Earlier this week, Jack Dorsey wrote a fascinating post on how we all should eliminate "users" from our vocabulary. Especially in Silicon Valley, the term is thrown around recklessly, and many people say it without really thinking about the deeper meaning.
Jack's product, Square, has clearly-defined users — "buyers" are the ones purchasing a product from whatever "seller" may be using the Square product. His rationale for gravitating away from the term is very clear, as outlined in the quote below:
From this moment forward, let's stop distancing ourselves from the people that choose our products over our competitors. We don't have users, we have customers we earn. They deserve our utmost respect, focus, and service. Because that's who we are.
This was his conclusion from a lengthy discussion about the topic on his personal Tumblr, but the premise rings true — a person decides they want to invest in Square, be it a personal or business decision, so treating them as just another cog in their broader business picture would be a severe mistake.
It doesn't stop at the individual's decision. Often times, companies boast about how many users they have. User counts, some as high as the billions, make the headlines in mainstream technology blogs. For the companies that end up getting featured on tech blogs for the count, do all of them realize that it's more than just a number, it's a representation of the number of people that have not only bought into the product, but potentially the vision, goals and leadership the company represents, too?
We're willing to take Jack's approach one step further. We certainly don't have users, we have customers, but above all, we have relationships.
Using "customer" as a term is great, but it limits the investing individual to a transactional level. Here at ZURB, we go beyond the transaction to build meaningful relationships with each of our customers on a one-to-one level. We believe companies that follow suit and invest in relationships, not just customers, will find that their efforts will deliver significantly more long-term value to the business.
What kind of customers do you have?
How can you examine transform your own thinking when it comes to users? Regardless of whether you're a product or service-based company, it's important to define who your customers actually are. How do they invest, and ultimately return value, to your company?
After considering this, what steps are being taken from a company perspective in building relationships on an individual level with customers? Having an understanding for your company's approach to building relationships, and ultimately brand advocates, will clarify how exactly a company encourages people to buy in.
A Relationship-Driven Culture
Thinking about your users as customers is a good first step, but the biggest shift for any company is thinking about their customers as relationships. We believe that if you consider how you're forming and building the relationships with your customers, your success in product and, ultimately, overall business success will be much greater.