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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Just because the Nasdaq has lost half its value in a year and the market capitalizations of the leading e-commerce and technology companies are mere shadows of their former selves, doesn’t mean the dot-com revolution is over. In fact, things are just heating up. For this reason, Patricia Seybold's latest book, The Customer Revolution, is a must-read for everyone in a decision-making or decision-implementing capacity at both bricks-and-mortar and web-based businesses.
Since the first big Internet bubble burst, both venerable and fledgling e-companies have been set adrift on the sea of viability. The potential for success is more remote than before, and companies need to leverage everything in their power to turn a profit and stay afloat. While many things have changed and many rules have been rewritten since the heady days of 1999, one key point has risen to even greater prominence: the importance of the customer experience.
Just look at the furor over peer-to-peer file-sharing technology, such as the software used by Napster. The debate over Napster is largely considered to be about intellectual property and copyright infringement. But another controversial aspect to the Napster issue exists. With the advent of Napster, companies have seen how a new technology can enable customers to force established companies to rethink the way they do business. That a renegade company could command the attention of the world, divide public opinion, and garner investments from a preeminent venture capital firm and a multinational media company speaks to the supreme importance of the customer in all business models.
Not surprisingly, Seybold, a technology consultant and bestselling author, begins The Customer Revolution with a discussion of Napster. She does not mince words in stressing the importance of the lessons of Napster to all businesses, breaking out the key points in a chapter called, “What Happened in the Music Industry Will Happen to You.” One universally applicable theme of the Napster debacle is that customers will want to reappropriate a company’s wares to suit their own needs. If a business can anticipate that desire and design a strategy that accommodates it, that business can succeed.
Customers.com, Seybold’s previous book, canonized a customer-centric philosophy of business. To great acclaim, Seybold guided decision makers and policy implementers towards a new way of doing business, advising them on how to turn their businesses into customer-friendly dot-coms. Using case studies and point-by-point strategies, Seybold’s lessons for successfully bringing businesses online were heard at companies around the world.
The Customer Revolution will not disappoint fans of Seybold’s school of thought. It extends the principles of Customers.com into this next, turbulent phase of the e-commerce revolution, advising readers to learn from the veterans of the customer revolution. Based on her vast experience with Fortune 500 companies, Seybold has broken down the mechanics of customer success into three principles: 1) Customers are in control, and they’re reshaping businesses and transforming industries; 2) Customer relationships count, and therefore the value of your present and future customer relationships -- your customer franchise -- will determine the value of your company; 3) Customer experience matters, so the feelings customers have when they interact with your brand determine their loyalty.
More simply, Seybold says, “Gone are the days when you simply made and sold products. Now you need to attract and retain customers.”
The first half of The Customer Revolution is devoted to explaining each of the three principles of customer success. In addition to the discussion of Napster, Seybold also examines the open-source Linux technology and the self-policing marketplaces of the eBay auction site as examples of revolutionary, customer-driven business models.
Seybold outlines “the digital dozen,” 12 customer demands, all enabled by technology, that businesses must meet in order to be successful. While most of them are logical extensions of the themes outlined in Customers.com, the increased demand for convenient access, including the demand for mobile wireless access, is an important addition to Seybold’s comprehensive understanding of consumer needs and psychometrics.
The second half of The Customer Revolution offers “an operational framework” within which to apply Seybold’s tenets, including eight steps to a “great branded customer experience.” The eight steps are: create a compelling brand personality; deliver a seamless experience across channels and touchpoints; care about customers and their outcomes; measure what matters to customers; hone operational excellence; value customers' time; place customers’ “DNA” at the core; and design to morph. These steps are interspersed with very interesting, relevant case studies from companies such as General Motors, Charles Schwab, Hewlett-Packard, and National Semiconductor.
Seybold is the perfect tour guide through the often overwhelming world of e-business. Her experience, perspective, and advice are invaluable, and no doubt soon will be as au fait to the pioneers of the next wave of the dot-com revolution as Customers.com was to its initial trailblazers. (Emily Burg)