Posted on 04-12-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

"Customer is King" is jargon that may not be right. That’s because a king has aura, by law everybody pays him obeisance, and he has administrative responsibilities, but the customer is a free bird. This free bird wants no cage that binds him/her to duties. At the same time he/she wants to be caressed by a brand, to experience its human sensitivity. Very few companies in the world can drive with end-customer desire. An enterprise, big or small, often loses this criterion by giving too much importance to backend engineering when installing the value system. By itself an enterprise is an asset, its goodwill is the end customer’s desire inclination toward its product or service.

What is the meaning of a brand’s human sensitivity? In an Indian airport you suddenly see a famous German automobile company publicly exhibiting its new vehicle. Written prominently beside it is, "Do not touch the car." What can this mean? You are exposing the product in a public place to eventually encourage sales; simultaneously you are giving a monarchical order to the public. In a museum you are conditioned not to touch any painting. But this is a mass area, yet sales are targeted to high income customers. To resolve this dichotomy you pretend your demo-advertising is in a museum. The other day, flying Air India to Kolkata from Delhi international airport, I saw the same German company demonstrate a very futuristic vehicle. This time a sales representative was by the car. From a distance I watched several very simple people going towards the vehicle and very quickly returning from it. The representative gave them no importance. Not a single affluent-looking person went near the car in a span of half an hour.

Being an automobile engineering fan I was curious to see the car. I asked the salesman about the car’s speed and cost. His first question was what my budget was. That totally turned me off, and I immediately left the demo site. I’m not giving the brand’s name as my intention is not to criticize it. This is an example of customer insensitivity. Clearly the manufacturer’s approach is of an arrogant lord, claiming the product is its asset, goodwill and museum piece. What’s the meaning of exposing the car in public if it’s not friendly with people? Everybody should be allowed to experience the car, irrespective of being a customer or visitor. You may say this kind of exhibition is to aspire people, but that’s questionable. Rather the brand establishes a distance from human sensitivity. Alternatively, the car should be exhibited in 5 star hotels according to its target customer focus. This is context of service.

I checked the Internet for the vehicle’s cost, which is Rs 2.25 crores. It can run 370 km per hour. In the highway it gives 8 kms per litre, city driving is just 5 kms. Is this a farce or Formula 1 racing? Making cars guzzle so much petrol in this day and age is quite criminal. What happened to being environment friendly? Was it mere lip service to collect brownie points from environmentalists? In India where would you drive such a car? We are not in Germany where the roads are paradise with no speed limits. I’m sure some Indian will buy it for status, and show it off as a museum exhibit.

Human sensitivity is a big factor in any industry today. After all everything is handled by human beings. If you are a heavy industrial machine maker with lots of sophistication and automation but without human aspect, you will find today’s Zap generation would not like to work here. A medical instrument cannot aspire a patient if it’s not totally diverse in look from a medical instrument. Nor can a vehicle feel totally secure to sit or drive it unless you feel and experience the safety features. This will lead to your admiring the vehicle.

Twenty five years ago industry was god that surprised people with new products. But the scale of end-customer surprise intensity has gone down drastically. End-customers always want a positive surprise such as inventions to miniaturization that happened in the last century. Now is the time for humanizing a product or service. I’ve entered all layers of end-customer society in diverse industries across the world, both B2B and B2C. What I find is that in selling IT services, soaps or cars among others, believe me all levels of customers say that they want to be treated without ignoring their personality. .

The end-customer’s "I believe in it” factor is super important to create instant trust for a product or service. But this is not enough. The decisive purchase factor comes from “It works well for me" meaning the service or product has been totally customized for an end-customer’s need and desire. End-customers understand extreme functionality of any service or product that brings progress to society. This is the area where human sensitivity takes place seriously. The third customer need is, "It looks good” factor. This is the easiest part to deliver. But customers will not return if the product’s functionality doesn’t match expectation, and if the “I believe in it” factor is lost.

You may research a thousand end-customers, but that’s considered a hygiene factor. An analogy: A technically perfect singer does not necessarily attract the public. Even without a perfectly trained voice, you need other values like charisma to pull in masses. In the same way, irrespective of the industry, to perfectly connect to every end-customer, his/her work, transportation, marriage, family, home, social cauldron, education, health all count. No product or service can exist without some human benefit. Singers Kishore Kumar and Elvis Presley didn’t get technical training in music, but they reached millions of people. Their human connect went beyond everything. Your enterprise may have every system which can be processed and reproduced. But to bring human sensitivity you require huge passion to understand them. This passion of gathering human sensitivity is the core to drive your total enterprise with human sensitivity. Once you have this human instinct, this goodwill is your real value for growth and net worth.

To download above article in PDF End customer desire enterprise

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(1) Comment   


srikanta on 7 December, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

Two important points impressed me!
Human Sensitivity is the core to drive.
Customer Insensitivity-road to disaster….

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