Every customer has free will and is increasingly able and willing to determine what his needs and wants are, and to speak loudly for them.

I was browsing through my LinkedIn and came across an amusing short piece by an influencer asking if the reader is a “Cadillac” or a “Ford”. I did not watch the comparative videos of commercials of the two automobile makers, but my mind immediately leaped off tangentially to the topic of customers and service.

Why should any customer be defined by a brand? Why should a customer be only a Brand A person, or a Brand B person?

After all, how a brand projects itself, truthfully or otherwise, by mass or new media, is merely a conditioning exercise that hopes to mould consumers to its bidding. In the days where television, radio and newspapers ruled, consumers had no choice but to accept whatever the mass media doled out. Even if there were skeptics among the consumers, the thundering voices of mass media drowned out the skeptics and consumers could not know any better.

The tide has turned. Consumers today relate to one another through the Internet, on various social technologies from short messaging, encrypted chats, blogs and social networks. Consumers compare and research all the available options before they commit to purchasing decisions, if they would even purchase. They are no longer beholden to the echoes and cries of the advertisers and brand owners, but have wrestled the control back to their own hands.

So, no, we cannot dictate if a customer is going to be a “Cadillac” or a “Ford” consumer, because the customer may well be a “Honda”, “Toyota”, “VW”, “Audi”, “Skoda”, “Proton”, or any brand he/she determines. The same goes for fashion, food, hospitality, medical facilities, professional services, technologies, gadgets, and so on. The choices lie squarely in the hands and feet of our customers.

Self-determination is the new paradigm of customers and service, and we as brand owners and custodians need to heed this new paradigm, and submit to it with humility and respect.