Thursday, July 02, 2009

King? Partner?

I’ve been reviewing the new article Lee Hayden just published, “Customer Feedback: the Key to Stable Growth.”

Hayden’s a colleague from the AMA-Houston Healthcare SIG so I was anxious to see what he had to say. Which is, customers are now at the top of every business’s organizational hierarchy. If they’re not, they should be.

Perhaps you’ve read articles or even books on the subject. So you already know that this king-of-the-hill model is strong. Just a couple of reasons? One, Hayden says, “Smarter use of customer feedback can differentiate your brand, products and services in a tough market.” Two, “It is likely the best opportunity to gain stable growth while competition experiences massive customer losses.” Good thoughts for bad times.

But maybe you haven’t read all those business books. Maybe you’re involved in a company whose customers are not treated like royalty, like this joke from the fast food business:

What’s the difference between customers and vegetables?
Customers have arms and legs.

Start changing this attitude by reading Hayden’s piece – download it here. Then see how you can make learning about your customers pay off.

Listen, though. At the end of this new century’s first decade, what if customer-on-top is just an intermediate stage? I’ve chatted in a number of posts about “stakeholder management” and making certain that your customers become part of two-way (or more) conversations.

This is the distributed model. The customer’s not king of your heap but a partner in your brand and your business. The newer representation is one where customer potency isn’t royal privilege but power-sharing agreement.

Think about the several hundred million Facebook users who stopped the company’s attempt to change the platform dead in its tracks. Without realizing it, Facebook had given its user-fans enough power so that “customers” have a significant say in how this company operates. And there are no shares of stock in sight.

That’s where Hayden has led me with his article, which I haven’t given enough space to. But it has certainly steered me in some interest stakeholder directions. Thanks, Lee.

Charts from David Armano, L+E blog, with appreciation.

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