age of the customer

Age of the customer is the concept that consumers are more empowered than ever because they can access information about products and services over the Internet in real time. 

The customer's ability to quickly access information has resulted in a sea change in the marketplace. In the past, vendors held the most power because they were the only ones who knew what the profit margin would be for a particular product or service.  Today, informed customers are able to research a product or service online and negotiate prices and service levels after comparing one vendor to another. As a result, companies have had to change the way they interact with potential customers in order to build a customer base and foster loyalty. 

Previously, for example, when a customer entered an automobile showroom, he had no idea how much money the dealer would really make on a sale. Today, the customer can not only research the dealer's costs online, he can also research the competitor's pricing for the exact same vehicle with the exact same features. This paradigm shift has allowed the customer to have more confidence when negotiating a fair and reasonable price. It has also caused the car dealership to refashion virtually every aspect of their operations to address this new active, informed customer base or run the risk of consumer defection to other dealerships.  

Marketing departments have had to adjust their messaging strategies to meet the needs of more informed consumers, using customer data to move from mass-consumed messaging to more personalized messages aimed at particular consumer segments or individuals. They also have begun to use new messaging tactics, such as inbound marketing, social media marketing and content marketing to engage potential customers and provide resources that inform and educate. 

Sales departments have also had to adjust their methods for the Age of the customer. They are working more closely with  information technology (IT) departments to get better information about their existing customer base and using data to nurture leads and customer retention efforts. Customer service representatives and contact centers have also been at the forefront of adjusting to the Age of the customer. Today's consumers have often researched the product they are calling about online before contacting the vendor. This means that customer service reps have to be more informed about products and more knowledgeable in their dealings with customers to ensure customer satisfaction.

Another change is that consumers are also more likely to try to contact a company through multiple communication channels at any time of the day or night. In addition to picking up the telephone, a customer may reach out for information or help by sending an email, conducting a live chat on the company's website and using social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. The proliferation of these communication channels has placed new burdens on customer service departments to respond to consumer communications quickly and maintain an integrated view of communication channels. 

Although the balance of power now seems to favor the customer, vendors are also benefiting from the Age of the customer. Companies have more access to customer data than ever before and with that data comes new opportunities for bringing in sales, taking advantage of dynamic pricing, lowering customer acquisition costs and improving offerings by integrating consumer suggestions.

This was last updated in December 2014

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