“The on & offline you” – notes from a small kitchen table
By Helena Wand
It’s 8pm on a half-sunlit Tuesday evening and I am about to sit down with the kids to have dinner. In fact, we are not quite ‘at table yet’ (as my mother used to say). I have told my 22 year old, 14 year old and 10 year old girls to ‘come and get it’ twice already, but as yet I haven’t heard the usual tell-tale pitter-patter of over-sized trainers.
Meanwhile, our salad is visibly decaying and a rather greasy dressing is splitting in front of my eyes: akin to something I remember seeing in a Petri dish at school, circa 1983.
To avert a family disaster, I have gone on a grumpy recon mission and have come back to my iPad (or is it my daughter’s?) to gain live intel on their dinner-delaying activities. Daughter number 1 is in front of a TV the size of Belgium, Skyping with two friends – one who lives in Cyprus and the other, our next-door neighbour. Daughter number 2, is simultaneously uploading films to Facebook and YouTube, of a ‘Harlem Shuffle’ in which she took part only seconds ago (come to think of it, I wondered what the noise was…). Lastly, Daughter number 3 is eyeballs-deep in a live online game on her laptop, pitting her wits against a school friend who actually lives in Bhutan (yes I don’t know where it is either).
I have advised them loudly that dinner is getting warm and that they should strongly consider teleporting back to the real world before I resort to non-virtual encouragement.
Their collective response – “We are in the real world Mum. You are so lame!’
Could I be more proud?
Yes. Yes I could. However, sadly, they have a point. Not that I am ‘plain stupid, unoriginal or lifeless’ (“thanks Urban Dictionary, now I understand the full gravity of their lame name-calling, as later might they”), but the world in which they live is entirely a conflation of the on and offline world, so barely distinct from each other that they have become my kids’ new reality.
In effect, this isn’t just true for my kids, or just for my kids and their friends, or for that matter for the legions of Generation X and Y warriors roaming the virtual and non-virtual streets of this planet. On reflection, it is becoming increasingly true of ‘yours truly’. I have, of course, known this for a while, but understanding it is one thing; embracing it with open arms without therapy is another.
My work time and personal time blended many years ago, however much I resisted it: not because of a lack of self-control, but in large part due to my desire to be able to control how I wanted to work, where I wanted to work and when I wanted. What enabled me is the very technology and app laden world that we all now inhabit.
So, unless I am an isolated case who has become institutionalised by my fellow house inmates, it must be true of an enormous and enormously powerful constituency across the globe.
From a business perspective then, these are not my customers’ customers of tomorrow; they are their customers of today. How a company’s brand, service, product or sales messaging meets their customers at the on and offline intersection in their lives is not crucial – it is more important than that….
Ask yourself this: “are our customers the most important brand in their own lives? If so, how can our brand not only fit in with this but bring tangible benefit to our customers’ brand and then by doing so, create value for ours?
For most of our customers, the answer is to the first question is probably ‘yes’. Their online persona is just as important as their offline persona and helps to create their personal brand image. What they are seen to watch, comment on, listen to, upload, download and blog about are almost if not equally important as the experience itself. How they talk about their lives on-line and how they report their life experiences, are important rites of passage and comments on not only how they are but who they are.
They want to be able to manage their lives and ‘join in’ on a non-stop basis, on their terms: being able to get directions to the latest bar on the move, to post a film of themselves and friends at the trendiest festival, to upload photos to Facebook the second they are taken, to play online games with no delay: to report on their lives ‘live and in colour’.
No one wants to lead two separate lives, when what you can do offline and online can run simultaneously: as one. That is not our desire, or our customers’ desire, but a very real and growing expectation: to have what we want, where and when we want it. If my kids, me and probably ‘you the reader’ are anything to go by, technology is not an acceptable barrier – but an expected enabler to help them live the life they already live.
So, how does a business make itself the right shape to fit?
The businesses that are winning now and will continue to win on a daily basis in the fight for their customers’ unfair share of wallet, are the businesses that ‘live and breathe’ in this intersection, now. They comprehend this new reality.
They embrace it.
Revel in it.
They are always accessible, across all media channels chosen by their customer, because the opposite is just unthinkable – and, ultimately unprofitable.
They understand that Public Relations and Social Media are not separate disciplines within their organisation.
That Social PR is not a department, but a company-wide responsibility.
The company-wide responsibility is not to be seen to sell, but to position itself within the customers’ lives so that it and its products and services are ‘naturally’ bought.
Today’s victors strive to mean the most to those that matter most to them: not by trying to be the most important brand in their customers’ lives, but by truly ‘getting’ the need to add value to their customers’ brand. Otherwise, they are just an imposter – just another lame Dad dancing at a disco.
If you are thinking what I am thinking, it might just be that the term ‘customer centricity’ just became less a latitudinal ambition on a power point chart, and for the first time, more a truly mission-critical business imperative.
Either that, or I am just hallucinating through hunger.
Anyway, it’s getting late now and I am being told by my kids to get off my iPad and go to bed. I will, but first, maybe just a small bowl of cornflakes ….
About the Author
She specialises in the business-wide adoption of customer-centric strategies, transitioning organisations from product focus to customer orientation, underpinned by the successful automation and synchronisation of sales processes, marketing functions and all other supporting operations.
Her many years of experience as a high performing sales executive combined with C- level positions in leading UK and international IT and Media companies has resulted in a keen understanding of the challenges faced by any organisation wishing to adopt and successfully implement customer-centric strategies.