The Force is with the customer

Jim Blasingame

Earth, Stardate 8507 (20th century)
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, businesses controlled all information about their products, services and innovations. Consequently, customers learned what they needed to know from salespeople, who traveled far and wide dispensing information to, and collecting sales from, grateful and beholden customers.

If one had observed such a meeting, the customer would have nodded his head in wonderment as the salesperson revealed the virtual magic that was his product.

In this land, the Force – control of information and availability – was with businesses.

Earth, Stardate 10907 (21st century)
On present-day planet Earth, some things haven’t changed. Customers still buy from businesses that still release product information. But observing a customer and salesperson today you will see the former explaining how much she knows about the business’ products, while the salesperson nods his head in wonderment. In this universe, the salesperson is grateful and beholden, if the customer gives him her business.

In the 21st century, the Force – access to information and control of its distribution – is with the customer. It began with the remote control, then video recorders, TiVo, DVR, Internet, on-demand everything and, finally, what is commonly known as social media.

Social media, or, preferably for business purposes, online customer communities, is the Light Saber of 21st century consumers and business customers. Armed with this power and other online tools, customers not only have access to the information they need to make a better decision, but they also control the sub-space chatter about any given company or product as it is being evaluated in the online dimension.

Alas, too many small businesses are still operating a Stardate 8507 strategy in Stardate 10907. The predominant emotion identified when observing one of these companies is frustration that they have diminishing control over customer relationships and, therefore, their future.

Scotty won’t be able to beam you up if you don’t learn that the only way to end this frustration and find your way to the Force is to embrace the online community reality and join the conversations that are being conducted about your business, competitors and industry.

The good news is that this “joining” is not only relatively easy, but also can be done with minimal direct cost. If you don’t know how, ask a 25-year old customer.

Write this on a rock… In the 21st century, the Force is with the customer.

Jim Blasingame is creator and host of the Small Business Advocate Show. Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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