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The answer is relevancy

And we are looking for the question


If only more businesses knew the question.

Soon after having started Amazon with the initial product offering focused on books, Jeff Bezos said his company could never replace the experience a person could have with a local book store. The experience would include sitting in a comfortable chair, smelling and touching the pages of a new book and enjoying a cup of coffee as they “experience the book”.

And yet recently the executive director from a company that states they are the number one firm in customer engagement, made a strong assertion against many businesses based on a similar “experience”.

This person mentioned Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Apple, and Airbnb as being shift changers within their specific trades. The claim was that none of these killed their competition; the competition did it to themselves with their poor customer service and the rules they imposed on their customers. “Being non-customer centric is the biggest threat to any business”, was the essence of the comments.

Experience has shown that when someone makes an assertion such as this, you should closely examine to see if they sell the solution to the problem they have identified. Not that they are wrong, but you have to look to see if they are sharing an impartial evaluation.

In the case of these comments, if they were completely true, starting with the airlines industry there would be sizable changes in most every industry serving businesses and consumers.

The question we are looking for is, “What allows businesses to come into a marketplace and shift the dynamics of how business is done?”
The answer is that the existing business have failed to see the shifts in how customers want to interact with a business. And yes, some of this can be demonstrated by businesses that are not customer centric.

I wonder why the office supply where I have ordered the same wall calendar for the last twenty years waits for me to call and order the calendar for the next year.

I wonder why the local florist waits for me to call to place an order for Valentine’s, birthdays and anniversaries. Both of these businesses allow me to easily do business elsewhere because of their lack of remaining customer centric and relevant to me, their existing customer.

Some of the examples given by that speaker – Uber and Airbnb – are models of how individuals get into business without requiring them to have the basic operating expenses that a taxi, bed and breakfast or hotel will have. Netflix grows because of the use of technology which made it easier for the customer to do business with them.

Again, the answer is “relevancy”. The question is, “What do I do so that my business continues to exist as well as being profitable?”

When looking to change, or update, a business so that we do not become the next Blockbuster Video, we have to look at our own business and consider what it will cost us to make changes. At the same time, we have to think it is not so much what it is going to cost us to change, but what is it going to cost us if we do not change.

Where do we find this “relevancy” or ideas for change? Sam Walton suggested looking at the businesses around you to see where everyone is doing things one way. There’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.

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