For the past few days I’ve been covering the latest Process Excellence Week at the London Film Museum. The live blog was featured on the Professional Manager website so hopefully some of you managed to join me virtually at the event.
If you did, you’ll have read how an overriding theme of the event was customer centricity. It comes at a time when social media gives us greater exposure to our customers than ever before. There’s no excuse not to know what your customers are thinking, what’s annoying them or delighting them. Yet so many managers remain in the dark because they don’t want to listen.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Steve Jobs in BusinessWeek, May 25 1998
It was telling that when asked by a speaker how many managers in the audience had regular contact with customers, barely a handful raised their hands. Many managers still prefer to solicit feedback from artificial environments such as focus groups rather than listen to what customers are saying every minute of every day.
What’s more, as we’ve seen on these very pages, many managers are of the opinion that social media is a drag on workplace productivity and would like to see it banned. They would like the blinkers to remain on and for managers to remain clueless about who their customers are and what they need.
All of which represents a tremendous opportunity for the enlightened amongst us. For you see Forrester reported this week that many marketing directors are cutting spending on community building, despite research showing that providing a platform for customers to talk to one another it sees revenue per customer increase by around 19%.
Of greater use however is in empowering your customers to help make your business better. If you can build a customer eco-system you’re opening up your collaboration and process improvement efforts to a vast new audience.
Patrica Seybold suggests opening up your collaborative efforts to overcome this weakness, forming a customer ecosystem. She outlines 6 key factors in the creation of a successful customer ecosystem.
6 critical success factors when creating a customer ecosystem
- Help customers achieve and/or manage something they care about.
- Design for specific target audiences.
- Provide a “secret sauce” that transforms customers’ ability to get things done.
- Attract partners & suppliers who can contribute to these customers’ success.
- Align the entire ecosystem to meet customers’ success metrics.
- Embed, co-brand, and be ubiquitous so customers will encounter and use your secret sauce no matter what their starting point is.
Your customers represent a vast array of knowledge and experience. They represent a group of people with a vested interest in you being as good as you can be. Things like the open source software movement have shown how willing many are to chip in simply to make things better than they are.