Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

Strategy and the empowered, social customer

June 16, 2013 -- Gerry McGovern

Customers are more powerful today. They are more social. This is the age of the customer, not the organization. Strategy must reflect these facts.
 
In the 2012-13 period, the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) helped save UK taxpayers £500 million. How did they do that? By adopting a radical approach. “In large part it’s because at GDS we focus on user needs,” Mike Bracken and Liam Maxwell state. “Relentlessly. This might sound at odds with a drive towards efficiency, but we have found it to be the best way to reduce cost.”
 
What GDS has managed to do is quite astonishing. I’ve been doing web consulting since 1994 and have consulted with governments in many, many countries. None of them focused relentlessly on people’s needs. Far more, they focused on politician’s needs and egos.
 
The first screen of the GOV.UK homepage has NO NEWS. It’s not trying to tell you anything. It just says: What do you want to do? That’s a radical strategy. Focus on peoples’ needs, not organizational ego.
 
What happens? Millions saved and GOV.UK becomes the first website ever to win the Design of the Year Award. Priceless publicity. Great news for government and great news for politicians.
 
Do. Don’t talk about doing. Don’t write a press release. Don’t create a big banner ad or a flashy video. Just do.
 
Customers (and employees) are tired of traditional communicators, marketers and advertisers. Customers are increasingly cynical and skeptical. They trust leaders less and their own peers more. They are more educated and do more research. They go online to complete a task.
 
Social media is not some channel in your marketing strategy. Social media is about people talking to people, customers talking to customers. It is the world of the customer, where the organization is a guest. This is a radical change. Organizations are used to telling customers what to do, what to buy. Organizations are used to controlling the message. Traditional organizations are simply not used to customers talking back.
 
Today, organizations must develop much greater empathy for their customers. In many organizations, customer interactions are controlled by a tight group of people (often in sales and support). Large parts of the organization, including product developers, marketers, content publishers and online professionals, have surprisingly little interaction with or knowledge of the customer.
 
Without interaction it is very hard to develop empathy. In an online world where customers are increasingly dominant, more in control, more impatient and less loyal, this is a recipe for increasing dissatisfaction. Developing organization-wide empathy for the customer should be a key consideration for modern management. At the most basic level, that means employees observing customer behavior much more.
 
Strategy must now consider the empowered, social customer and citizen because more than anything else this is how the game and playing field has changed. Strategies that embrace openness and transparency are more likely to succeed today. Strategies that tap into the collective intelligence or wisdom of the crowds are also more likely to be successful.
 
 
2012/13 Savings: Better for Less
 
 
Strategy & Online: How online is changing the game and the playing field for strategy development.; report from Gerry McGovern.