As Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff highlight in their recent book, Smart Customers (Stupid Companies): Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How to Be One of Them, today's customers are borderline superheroes because they are, in a sense, all-knowing, ultra-aware, and supersensitive.
"Right now, smart customers can 'see' traffic jams two miles ahead – and avoid them. They can 'sniff out' delicious food being prepared 5.4 miles away – and reserve a table at that top-ranked restaurant in an instant. They can 'hear' the falsehoods in the voice of a pushy, unethical salesperson and recognize the precise factual errors he has stated – and locate elsewhere exactly the price, features, and delivery they require," they write in Smart Customers (Stupid Companies).
While these "superhero" customers are off saving the world each day, they depend on their technological sidekicks to keep them connected and current. Tablets, PCs, and smartphones provide access to unlimited knowledge at a moment's notice. This constant contact allows customers to find out everything they need to know about a product or service without stepping foot in a store.
Yet, while intelligence may be everywhere, companies across the board continue to behave stupidly—and customers are beginning to take notice, according to Hinshaw and Kasanoff.
In Smart Customers (Stupid Companies) Hinshaw and Kasanoff make the case that as today's customers embrace new technology and lifestyles—often accepting change that takes the customer experience to the next level—many companies are grounded in the systems and processes they've always used, making it difficult for them to break away from data silos and cultivate a cross-channel customer experience. Hinshaw and Kasanoff believe that companies are "dumb" for not using the technology available to connect with their customers in an intelligent way, and for not speaking to them in a proactive manner that allows the company to learn how customers interact and what improvements need to be made.
When companies lack a unified experience, customers become frustrated by the difference in experience quality from channel to channel. According to Hinshaw and Kasanoff, 82 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a company after only one poor experience. Customers quickly grow tired of repeating their personal and contact information at every touchpoint. Repetition of the sort does not often lead to loyalty, only irritation.
"Worse yet," Hinshaw and Kasanoff write, "it's stupid to be so obliviously oblivious to your customer. They can tell that they're not seen as individuals, and that their wants and needs are neither addressed nor understood."
Hinshaw and Kasanoff recommend that companies tune in to what their customers want so they can connect with them using the channels customers prefer, not just the channels already in place. Businesses must break from their comfort zone of tried-and-true methods to embrace the budding technologies that are quickly changing the way customers research and make purchases, the authors note. Companies must remain relevant, yet reliable, providing a cohesive experience that enhances customer loyalty and better serves the organization as a whole.