Collaborate with your customers

N°258a – Synopsis (8p.) – Customer Relationship
Collaborate with your customers
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While the digital revolution has given consumers the possibility to involve themselves in the life of companies, very few businesses actually take advantage of this opportunity. How can you transform your consumers into privileged partners?

Extended collaboration is an increasingly common practice. The retail giant Walmart and its supplier Procter & Gamble have linked their logistics processes. Airbus and Nike involve their subcontractors in the innovation process. Some pharmaceutical labs, albeit competitors, share their R&D resources or their sales forces to enter new markets.

Consumers, on the other hand, are often greatly absent from these new collaborative models. Certainly, customers are the object of all attentions. They are solicited to participate in polls. Important means are deployed to understand their expectations and their behavior patterns. But few enterprises have yet entered into a real collaborative relationship with their customers.

Yet, some consumers are very willing to get involved. Thus, the cuisine magazine Cooking Light created its digital offering with the support of a few readers. During several weeks, volunteers helped the editorial team to develop what was in their view the ideal offering. This enabled a shortened launch timeline, and a more relevant positioning. Part of the SNCF (French national railway operator) customer service is actually handled by 400 “expert travelers” who, on a voluntary basis, answer the questions of other travelers on the community chat of the enterprise. These “expert travelers” are valued for their expertise and, thanks to them, the SNCF is reinforcing the quality of its service.

The customers’ increased collaboration thus opens promising perspectives. But how to set it up and ensure it is productive? We have retained three recommendations:

- Establish a personalized and long-term relationship with a few select clients.

- Work on people’s mentality in your organization, to set up a dialogue of equals, the condition for a durable collaboration.

- Adapt your working models to be able to take into account in real time your customers’ contributions.

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