Customer into collaborator how to get there
Home / August 1, 2012

Customer Into Collaborator: How To Get There?

In a recent blog post called ‘Crowds versus communities: a quick guide for the perplexed’, I looked at the different kinds of inputs you can get from different audiences.

This time, let’s look at one of the more exciting spin-offs of Web 2.0: the chance to move selected consumers up the value chain to become invaluable collaborators, helping you create offerings that click with your target audience.

Co-creating campaigns has gained traction in recent times, with companies reaching out to consumers for inputs on new offerings as part of a well-seeded social media campaign. However, Brian Solis suggests that we can go further than that, switching to structural collaboration where customers are involved in all decision processes inside a company. The reasoning behind this is simple, and sound: consumers give more credence to the views of other customers than to what companies say. That’s the ground reality you and I face every day, both as business people and as consumers ourselves.
But moving from co-creation to pure collaboration is difficult for companies; we’re used to keeping our processes to ourselves and to rely on our own knowledge and intuition. Solis’ post suggests a three-step transition that makes sense to me:

1. Try-out: Scope the scene out and figure out in what ways and to what extent customers can actually, practically be involved in processes. Where can they add value?

2. Projects
: Involve customers in strategic projects, customer-centric customer centric mode where customer involvement becomes an accepted concept.

3. Structural collaboration: If all goes well, integrate a customer voice element across processes.

But for a collaborative approach to work, five crucial factors need to be in place in your organization:

1. Your culture: You can’t change your company culture overnight. That’s why a try-out phase makes sense. Let the whole company see how and where customer inputs make sense before moving to the next stage.

2. People: You need to work with the right customer; someone who is passionate about your brand, but also someone who is knowledgeable about the segment you address.

3. C-Level commitment: Organizational commitment has to go all the way to the top; unless your top management is sold on it, it won’t work.

4. Share your efforts
: This needs a certain blending of internal and external communication but it is important because it involves other customers as spectators and demonstrates that you are genuinely collaborating.

5. Measure impact
: As always, measure everything and see what works. KPIs to focus on include cost reductions, consumer feelings toward your company, brand perception and success of new launches.

I strongly believe that in our wired, transparent world barriers are shifting and customers can play a more integral, vital role in shaping the businesses they deal with. The platform for this transformation is a meaningful, integrated engagement program – something the Digital Marketing team here at i-Vista happens to specialise in!

Author Bio: Narayan Rajan, is the founder of iVista Digital Solutions and he is the driving force behind iVista’s growth story. An individual with an insatiable passion for all things Digital, Narayan is a first-generation entrepreneur and virtual brand evangelist. His expertise is based on a unique blend of different facets of experiential and digital marketing, product development, sales management and organizational building. A keen observer of business and technological trends, he constantly looks at ways to customize existing offerings and new possibilities in the digital industry

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