The world of business has a default symbol for customers: the ones they put on restroom doors.
Outside of those, there is no universal symbol for a customer.
When business talks to itself, it mostly uses generic cartoon images such as these (from a Bing search) and these (from a Google one):
I’m sure all of us identify more with the restroom symbols (and emojis) than we do with those things.
It’s interesting how, even though we comprise 100% of the marketplace, we remain a prevailing absence in nearly every business conference, business book and business school class.
The notion that customers can be independent and fully empowered agents of themselves, with scale across all the businesses they deal with, at best gets the intellectual treatment (seeing customers, for example, as “rational actors”).
At worst, customers are seen as creatures that go moo and squit money if they’re held captive and squeezed the right ways. Listen to the talk. Typically customers are “targets” that businesses “acquire,” “manage,” “control” or “lock in” as if we are cattle or slaves.
Often customers are simply ignored.
One example that showed up today was this press release announcing “an innovative initiative focused on the overhaul of open account trade finance infrastructure.” It’s from R3, which makes Corda, a ” distributed ledger platform designed specifically for financial services,” and is “a joint undertaking between R3, TradeIX, and twelve financial institutions.” This network, says the release, will “improve access to open account trade for the global ecosystem of banks, buyers, suppliers, technology providers, insurers, and other parties, such as logistics companies, that are critical to facilitating global open account trade flows.”
Never mind that distributed ledgers have been hailed as the second coming (or even the first) of the customer-empowering peer-to-peer world. Instead note the absence of customers: people and institutions who entrust their money and assets to all the parties listed in that long sentence.
Our goal with ProjectVRM is to equip customers (not just “consumers,” or “end users”) to say We’re not just at the same table with you guys. We are that table. And we are much bigger and far more powerful than you can ever make us on your own.
In other words, our job here is to give customers superpowers.
There are lots of people arguing that more policy is the answer. But we already have the GDPR. Huge leverage there. Let’s use it to highlight how own customer-empowering solutions put the companies that serve us in compliance.
In the last post we named one. That and many other forms of #customertech will be featured at VRM Day and IIW, later this month at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.
Let’s make customers powerful. Then it won’t matter how they look to business, other than real.