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GET TO KNOW THE CUSTOMER OF THE FUTURE NOW

by Rene T. Domingo (email comments to rtd@aim.edu)

The customers of the next millennium will present challenges and opportunities for both the manufacturing and service sectors. As customers shift buying habits, tastes, and purchasing paradigms, banks and other service providers will have to develop proactive quality plans. Otherwise, current products and services will become irrelevant, unappealing, and uncompetitive. It may not be enough in most cases to just revitalize or enhance existing services. It may be necessary to reinvent most of them to survive the new environment.

There are twelve distinct megatrends in customer behavior that will be apparent at the turn of the century and the millennium for which companies must make immediate and appropriate strategic responses and plans now.

First. The customers of the future will be value conscious, not cost conscious nor price conscious. They will not associate cheap price with high value, nor high price with high quality. Value for money will be the key purchase criterion. Premium pricing, cost-plus pricing, market entry pricing, and commodity pricing will become unfashionable and disastrous. The new paradigm will be "value pricing".

Second. The customers of the future will be highly informed, or "informationalized". The internet and other information technologies will highly increase their bargaining power and demands. They will be capable of electronic benchmarking and electronic window shopping. In other words, they will window shop not with their feet but with their fingers on the keyboard. E-commerce means they can instantaneously compare prices, interest rates, services, and quality of any product or service. Purchase contracts can be electronically "signed" in seconds, or cancelled in seconds if a better offer arrives on the screen within a minute of signing.

Third. The customers of the future will develop and acquire global tastes, global requirements, and global standards of quality. They will be well traveled physically and electronically, browsing through Webs of commercial information. Local products for local culture will become things of the past. The distinction between domestic and export sales, domestic and export quality will blur. Even pure domestic producers and service providers will have to deliver export quality expected by local consumers.

Fourth. The customers of the future will demand total satisfaction. They would pay for the product-service package inclusive of "before sales service" and "after sales service". In other words, they will pay for the "total experience", rather than just a mere product, or a mere service. Companies will have to shift paradigms from selling finished goods and services to selling an experience.

Fifth. The customers of the future will want to be delighted, not just satisfied. They will want their expressed as well as their unexpressed wishes catered to. They expect proactive rather than reactive services. They want manufacturers and service providers to read their minds, rather than ask questions and feedback.

Sixth. The customers of the future will be increasingly fastidious and perfectionist. They will demand product and service quality levels measured not in percentage, but in defects per million (dpm) of transactions, or defects per million (ppm). Purchase decisions and customer loyalty will be based on differences in these minute metrics of quality.

Seventh. The customers of the future will expect high and wide variety and assortment of products, services, and options. They will want their orders mass customized, rather than mass produced. They will want exact measurements rather than forced into standards offerings. Standardized products and services of the "one-size-fits-all" nature will be abhorred. Flexible manufacturing systems will most adaptive to this new customer behavior.

Eight. The customer of the future will expect short product lives. They will not expect long term durability, but will expect high reliability during the short life of the product. They will want new products and services to come out in continuous streams so that they can indulge in myriad of choices. Time-to-market reduction will be the key to competitiveness in this regard.

Ninth. The customers of the future will demand short ordering times and real time satisfaction. Order processing times of months and weeks will be standards of the past. Customers will only tolerate hours and minutes of waiting time. Delayed deliveries will be redefined in terms of fractions of an hour, not days. Processes will have to be reengineered to achieve these unforgiving requirements.

Tenth. The customers of the future will be process oriented rather than product oriented. They will judge not only the quality of the product and service, but also the quality of the management and the facilities that produce these. They will not settle for just brochures, blueprints, catalogues, and product samples. They will want to see the insides of factories and service establishments to check how people work and how process standards are met.

Eleventh. The customers of the future will order more frequently in smaller and smaller lots. They will want just-in-time deliveries, not early not late. In other words, they will not want to carry inventories or stocks. Economic lot size and economic order quantity will soon disappear in the vendor vocabulary, as customers demand order quantities approaching one piece.

Twelfth. The customers of the future will be environment conscious. They will prefer or insist on green products made by green processes. They will only buy from socially responsible companies which use environmentally friendly processes in coming out with their products and services. For instance, bank clients of the future may patronized only those banks which use documents made of recycled paper.

In conclusion, the customers of the future will be globalized, informationalized, perfectionists, process-oriented, time-conscious, and environment-conscious. As the saying goes, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.


 

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