The birth of markets saw humans starting to choose to trade something in exchange for what they needed – not having to produce it themselves or having to take it from someone else in a forceful manner. Thousands of years saw effective, yet simple market trading governed by three primary elements:
The product, controlled by the seller
Product information, also controlled by the seller
The buying decision, controlled by the customer
Markets developed with the use of currency – from shells to coins to the variety of currencies used for trading today. Only in its infancy in the sixties it wasn’t until about 1993 that the seller controlled two of the three primary elements. The nighties saw the birth of micro-computers and innovations connecting people to the world of the web, shifting the marketplace elements’ balance of power from the seller to the customer – Enter the ‘Age of the Customer’. Although the millennia old marketplace is still not really complicated, the new leaders of this marketplace rule two of the three elements now:
Products and services are still controlled by the seller
The buying decision is still controlled by the customer
But information – including customer experiences – is now easily accessible in abundance to the customer without being controlled, filtered, or distributed by the seller
And don’t they know it! Customers today are embracing their new power, increasingly expecting sellers to connect with them through multiple channels – customers are now in control of a seller’s fate. In a world and age where customers rule, customer service too has changed. With more and more customer interactions originating online, customer service technology has to adapt to this change in customer behaviour.
Online customer service has to become the driving force behind modern day customer service delivery - a force for better self-service, for always on, mobile, social, web and agent answers being delivered in real time with knowledge base technology at the heart of it all. In the ‘Age of the Customer’ sellers can no longer afford to be nostalgic as they will become irrelevant and perish. Sellers accepting that they need to transition to this new Age with their customers will be successful - recognising that being competitive is no longer enough - you also have to be relevant delivering great customer service experience in a 24/7 access to information, anywhere on any device world.