I’ll never forget when I was in college, I saw Guns N’ Roses open for The Rolling Stones. A few songs before falling off the stage, Axel Rose whipped out, “You’re crazy—hey hey, you know you’re crazy—you’re f***ing crazy”. Remember those lyrics? That was a good tune, and probably what someone would say to you today if you told them the Information Age is over.
According to a report published last summer by Josh Bernoff of Forrester, the Information Age is evolving into a whole new age. With commoditization and the continuous disruption of technology, the Age of Information has given way to the Age of the Customer – an era where only “customer-obsessed companies will survive”.
When we moved from the Industrial Age to the Distribution Age to the Information Age, competitive barriers like manufacturing strength and distribution power lost their value of differentiation as they became commoditized. Similarly, the commoditization of information has now opened the door for a new type of differentiation. In the Age of the Customer, dominance will come from those companies who engage best with empowered customers.
Customers are digital, they are mobile, and they now have more power than ever before. The balance of power has shifted. With online reviews, social media, and smart phones, your customers know more about your products, services, competitors and pricing than you do—and they share their opinions with their friends.
So is the Information Age actually over? Consider that when we moved from the Agriculture Age to the Industrial Age, agriculture did not stop. It actually continued to grow and is now much bigger than ever before. The same will happen with controlling the flow of information. Information will continue to expand, but it will not be the source of dominance it has been for the past 30 years. In this way, yes, the Information Age is over and all priorities should be directed to the customer.
In the Age of the Customer, the age of continuous disruption, your relationship with the customer is the only thing that will enable you to survive. If your #1 strategic initiative is not customer experience, it should be. If you are not 100% customer obsessed then as Axel put it, “You’re crazy”.