by Rene T. Domingo (email comments to
The customers of the next millennium will present challenges and opportunities for both the
manufacturing and service sectors. As customers shift buying habits, tastes, and purchasing
paradigms, banks and other service providers will have to develop proactive quality plans. Otherwise,
current products and services will become irrelevant, unappealing, and uncompetitive. It may not be
enough in most cases to just revitalize or enhance existing services. It may be necessary to reinvent
most of them to survive the new environment.
There are twelve distinct megatrends in customer behavior that will be apparent at the turn of the
century and the millennium for which companies must make immediate and appropriate strategic
responses and plans now.
First. The customers of the future will be value conscious, not cost conscious nor price conscious.
They will not associate cheap price with high value, nor high price with high quality. Value for money
will be the key purchase criterion. Premium pricing, cost-plus pricing, market entry pricing, and
commodity pricing will become unfashionable and disastrous. The new paradigm will be "value
Second. The customers of the future will be highly informed, or "informationalized". The internet and
other information technologies will highly increase their bargaining power and demands. They will be
capable of electronic benchmarking and electronic window shopping. In other words, they will window
shop not with their feet but with their fingers on the keyboard. E-commerce means they can
instantaneously compare prices, interest rates, services, and quality of any product or service.
Purchase contracts can be electronically "signed" in seconds, or cancelled in seconds if a better offer
arrives on the screen within a minute of signing.
Third. The customers of the future will develop and acquire global tastes, global requirements, and
global standards of quality. They will be well traveled physically and electronically, browsing through
Webs of commercial information. Local products for local culture will become things of the past. The
distinction between domestic and export sales, domestic and export quality will blur. Even pure
domestic producers and service providers will have to deliver export quality expected by local
Fourth. The customers of the future will demand total satisfaction. They would pay for the productservice package inclusive of "before sales service" and "after sales service". In other words, they will
pay for the "total experience", rather than just a mere product, or a mere service. Companies will have
to shift paradigms from selling finished goods and services to selling an experience.
Fifth. The customers of the future will want to be delighted, not just satisfied. They will want their
expressed as well as their unexpressed wishes catered to. They expect proactive rather than reactive
services. They want manufacturers and service providers to read their minds, rather than ask
questions and feedback.
Sixth. The customers of the future will be increasingly fastidious and perfectionist. They will demand
product and service quality levels measured not in percentage, but in defects per million (dpm) of
transactions, or defects per million (ppm). Purchase decisions and customer loyalty will be based on
differences in these minute metrics of quality.
Seventh. The customers of the future will expect high and wide variety and assortment of products,
services, and options. They will want their orders mass customized, rather than mass produced. They
will want exact measurements rather than forced into standards offerings. Standardized products and
services of the "one-size-fits-all" nature will be abhorred. Flexible manufacturing systems will most
adaptive to this new customer behavior.
Eight. The customer of the future will expect short product lives. They will not expect long term
durability, but will expect high reliability during the short life of the product. They will want new
products and services to come out in continuous streams so that they can indulge in myriad of
choices. Time-to-market reduction will be the key to competitiveness in this regard.
Ninth. The customers of the future will demand short ordering times and real time satisfaction. Order
processing times of months and weeks will be standards of the past. Customers will only tolerate
hours and minutes of waiting time. Delayed deliveries will be redefined in terms of fractions of an hour,
not days. Processes will have to be reengineered to achieve these unforgiving requirements.
Tenth. The customers of the future will be process oriented rather than product oriented. They will
judge not only the quality of the product and service, but also the quality of the management and the
facilities that produce these. They will not settle for just brochures, blueprints, catalogues, and product
samples. They will want to see the insides of factories and service establishments to check how
people work and how process standards are met.
Eleventh. The customers of the future will order more frequently in smaller and smaller lots. They will
want just-in-time deliveries, not early not late. In other words, they will not want to carry inventories or
stocks. Economic lot size and economic order quantity will soon disappear in the vendor vocabulary,
as customers demand order quantities approaching one piece.
Twelfth. The customers of the future will be environment conscious. They will prefer or insist on green
products made by green processes. They will only buy from socially responsible companies which use
environmentally friendly processes in coming out with their products and services. For instance, bank
clients of the future may patronized only those banks which use documents made of recycled paper.
In conclusion, the customers of the future will be globalized, informationalized, perfectionists, processoriented, time-conscious, and environment-conscious. As the saying goes, to be forewarned is to be