I hate buying clothes, particularly business suits. But I have added a lot of weight, so it is time to get a new business suit. But still I delay. Then, Greg, a neighbor who is the Men’s Clothes Purchasing Manager at the Seattle Nordstrom’s, talked me into at least trying his department. “It’ll be painless. I promise.” So down I went the next day. We started with the basics, a blue suit and a blue blazer. In 20 minutes they were selected, tried on, fitted by a tailor, and I was ready to go. “What time next week should I pick these up?” I asked. Greg laughed and said, “I’ll stop by your house and deliver them tonight on my way home.” I think my jaw must have hit the floor. Each month Greg lets me know what’s on sale that I might like. Nordstrom now has a customer for life.
Yet, there are things that I value and buy quite a bit of — like books, fine wine and ipad apps. I spend several thousands of dollars a year on each. Most of this money is spent with a few stores or companies (Amazon, Apple iStore). As far as I can tell, none of them knows or cares that I exist. None of them knows me except through the occasional mailing list trying to get me to upgrade. None of them bothers to communicate with me as a unique individual. They are getting good at some aspects of collaborative filtering. Yet, none of them comes close to the Nordstrom model of perfecting customer service — one customer at a time.
I have a dream of a software company whose tools and services are so good that their customers can look at a design or communication task and say “I can design and produce that!” no matter what the media required (print, electronic, video, or interactive). The tools are smart enough to know whether I’m new to a particular task or whether I’ve done it a hundred times. The company keeps in touch with me electronically so that I always know and have the option to acquire the latest stuff that I need even if the company doesn’t make all the products I require. And the company regularly asks for my comments and suggestions about what is working well and what needs improvement for which I am always recognized and rewarded. The company also cares about the communications I produce with its tools, and suggests improvements in my work if I want feedback. When I produce something with this company’s products I never have to worry about sharing the final or editable form with others because of the standards it set. This company works closely with all the leading hot designers to bring the look and feel of what is cool into templates that I can use for my work.
The 21st Century Company – the relentless pursuit of the ideal one to one communication.
A few definitions are in order:
Communication is the results that you get, not the words that you speak. It involves a two-way loop between sender and receiver. The features of communication are: it is everywhere; it is continuous; it involves the sharing of meaning; it contains predictable elements; it occurs at more than one level; and it occurs amongst both equals and ‘unequals.’
The One to One future will be characterized by customized production, individually addressable media, and 1:1 marketing, totally changing the rules of business competition and growth. Instead of market share, the goal of most business competition will be share of customer — one customer at a time. The new rules for the one to one future are: 1:1 media are individually addressable; 1:1 media are two-way, not one-way; 1:1 media are inexpensive (see The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer At a Time by Don Peppers).
Ideal is a “desired state that we can never attain but to which we can always come closer. If we are to pursue any ideal continuously, we must never be willing to settle for anything less.” (see Russ Ackoff’s Creating the Corporate Future).
As I visualize this dream, I start to develop expectations of the 21st Century Company:
• We will treat the customer, our employees, our suppliers, indeed all of our stakeholders as special, as worthy of being known as individuals with special attention paid to each one’s communication needs. The pursuit of the ideal will lead to new and special relationships with the stakeholders, many of which we will create first.
• We will provide products and services which will help our customers achieve the ideal of one to one communication for the customers’ stakeholders.
• As a customer, I would expect to pay more for the specialness of the relationship and our pursuit of the ideal which can be associated with aesthetics.