According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a customer is: one that purchases a commodity or service. Hmmm, if it were only that simple any more. The dictionary definition of customer is too limiting, as a customer my needs and wants go beyond just being someone who buys something. Let’s dig a bit deeper, say, customer service. According to Wikipedia customer service is: “… the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”
If I were to define myself as a customer, I would identify myself as a person who has a broad interest in a product or service provided by potential seller. This interest includes the benefits offered to me by a seller before, during, and after I make my purchase.
Closer to the definition of customer service then that of just being customer with one significant difference; My definition is not something done to or for me, but is an integral part of my being a customer.
With this definition in hand I am now a part of the “new consumer” movement. No longer an impersonal subject at the mercy of some hot salesperson, I expect to engage a sales representative as an equal, as someone who is intelligent, informed, and ready to do business.
I am not a “sucker” nor am I an easy mark. I expect the same level of respect that a salesperson would want.
One example of this can be found in my buying ritual. Right now I need a month-to-month cell phone service. I use very few minutes per month, I don’t need internet access, a camera, or some of the other extras. I just want a basic cell phone with limited minutes, and nationwide coverage. My first step is to find as much information as I can about the different services and cell phones by searching the internet.
This usually leads me to several web sites of providers. Each one really a sales page. No problem, I expect this, it’s fair. Then, as I get deeper into the products questions arise, this is where those providers offering live chat have a huge advantage. I can get my questions answered without pressure.
As I move closer to my final decision I probably will use live chat even more often, making sure that I have all the information necessary to make the right decision. My choice will depend on several factors, cost, equipment, range, and of course customer service after the sale.
Times have changed, just as what the meaning of what a customer has.
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