great post and timely too. Today I went to a new neighborhood eatery called. It’s a cool “grill” that sells it’s tasty burgers in bundles only: burger, fries and a soda. I ordered 2 “sets” but my wife wanted lemonade instead. Can I get a lemonade instead of soda? The attendant responded with a gleeful “Nope, it’s a package deal”. Can I pay the difference and get lemonade and you keep the soda? Another gleeful “Nope”, you need to buy the lemonade in addition to the meal. “So I need to take a coke I don’t want, waste it, and buy a lemonade?” How about a $.25 trade-in (the coke was $1.50 individually, I wasn’t asking for much). A less happy and mostly indignant “Nope, it’s our policy”.

    I bought the lemonade, filled an entire cup with coke (no ice) and left it sitting by the soda machine. Good for them, they upsold me to a lemonade!

    Customers are like teeth…ignore them and they will go away.

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