“Customer is the Boss” and “Customer is King” are four letter words that are often mouthed by most large corporations. Yet many of them develop products and then try to push sales of the product through many means including aggressive advertisement. While such strategies can drive the initial success of the newly launched product, they fail to sustain the competition in the market. Similarly, “innovation” is a buzz world for most business leaders today. Companies allocate a substantial amount of their resources to research and development. Many of them succeed in developing products that are breakthrough in their markets yet fail to build a loyal customer base.
The main reason behind the failure of big brands in the market place is their inability to connect directly with the customers. Proctor & Gamble is an apt example. Around the year 2000, P&G witnessed a drastic dip in market shares of many leading brands. New products were failing to catch any attention from consumers. As a result their share price dipped to unimaginable levels, from more than $100 per share to around $60 per share.
It was the then CEO A.G Lafley who promised to revive key P&G brands. The most important thing he started was a culture of listening and connecting to the customer. He used to travel around the world to listen to his customers and used to visit grocery markets with them to understand their likes and dislikes. He also met executives of his company who were close to the customers and listened to their suggestions. With Lafley acting as Chief Listening Officer, the company soon saw a recovery that markets experts were not predicting earlier. A prominent example of P&G’s efforts is the revival of a detergent brand in Mexico. While the brand was popular in most countries, the consumers in Mexico were not using it. P&G executives lived with few middle class families and realized that the detergent is not generating foam which is a key indicator of a good brand for these families. Such small changes were able to resurrect many of P&Gs’ brands.
Learning from Lafley’s example, most companies are realizing the importance of a Chief Listening Officer (CLO). These executives form a part of the marketing leadership team. Dell is another company that has created the role of a chief listening officer. Kodak has also appointed a CLO . These executives not only listen to the customers but also update the customers about relevant changes made to products as a result of their feedback.
Another active way of interacting with customers is to use social networking sites. P&G has designated Facebook as an essential tool in their marketing strategy. YouTube is fast becoming a medium of communication for various companies. From launching videos about new products to sharing product strategies, most companies are realizing the potential of connecting to the consumers through this medium. P&G has again used this medium aggressively. Companies like P&G are redefining the meaning of the phrase “Customer is King”.