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Staple Yourself to the Customer

Rethinking how you do business in the
postdigital era


Two decades ago, it was considered fashionable to be “customer-oriented.” A Harvard Business Review article titled “Staple Yourself to an Order” claimed that the quality of the customer experience was directly related to the efficiency of the firm’s order management cycle, from planning to post-sales service. This may have been true at that time, since operational efficiency was a key competitive advantage. But since then there has been a tectonic shift in customer involvement. The lines between consumers and the business have blurred. This article explores these shifts and suggests how firms may rethink the ways in which they conduct business and measure their success in the face of this new era of post-digitization.

What do you do when the world of business is shifting and your customer is evolving so rapidly that it is hard to keep up? Traditional techniques that look “inside out” — in which the business has ideas for the next product design, for example and seeks customer feedback through focus groups and customer/product segmentation — may not be the most effective customer strategy now. A classic example of an inside-out strategy is highlighted in the article “Staple Yourself to an Order” (Harvard Business Review, 1992 i), in which the authors pointed to improved organizational efficiencies as a way to enhance the customer experience. Our hypothesis in this piece is different. We believe that to move the needle in today’s business ecosystem, a company should consider stapling itself to the customer.

Read the Wall Street Journal article here or download the PDF above to learn more.


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