Consumer or Prosumer?
How do you view customers and your relationship with them amidst this great shift in consumer behavior?
“What is the difference between Consumer and Prosumer?”, you may ask. Is this just semantics; more Internet ‘mumbo-jumbo’ or propaganda to keep us as business owners in the dark as to where our marketing dollars are disappearing to? You ask very good questions!
By definition, Consumer is: “One that consumes, one that acquires goods or services fordirect use or ownership” or put another way, “A heterotrophic organism that ingests other organisms or organic matter in a food chain.” It’s all about the sale, who cares about the person. Ever been on the other end of that? Wow, what a selfish, demeaning view of our valued customers, definitely web 1.0!
Now a Prosumer is: “One who is converse to the consumer, denoting an active role as the individual gets more involved in the process.” That’s right, we are interested in others first, sharing, giving, earning their trust. Hmm… you mean customers have feelings? Opinions? They are not just mindless “organisms” who just “consume” matter? (Yuck – who would want one of THOSE in your store.) You better, if you want to have any store in the immediate future.
The point – our view, our attitude of our customers is critical. They are changing, they have choices. They can get poor service anywhere. Life is stressful, anxiety is growing in our neighbors lives, procrastination is up 60% and surging, rage and rudeness are increasing across the board amongst so-called ‘service’ providers. Even online, digital channels that Prosumers expect now to be a source of CRM are largely ignored by Consumer focused companies, both large and small.
Think of the Apple Store (I love the Apple Store!) – they are a perfect example of everyone in the company, top to bottom, viewing everyone that walks in the door as a Prosumer. They are there to help you, no pressure, as you walk around, you notice everything works and is unlocked, feel free to use as you wish. If you have something broken, they will fix it for free. Need a genius, go the genius bar and get excellent service from people who want to help you and get it right the first time. We love it as Prosumers, we feel great, we are comfortable here, we will be back.
You may be now asking yourself, “what do I do now if I see that I am old school’? and“How do I change it”? First, I commend you for your honesty (more business leaders needs more humility when it comes to examining their business model and accepting that changing to a social media system is going to be disruptive to the current one in place, but it is critical) and second, you ask very good questions.
As those of us who run businesses, we find ourselves in the most anxiety filled time in modern history; along with that, there are a couple of obstacles we have to acknowledge first before proceeding. Today’s climate is hard on us as business leaders, with uncertainty at every turn, the complexity of adjusting to new demands, increasingly shorter product lifecycles, competition, etc., there are the facts., which can lead some to succumb to the “eat or be eaten” mentality. Ahh….what do I do??? Please step away from the ledge… slowly…. thank you. Here are just a few helpful suggestions, to see things from the Prosumer’s perspective that may help us tweak our operation and get us on the right path without having to do a lot of heavy lifting:
1) Understand we are all in the same boat – every business is in a similar situation. They are all struggling trying to catch up to the social behavior shift which has left there showrooms just as empty as their online shopping carts. Face it, we've created a monster. Our poor customers are left to fend for themselves, our culture of treating them like Consumers (‘which of you no-names was next in line? hurry up..’) has left them feeling suspicious, distrustful, with no inherent loyalty, and only focused on price and convenience, and feel defensive, suspicious and that we are the adversary as soon as they walk into our business. I do. That means whatever your price is, I’m looking on the web to find it cheaper. Result? – we all lose, business profits dwindle in our community, jobs lost. We have to understand it is what it is, and IT doesn’t work anymore. We have to lift our heads out of our computers and mobile devices and look around, realize the situation, roll up our sleeves and do something about it.
2) SEE the goal – Our goal is simple, sustainable profits and growth right? The only way, let me repeat that, the ONLY way for that to happen in your business in today’s climate is to build customer equity = trust, confidence in us, we care, NO hype, NO infomercial techniques, those are dead. Our customers, Prosumers, need to realize and see manifested in our business model that we don’t have a hidden agenda, help them to learn from their experience with us that they can trust us. And finally, they should pick up from their interaction with us that when they deal with us, it’s not about ’selling them something’, it about their experience and making it the most enjoyable that we can, every time! (i.e.; Apple Store) . Look at your operation and SEE where you can adjust and apply some of these principles. Look hard, they are there, lots of them.
3) Make the shift ASAP – Most businesses still operate in the adversarial ‘consumer’ arena and use traditional media to advertize their ’sales’ and ’sales’, blah, blah, blah. This does not work any more – in fact, most companies that remain in the status quo are finding they are paying a “trust tax”, a transaction (soon to be reaction) costs which can be up to 70% of the item, which destroys profit margin and will force companies into extinction if they remain unchanged in their methods. (BTW: we earn trust, it’s not automatic, it takes time and isn’t as easy as advertising it, like the guy in the photo on the left) We must make the shift from ’selling things’ to noticing people! We need to build a desire with our Prosumers, cultivate relationships, create a sense of comfortable community for them. If you have been reading my articles over the years, you will recall my simple formula: Thoughts + Feelings = Actions. Now, this is a two edged sword, but one that if used right, and all the focus is on the Prosumer’s experience when we get an opportunity, that we are going to dazzle them with service, since we are all human, using my formula will create – Trust + Desire = Transaction, and continued experience results in loyalty and brand (“your brand”) advocacy. It works, 100% of the time!
So, how do you view your customers? Be honest! Not sure? Why not ask some of them, unless your afraid of what they might tell you. If you are, then you definitely should, especially before you have to close and lock the doors for good.
This is so not about buzzwords, social media, blah, blah, blah. It's about a fundamental shift as businesses and how we help people in this world of digital commerce. Maybe they will buy from us. Great. Maybe they won't this time, ok too. What will be the residue from their experience with us? Horrendous? Inspiring?
What are your thoughts on this? I'd love to hear them.