2011: The Day Of The Customer

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There are three things in life that occur like clockwork: Death, taxes, and somebody proclaiming each new year to be the “year of the customer.”

I’ve already seen a few blog posts and articles calling for 2011 to be that year, the most recent from BAI. In a post titled This is the Year of the Customer (No, Really, I Mean It!), Mark Riddle, BAI’s director of research wrote:

“Facing a reduction in fee income because of recent regulatory changes, banks need to renew their focus on meeting customer needs in 2011. Let’s hope 2011 is the Year of the Customer. It would be a great new year to see the reputation of the financial services industry repaired through focusing on satisfying the needs of their customers.”

I wonder if Mark remembers that five years ago BAI wrote that “2006 may turn out to be the year of the retail customer.” My memory isn’t so good, but I don’t think it was.

Proclaiming the new year to be the “year of the customer” is a time-honored tradition. BAI is in some very good company.

In 2008, NYSE Magazine reported that “CEOs say they are focusing on customers, resulting in this year’s theme: 2008: The Year of the Customer.”

Before that, e-consultancy heralded 2007 as the “year of the customer”.

Mortgage Finance jumped on the bandwagon, saying in September 2006 that “2006 is being hailed as the year of the customer” (better late than never on that call!). Also in 2006, SearchCRM suggested that that year could be the “year of the customer.” Which wasn’t even the first time it made that call — they asked if 2004 would be the “real” year of the customer.

Australian Banking & Finance said at the beginning of 2002, “IT leaders and executives at the BAI’s 2001 Retail Delivery Conference vowed that 2002 will be the year of the customer.” Information Week said that business can’t survive without loyal customers and proclaimed 1999 the Year Of The Customer.

And way back in 1987, Fortune magazine wrote that, “competitors snickered when they heard the name that IBM Chairman John Akers gave to 1987: Year of the Customer.”

So here’s my modest proposal. Since we know that there’s no way that 2011 will actually be the year of the customer, let’s try something a little more realistic and doable: Let’s set aside one day of the year as the “day of the customer.” I propose August 1.

Why August 1? 1) There are no national holidays in August (well, not in the U.S. at least);  2) Companies will need some time to figure out exactly what a “day of the customer” means, since they have no clue how to make it a “year of the customer”; and 3) August 1 is Jerry Garcia’s (from the Grateful Dead) birthday.

(This last point is completely irrelevant to the Day of the Customer. I just like opportunities to mention the Dead on my blog).

Of course, if we don’t set aside a day to be the day of the customer, then I’m assured to have something to blog about on January 3, 2012.

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