Soon we will be in the second half of 2009, and many experts think we are out of the economic dark woods. The same experts who predicted continued economic growth until the downturn closed in like we were stuck inside of a trash compactor. Those experts. There is one refreshing change from 2001 and 2002, however. Back then there were headlines like, “X’s software saw the downturn coming. Now he says tech is ready to roll.” Whether that statement was exactly correct or not is not the point. We have been living through an age where we went along with experts in the faith that their numbers and information were reliable.
Today we have at least given up our crystal balls and forecasts based on what we thought were solid facts in favor of looking more carefully at what the information really means. We have also matured in our understanding of customers. For customer relationships we are going increasingly right to the customer, mixing in with them in forums and discussions, analyzing their buying patterns, listening to their comments inside of IVR, in email, on the phone, in their internet postings, and even in their physical travel – from home to work to restaurant to vacation spot. On an aggregate view we are even seeing where types of consumers are gathering (see Citysense, a product of Sense Networks).
On the down side, many businesses are pulling away from customer-centric projects because they cannot measure the payback this quarter or over the next two quarters. Instead the CIO is working on behalf of the CEO and board to cut costs. More outsourcing, more self service, fewer support personnel, less customer-innovation. Back to the bad old days of ‘cut costs at all expense.’ Companies bucking this recent trend should exploit your competitor’s shortsightedness – now is the time to grab market share from businesses that shortchange the customer.