The Future of the Customer
Not too long ago, the world of retail seemed pretty simple: there were producers and consumers. Producers made things and consumers bought them.
But that world has changed: those consumers are transformed. They are much more than consumers; they are customers, members, users and active participants in business. They can design, improve, manufacture, fund, review, recommend, translate, sell and troubleshoot almost anything. Items that seem improbable one day are available the next. Crowdsourced movies? Done. A car? Also done.
How can companies remain relevant in this new world order? How should they treat their former consumers? Where are the new sources of value? What is the basis of credibility? What is the company’s new role and structure?
Technology, Business and Society
These days, technologies can spread almost instantly. From one day to the next, people are pouring the intimate details of their lives into social media platforms such as Facebook. Or walking everywhere with smartphones and personal fitness monitors that report back every heartbeat and footstep.
The speed of change is so swift that we seldom get to slow down to consider the implications, such as:
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Companies are leaving value on the table. Value that would make them indispensable to clients and customers. Value that would make them more welcome as virtual citizens worldwide. Value that adds to the bottom line, but not in traditional ways.
The problem is that they can’t see this value. The lenses they’ve been taught to see through don’t let these kinds of value shine through.
This isn’t about “valuing intangibles” or otherwise monetizing things that have little physical form. It’s almost the opposite: it’s about the value in things we haven’t monetized, or shouldn’t have monetized, or whose financial value shows up in new ways, like loyalty, credibility and trust.
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Trust is the New Differentiator
Trust is central to so many things in business and civic life, yet we don’t fully understand it. On the one hand, we often take trust for granted. On the other hand, we’ve built most of society on the assumption that neither individuals nor institutions can be trusted.
As the marginal cost of providing services has fallen near zero and global competition has commoditized market after market, companies have lost their basis for differentiation. Moving forward, people will be loyal to companies they genuinely trust — a level of trust very few companies offer today.
How might we apply a deeper understanding of trust to take business to this higher level? For example:
To apply these ideas, you have to go deep into the territory of trust, understanding the landmarks and plate tectonics that most people miss — and which spell the difference between success and failure in the next decades.
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Rave reviews for a presentation that will make you “think differently"
Relationship economy expert JERRY MICHALKSI recently spoke before a rapt 2,000+ audience at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellin, Colombia. The event gathers global leaders, policy makers, investors, scholars and entrepreneurs who want to get inspired by talks from international trendsetters and innovative thought leaders and gain skills to “think differently,” and Jerry delivered in spades. Addressing the issue of how we have “consumerized everything” Jerry gave a provocative talk on how we have to stop treating customers as “targets” and stop “bombarding” them with our messaging. We need to focus on gaining trust and that is done by creating a relationship with our customers. Interestingly enough, many companies are still struggling with this concept of becoming more “human” and Jerry helps guide them by taking the conversation into deep waters, framing issues crisply and clearly, and opening new possibilities.Check out audience reviews >>
What is the relationship economy?
JERRY MICHALSKI offers companies insights on how to manage the shift from consumer mass marketing to what he terms the "relationship economy." People aren't mere consumers. They have been transformed and companies need a different skill set and mindset to effectively reach them. People are much more than consumers: they are customers, members, users and active participants in business. They can repair, design, improve, manufacture, fund, review, recommend, translate, sell and troubleshoot almost anything. Jerry helps companies and organizations understand the value and opportunity of creating deeper relationships with their customers, and provides unique insights on the best way to accomplish these goals.Watch engaging video playlist >>
Jerry Michalski is a futurist with a practical, humanist bent. He is also a Gladwellian connector, guide and pattern finder. Since 1987, he has been helping organizations large and small navigate the turbulent changes at the messy juncture of hyperconnectivity and outdated world views.
Practically, this means delivering speeches with insights that help organizations: be authentic — and therefore more trustworthy — in a mass-media world; innovate, working with the world’s new forces, not against them; design from trust; re-imagine their relationships to those people formerly known as consumers; see where value is going as markets flip and citizens stop acting as mere consumers; and understand and leverage the effects of automation on their various stakeholders.
Through a dozen years’ experience as a leading technology industry analyst, Jerry developed his perspective. As an analyst, he helped shape technology markets and in particular introduced the Internet to investors, entrepreneurs, corporate users, civic entities and nonprofits. For example, in the June 1993 issue of Release 1.0 (then the leading tech newsletter), he wrote about online community — then an obscure concept — illustrating how much more was already happening online than commerce.
In the middle of that period, just as the Internet started warming up in the mid-90s, Jerry noticed that the word “consumer” didn’t sit right. Paying attention to that word and its implications helped him realize that we are in the early stages of making capitalism more human — and more humane. He calls this new era the “Relationship Economy,” in contrast to the fragmenting and problematic consumer mass-marketing economy.
Speeches ignite imaginations, but it is often what you do right afterward that catalyzes change. Conversations about large-scale change can be difficult, especially if they challenge long-held views or corporate taboos. Over the years, Jerry has developed facilitation skills that let him guide conversations that are safe yet deep, diving into uncomfortable waters and expanding perspectives.
In 2010, Jerry turned the Relationship Economy insights into a think-and-do tank called REX (the Relationship Economy eXpedition). REX members come from Kaiser Permanente, Deloitte, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the United Nations Foundation, the Institute for the Future, Intuit and many more. Together they explore the implications of this shift to a focus on relationships. In particular, how can organizations still thrive in this new world order?
Along the way, Jerry has advised numerous startups, from Pyra, which became Blogger and then got acquired by Google, to Evernote and CoTweet, which is now part of Salesforce.com.
Although he’s not in the Guinness Book of World Records, Jerry does have a clear claim to uniqueness: the world’s largest published Brain. (TheBrain is a concept-mapping application Jerry adopted on its first press tour, back in 1998.) To get a feeling for Jerry’s Brain, search for “Jerry’s Brain” in the Apple app store. Now imaging tracking everything you care about for 18 years and curating it with care, accumulating a quarter million nodes connected by nearly half a million links — all put in by hand.
Jerry earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of California at Irvine, and an M.B.A. in International Business from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Jerry’s parents met in Bolivia; they raised him in Peru and Argentina, with a year in Berlin after that. As a result, he can deliver speeches in fluent Spanish and German, as well as English, of course — all like a local. His French is also good enough for public speaking.