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In the Internet age, the customer is queen, and she can cut your head off



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I was invited to speak at a conference last week and had to travel to get there. On getting to my destination, I checked into my hotel room.

The hotel had a good reputation but I found myself in an old, stuffy room that had a stale smell.

The smell was so bad, I had to stay outside on the balcony for a considerable time.

I called the reception and asked to be moved to another room, and they were very apologetic.

I was expecting to be moved in a few minutes. However, over an hour later nothing had happened so I had to call again and threaten to check out of the hotel because I couldn’t take it any more.

A few minutes later, I was in a beautiful room with nothing to complain about.

But what was supposed to make me happy now actually got me angrier. I thought to myself that the hotel must really think lowly of me.

How else could they explain that they had this lovely room as an option but decided that what I deserved was the stale smelly room that they first put me in? If they had nice rooms, why would they also have dingy rooms?

It was clear that they knew what was right and they had the capacity to deliver it, but they chose mediocrity instead by keeping the stale, smelly rooms.

When we tolerate mediocrity, it will take over the business and determine how the business is defined.

Mediocrity is about things that are substandard. It is a choice that people and businesses make when they think they have arrived.

It is one of the products of the arrogance of success. It is a mindset that says people will buy what you’re selling anyway.

It is a mindset that is so focused on profit that it forgets that numbers are generated by people and that without the people there will be no numbers.

No business has a life of its own. Every business takes its shape from its leadership.

When people in leadership do not steer their organisations in the direction of excellence, then there is a problem.

A time comes when founders have to step aside for new thinking or the organisation will begin a sure and certain journey into mediocrity.

The founders’ thinking and the growers’ thinking are different. Growers cannot take organisations forward using founders’ thinking.

The explosion of the Internet has expanded opportunities. A person in Nairobi can have a business partner in China.

A person going to Mombasa may find that there are more options of hotels and places to go than they knew.

The Internet has provided the most powerful tool for the customer — access to more choice. As a result, businesses can no longer just focus on selling their product or service.

Organisations must realise that choice gives the customer power, and the saying remains true that the customer indeed is king.

If you please the king you remain in the kingdom. Upset the king and the king will cut your head off.

Products and services are not enough to please the king anymore, and the king is aware of this. So many people have the same products and services.

How then do we please the king?

The era in which we live is best described as the experience economy.

It is an economy not solely driven by products and services as in the past, but more by experiences.

The organisation that is therefore able to deliver the best experiences will secure the pleasure of the king, that is the customer.

If you are competitor-focused and you are at the top of your industry today, where do you go? But if you’re customer-focused and you’re at the top, you can secure your lead because there are always new ways to wow your customers.

You have to define the experience that you want to give them and plan strategically.

Putting a customer in a stale, smelly room is suicidal in this experience economy. That hotel represents the kind of business that has become an endangered species.

Today’s customers are becoming more and more intolerant of mediocrity and companies that dish it out will soon be banished from the kingdom.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer at PowerTalks.

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