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Who do you want your customers to become? — A book review

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 1, 2013  |  2 Comments

The best book on customer experience, hands down, simple, powerful and provocative

Who do you want your customers to become is one of those rare books that bridges the gap between current practice and future innovation. Michael Schrage has taken a provocative and penetrating look at the changing nature of customers, their experiences, technologies and changing markets. In less than 100 pages Schrage achieves nothing less than a re-orientation and reconnection of innovation, value and customers in a way that every executive can understand and apply.

This eBook is a must read for any leader, CMO, CIO, etc. as it provides a way for companies to migrate their prior deterministic and control based views on customers, markets, products, services and experiences into a strategy that attracts customers rather than packs channels. Highly recommended.

Schrage’s central idea is simple. In a world of increased personalization, consumerization, information and competition, the central question firms need to ask is not who are my customers, but what do I want my customers to become?

That question — the ASK — in the book reflects the reality that “customers do not just adopt innovation, they alter tem, adapt them and are changed by them.” Those adaptations generally revolve around a common ideal — what they want to become.

Rather than fighting and constantly tinkering to catch up with changing customer expectations, why not orient your customer strategy along those lines — what they want to become in order to tap into their aspirations and evolve with them?

It’s a simple and powerful idea, one that changes the nature of marketing, customer interfaces and experiences. What makes this book superior is that Schrage then goes onto provide you with questions, examples and tools to re-orient your customer experience around the ASK.

Overall, this has been one of the best business books I have read in 2012. It is clear, concise, extremely well written, engaging and enlightening. It also provides a way forward for companies who look at consumerization, scratch their head and have no clear strategy for moving forward.

Highly highly recommended.


  • Clear, concise and well written. This book is engaging and I read it in just a few short sessions. Schrage avoids pontificating about the customer, technology etc. and gets right to the ASK and what it means to the customer and your company.
  • Illuminating examples that shed light on the ideas as well as help you consider how to implement the ASK in your enterprise.
  • Positive and negative examples of how the idea of what you customers want to become can work as well as create unintended consequences.
  • A new view on innovation with a focus on whom it is for, why you do it and what it means to customers and the company.


  • It’s a short eBook (a plus) but it does not allow Schrage to pack in content on other related ideas. There is limited discussion of organizational impact, changes to marketing, operations or technology. This is more of a limitation applied given the media than a lack of ideas in these areas as Schrage presents the ideas clearly enough that you can figure much of that out for yourself.
  • Limited discussion of how you implement an ASK based customer experience, strategy and value proposition. Again, this is more due to the focused nature of the book, and the support that is there – revisiting the fundamentals – is helpful and actionable.

Related Resources and Posts

Michael Schrage’s Blog on Harvard Business Review

The Digital Edge in Marketing: the customer experience in real time

Customer experience extends beyond quality of service and usability




Category: book-review  customer-experience  

Tags: book-review  customer-experience  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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