We've all heard the saying that 'the customer is king'.
Whilst this may have been true 10-20 years ago, if a customer was unhappy with a company's offering they would either never shop there again, or worse, tell their friends and family about their experience. For local shop owners this could have been disastrous, but for bigger companies only a small issue if it was isolated.
In this regard, the customer has always been king because they're the ones who decide whether they'll buy something. But this power alone makes them king of only a small group of people, the people which they can influence.
Before the advent of digital, this sphere of influence was often limited to only a handful of people and physical boundaries.
For companies operating in today's business climate, customer complaints are far more dangerous than they used to be. Social media has given customers a platform to vent their frustrations in a open, shareable environment in front of millions of people.
An unforgiving environment for organisations, there's no room for them to ignore anyone, as an unanswered tweet can pick up steam and put whoever reads it off your company.
This is uncharted territory for many organisations and often slips them up. Bank of America's use of robots to answer all their customer tweets with the same response - 'we'd be happy to review your account account with you to discuss any concerns' is a good example of an established company not taking a new platform seriously and irritating its customers in the process.
On the flip side, the customer-led economy isn't just about everyone complaining, customers want to praise brands they like and often take to social media to do this. For companies, praise directly from customers is the best kind of marketing. Engaging content that's not just concerned with selling will always be met with praise, so it's important this is acted upon.
As mentioned before, this is unchartered territory for many companies. Whereas strategies were once designed to communicate to the masses, this customer-led revolution has meant that companies have had to rethink their strategies to increase individual engagement.
Although companies are undecided on how to best deal with this increased individuality, there's no doubt that technology has been the main enabler of it. Cloud-based applications and mobile will maintain this trend and when coupled with social media's continual development, will only serve to empower customers even further.
Senior management teams are aware of this as well, with an Economist Intelligence Unit report identifying that 80% of all executives found that their customer experience was enhanced by focussing on individuals.
The customer is now in the driving seat and this is only likely to be accentuated in the coming years. Customers demand a tailored approach and this should be central to an organisation's strategy going forward.