Company objectives for structural collaboration with consumers

by Steven Van Belleghem on May 30, 2012in the categories Conversations, Social WebNo Comments

Yesterday we discussed the status of co-creation and collaboration in the world. Today, we continue with sharing the results of our study about collaboration. Topic of today is the objectives companies have with collaboration and the steps they need to go through to include the voice of the customer in all their decision flows.

The objectives of structural collaboration
Companies who are working on structural collaboration with their customers have four clear objectives in mind with this approach:
1. Create better products, improve the customer service and communicate in a more impactful way. This is by far the most important objective for large brands to collaborate with consumers. By succeeding in this objective, the overall performance of the organization will increase.
2. Become more agile. By involving customers in every phase of a decision making chain, things move faster. Companies can make better decisions faster and have a better feeling what will be needed to be as successful in the future. A big plus in today’s fast moving world.
3. Add consumer-feeling to the gut-feeling. A lot of managers rely on their gut-feeling, which is wonderful. Structural collaboration should add ‘consumer-feeling’ to it. By collaborating so often, managers create the ability to put on the consumers hat during a meeting and think as the customer. Allowing them to make more consumer relevant choices.
4. Marketing & PR. Companies who are listening and involve consumers in decision making are popular nowadays. Tell all your customers that you take decisions based on consulting other customers, and they will like you more. Leveraging the internal collaboration platforms towards the external communication, has an impact on the overall perception. This is not the main goal, but a very welcomed indirect effect.

Implementation? an evolution, not a revolution!
It’s clear that structural collaboration with consumers is not about having the right technology to make it happen. It is about a mentality shift for most organizations. A shift from a ‘we know best’-attitude towards an open mentality. The most beautiful results of collaborating companies is the creation of what we just called the ‘consumer feeling’. Adding the consumer feeling to the gut feeling of companies is the biggest change one can achieve through structural collaboration.

To reach this situation, there are a number of steps to be taken. Based on our research, we learned that all companies started small and evolved towards bigger and bigger collaboration projects. In the end, collaboration was really embedded in their organization. It was a process of change, not a revolution.

The evolution towards structural collaboration is evolving in three steps:

1. Collaboration always starts with a first time try out. Companies organize a co-creation project in which they allow the customer to participate in one specific project. Most occurring examples are co-creation of a new product, a new package or new marketing communication.
2. If this try out is experienced as a success, the second step is to apply collaboration on a project based level in the organization. In this stage, companies have the habit to involve customers in every important new project they work on.
3. After a while, it becomes hard for them to take decisions without the voice of the customer during the process and they decide to structurally collaborate.

Tomorrow, we discuss the five pillars for success with structural collaboration. Stay tuned! If you can’t wait: here is the full research paper:

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