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Are you listening yet?

March 8, 2007

megaphone.gif Consumer Media is driving a  lot of change in business.   For many large corporations engaged in providing consumer goods and services, CGM is driving changes to how customers are engaged.   In the past, customers were treated individually, and all information was kept sequestered away.  When there was a problem, it was between the consumer and the company.    Frustrated customers resorted to letters to executives, complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau, threats of lawsuit, or threats to disparage the company, or withold future business.   Now, consumer generated media in the form of blogs and forums, has provided the individual consumer with a megaphone of varying size with which to shout back at any company that they need to be heard and responded to.

Company reactions are mixed.  Some still prefer the “Duck and Cover” mentality, while others are rushing forward to put up their own blogs, and to form communities (forums) to help create official venues for conversation with their customers.   

Unfortunately, non-participation is like not showing up for a game.  The other team wins by default.   A company may ignore a customer, refuse to fix, refund, or otherwise make good on legitimate issues only to have that customer set up a blog (Why Company X Sucks) or otherwise provide an ongoing interjection of bile into the blogosphere.    If only the customer blogs, then it’s a one sided story, and a company may feel they are being held hostage by the blogger.  While a company may respond on a customer’s blog,  the customer continues to control the conversation and the company may be only throwing fuel on the fire.   The company perspective lies locked away in it’s databases, while the customer is free to document, ad hoc all of it’s foibles.

What do I suggest?  Forums and Corporate blogs are a good start…

What would happen if a  company were to conduct all transactions in public, in community on the web.    Put up their wares, along with tickers for how many they have available.  With every sale, the counter decrements.   The supply chain is fully transparent and the same interface is used by both customers and employees.   Imagine the reduction of complexity of only having one system that runs the company?  Terms of sale?   The price is the price – no haggle, no hassle.    Large customers can order hundreds or thousands, small customers can order just one.   Everybody gets treated equally.   Service history – public, on the web.   A customer can see who’s in line and when they’ll get their turn, just like buying movie tickets.   Quality and Development teams can see product performance in the field in real time.  Service response – all real time and public.  This would force companies to take their game up, way up.  

I imagine peer pressure in a community might be significant.    Customers can’t cut in line,  and will police each other in terms of getting what’s fair, but no more than the next guy.  

Sounds insane, doesn’t it?

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