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Customers Are Partners

Believe otherwise at your peril

Today more than ever, customers are partners in virtually every business. Many companies seem to think their customers aren’t very smart, or at least view them as lazy and forgiving. More than just a passing thought or view, some take advantage of their customers, often to a degree that seems to say they view taking advantage as a natural part of an unequal relationship between those who provide and those who want or need.

It’s a dangerous, short-sighted strategy, one based on faulty assumptions. And when times turn uncertain or even bad, you can’t count on partners you abuse. To the wise, none of this is news, but for the first time, new research offers a factful reminder. Indeed, it suggests that the true laziness lies among leaders and organizations kidding themselves that the business-customer relationship isn’t one of equals.

Case in point: Subscription services

Perhaps the most ubiquitous example takes place in businesses that offer services purchased by subscriptions. (Think streaming services, auto insurance, item-of-the-month clubs or newspapers and magazines.) You know the dynamic, but place yourself there: for a moment, be the cellphone customer you already are. As a cellphone user, at some point in the past you chose your telecom carrier — you know, the folks who make your phone work, the ones you mostly forget about, that is, until they take advantage of you. Odds are you chose your carrier primarily for a great monthly rate. But once the initial contract period expired, the carrier raised their rates — perhaps by pennies, more likely by a few dollars, either way, it was just the beginning of an upward trending slope. Meanwhile, that carrier was offering other consumers better rates. 

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