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Time for customer equality

25th Jun 2020
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Our article in April looked at setting customers at the heart of change. Now we are looking towards another aspect of the business/customer relationship; customer equality.

This article is not intended to be an exploration of the various equality and discrimination regulations that currently exist in society. There are articles out there that have done a great job highlighting these. Instead, we are looking at just a couple of ways in which decisions by directors can unwittingly affect groups of customers.

Before we do so let’s admit that in many businesses the 80/20 rule applies with 20% of customers bringing 80% of the profit. And again there are plenty of articles out there showing companies how to interact with that 20% in order to retain them as loyal customers. But in doing so are we effectively discriminating against the 80%, in the process of missing out on a vast untapped resource? After all, the casual caller of today could be the profit driver of tomorrow.

Who owns the product?

So how might we be discriminating? Let’s just take one product for example. Now this might be an existing product or one in development, a flagship source of revenue or simply a steady income stream. Whatever the product it doesn’t matter, but you have looked at this product and decided that a few simple changes could increase its longevity or improve its profitability. So you go out to your focus group, you bat the idea around with a few of your key customers, and you decide to go ahead.

However, while the proposed change may suit those key customers it may disenfranchise others; potentially alienating much of the 80% group and actually resulting in a fall in revenue over the long-term. The answer is better market research, better liaison across customer groups, and to be more in tune with all of your customer base. But how many companies actually take that important step?

The problem is even more stark when one key customer requests a change. The initial impulse may well be to either look towards meeting that request or coming up with a workaround that accommodates your customer whilst keeping the core product unchanged .

But if you change the product without considering how that change impacts the rest of your customer base you are back to potentially alienating existing customers. On the other hand, if you look towards a workaround then you are saddling your people with an ongoing change requirement which will impact on their workloads and therefore on their ability to serve other customers.

Customer awareness is key

So customer awareness is key. And that awareness extends into multiple areas across the organisation. Your metrics might tell you that you sell a lot of a certain product at a specific time of day. You may even use those metrics to target your just-in-time deliveries to coincide with that identified peak demand. But in doing so are you in danger of either artificially creating a demand peak or effectively disenfranchising certain groups of customers who can’t shop at that time and who therefore may not be able to benefit from product availability.

The same could be true about website structures or language, about product delivery protocols, or in fact any aspect of the business. When you target one, albeit profitable, group you potentially discriminate against others. Now you can’t please all the people all the time so the saying goes but you can make more holistic decisions which don’t simply look at pleasing the few at the expense of the many.

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