1.2 Beyond customer transactions
In most of the relationships we have with enterprises in our daily lives we are both customer and consumer. For example, when you purchase food it is likely so you can eat it. Here, you use the term customer to refer to the relationship between your business and the people you want to engage through your offer. The word ‘customer’ does not necessarily convey the subtlety of the relationship. In part, the term does not adequately cover the changing relationships around how value is now created between organisations and their customers. Previously there was a sense that organisations developed products or services and you paid for them and this was very much a transactional relationship. In recent times though there has been a shift towards customer relationships, customer loyalty and engagement, with companies increasingly interested in hearing from and, indeed, engaging customers as advocates for their business.
It might seem obvious that customers are stakeholders who have a stake in your business (think back to Session 3). Depending on the sector you are in, you may even recognise customers as intimately involved in the value creation process (the concept of value is explored in more detail in Session 5). For example, if you are a personal trainer, then customer value encompasses their own effort as much as yours.
As an entrepreneur, often ideas arise from being close to the product or service and the person who might use it. Indeed the source of your idea might be your experience as a disgruntled customer who has developed a new approach to an existing problem, or spotted something you think others have missed. This provides you with a level of insight, and so opportunities, that larger organisations may not have. This may provide a source of competitive advantage.