Where is The Customer (Waldo)?

by Jay Deragon on 02/25/2008

Where is The Customer (Waldo)?This week Doc Searls and myself are facilitating a webcast titled “Where is The Customer?. The webcast is sponsored by Oracle, Znet, Bnet, Business Week and The Customer Collective.

In preparing thoughts for this broadcast we began asking ourselves exactly where is the customer and who would know? It kind of reminds me of the popular image series that came out years ago called “Where’s Waldo?”.

Where is Waldo” is a North American media and book franchise. It was inspired by a book by Martin Handford called “Where is Wally?” The Franchise was created by Handford himself as a young adult. It was created primarily to appeal to the American masses. This book was released in UK in 1987.

However, the main character in this book was adopted with different names in different countries across 28 countries. Wally became Charlie in France, Holger in Denmark, Waldo is USA, Willy in Norway and Walter in Germany and so on. The North American adaptation of the character was “Where is Waldo?” With time the character of Waldo and production went though some changes and expansion. Although the characters everywhere are similar in appearance, their personalities and traits are different in different countries. Sound like your customers?

The “Where’s Waldo?” series was an optical illusion game where the objective was to find Waldo amongst a collage of other images. Amongst all the images was a skinny guy with a red striped shirt and hat wearing glasses. To find Waldo you had to focus you eyes and your mind on his image amongst the clutter of other images.

Is The Customer as Difficult to Find as Waldo?

In the March 3rd edition of Business Week a story titled “Sprint’s Wake-Up Call” provides the answer to this question. When the new CEO of Sprint Nextel, Daniel R. Hesse, walked into his first operations meeting with other executives from Sprint Nextel he found out that Customer Service wasn’t even on the agenda. Sprint Nextel, like many other wireless carriers, history of customer service was dismal to say the least. Hesse immediately changed future agenda and customer service is the first item on all executive meetings today.

Many businesses tend to forget that earnings are a direct result of having satisfied and loyal customers. A market is not a market without customers. Unless customers create transactions a business cannot sustain. Transactions are the result of establishing relationships with people. Once established the people then become labeled as customers and sometimes businesses tend to forget that people want to be treated like people and not a business.

The same applies to “employees“. Employees are people with a label inside a business. The same applies to “suppliers“. Suppliers are people outside a business. Everyone is a customer because in the business supply chain of people the everyone is serving someone, or at least they should be.

The customer has become difficult to find because the people have become lost in a collage of labels imposed by old business mindsets who think product and service production, innovation, sales and marketing etc. is what improves the bottom-line, satisfies the markets and create shareholder wealth. Whoops, none of this can happen without people, without relationships and without focusing the eyes and minds of business on the people.

So Where is the Customer? Like Waldo you wouldn’t find where they are unless you can train your eyes and mind to see them as people. By the way, the people are everywhere and they have been empowered by the social web.

What say you?

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