If the customer really was king then power would reside with those who are closest to the customer.

The old model of organization and societal structures is being challenged as never before. Leaders need followers and increasingly the followers are becoming less loyal, more skeptical, less willing to follow.

Old model propaganda held that the customer was king; that the customer was more important than anything else. For a lot of organizations that was never true. However, marketing, advertising and communications did a pretty good job at pretending it was true. And for years, customers went along with the story, willing to be led, willing to have their loyalty exploited with higher prices and poor services.

How do you know you work for an old model organization? Are the most powerful people in your organization those who interact most with your current customers? Are these people the most respected and highest paid?

Or are the most powerful people in your organization those who sell and market to potential customers? Those who make promises to new customers? Or those who count the money that’s made from overcharging current customers?

In many organizations, the current customer is so disrespected that support is outsourced. You outsource the things that matter least to you. You outsource to save money. You outsource because you don’t care. You outsource because you don’t think something is a core competence.

For many organizations, looking after their current customers is not seen as a core competence. Some way to treat a king!

Learning Opportunities

That’s all going to change, at least for those organizations that want to remain relevant in the digital economy. The customer isn’t just king in a digital economy; the customer is dictator. Those organizations that deliver an excellent experience to current customers will thrive. Those that don’t will wither. It’s as simple as that.

This will require a radical strategic and cultural shift for most organizations. This is what digital transformation is about: transforming from organization-centric to customer-centric.

Prioritizing the customer experience starts with prioritizing the people within your organization who deliver that experience. And that starts with Support. In a digital economy, support is the new marketing, support is the new sales. The new model ethos is that everyone is there to support the customer; everyone is there to create a great customer experience.

This is a dramatically different culture than the one we find today in many organizations. The old model ethos is that the organization is there to support management. The top of the hierarchy is not the customer; it is senior management. Staff don’t work for the customer. They work for their managers and their focus is on pleasing their managers, not pleasing their customers. That old model is broken, but it will take time for it to fully wither away.

It’s an exciting though risky time, if you are a customer champion. The future of organizations depends on implementing genuine customer centricity. However, most organizations don’t actually realize that putting the customer first will upend the traditional organizational hierarchy.