Seybold: Customers have stolen control from companies

WASHINGTON -- CRM and Napster may seem worlds apart, but the rise of Napster shows just how the business landscape is changing. Customers are in control of businesses and companies need to find ways to survive this shifting climate, according to Patricia Seybold, founder and CEO of Boston-based Patricia Seybold Group, speaking here at the Customer 360 conference.

The rise of Napster was triggered by a customer revolt, spearheaded by college students sick of paying high prices for music. Its widespread usage is due to customers showing that they want to try different genres of music before they buy the full CD.

"Renegade customers transformed an entire industry," Seybold said.

Thanks to the Internet customers are now taking control of the way companies do business in other ways.

Cisco found that selling directly from the Internet forced it to change the way it does business, too, Seybold said. Customers in other parts of the world were viewing pricing information for the U.S. Meanwhile, local distributors were quoting prices 30% to 40% higher than the online prices, so customers were buying online. Cisco, after realizing the customer shift, put more money into expanding international plants and "got very efficient, very fast" to meet customer need, she said.

The message is clear: this is the dawn of the customer economy. The next shift for companies is for them to give their customers access to all of their information, including how the customer is classified in the marketing system, said Seybold, who also recommended that companies give employees bonuses based on customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, companies need to remember four key points when it comes to their customers, Seybold said. They need to use CRM to transform their businesses and meet the customer's needs; avoid segregating Internet initiatives from other interaction touchpoints, such as the telephone; offer customers a blended channel strategy and channel partners the tools to deliver this to customers; and measure customer value.

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