As customers become more powerful, organizations need to become more flexible and responsive. 

“Yes, consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed and choice-saturated than ever-before (we know you know),” the Trendwatching article entitled "Servile Brands" states. “For brands to prosper, the solution is simple though: turn servile. This goes far beyond offering great customer service. Servile means turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.”

Consumers are more demanding today than ever before. However, this gives rise to a paradox. On the one hand, they feel much more in control and empowered. They want to make the news on social media, not just consume it. On the other hand, they feel under pressure. “A survey by research company Datamonitor found that 44% of consumers across 14 countries now say that it’s difficult to manage their daily obligations and find time to relax,” Trendwatching states.

So, consumers need help. But they need it on their terms. They want it all and they want it easy. They want to free up more time so they can be more engaged. They want to communicate more with family, friends and peers. The more they learn the more they learn to distrust official sources, whether they be governments, media, religions or brands.

Trendwatching quotes a range of studies which show a sharp decline in consumer trust. For example:

  • Only 47 percent of consumers around the world say they trust paid media (television, magazine and newspaper ads), a decline of over 20 percent since 2009.
  • Only 29 percent of consumers in Brazil, China and India say that it pays to be loyal to favored brands

At the heart of most organizations is a belief that they are special, unique, that they are the center of the universe. The potential customer is an unbeliever who needs to be converted to the right path. Once they see the light and purchase the product they will be forever loyal. It’s all about conversion.

“Understand that the days of revered brands are over,” Trendwatching states. “It’s not about telling your customers that you are important, and they can have a slice of you if they pay for it. Instead, it’s about telling customers: 'Whatever you need or want, we’re here to help' (or even better, 'We know what you want, here, we’ve already done it for you').”

Service is hard. It requires a degree of humility. Focusing on being loyal to the customer rather than trying to make the customer loyal to you runs against traditional organizational thinking. To be a servant in the world of the customer is just too hard for many egos.

Walking with the customer on their journey and making things better along the way is not nearly as exciting for many marketers as sitting there as some maestro defining the journey that you will then convince the customer into taking.

We now live in the customers’ world. Brands are at best guests at the table. It’s a world of peers and sharing, of comments, ratings and reviews. It’s a show me world. It’s a world of service.