Without the conversation, we look pretty silly.
We stand in malls with clipboards and we bring in strangers to sterile rooms and we ask them how they feel. We make any offer we can just to get an answer, well not any answer, the "look at me, I'm desperate, just say you like our product, tell me it fulfills you, no, not just your need to get something done, but that deep inner need, the one that haunts you and makes you question your very existence. Oh, please tell me you like me. Juice? Cookies?" answer.
But then along came the conversation, and sure enough, someone said, "But what if they don't like me?"
This is a topic I've been wanting to cover for a long time, I think some of us take for granted the magnitude of sea-change, with 'web 2.0' or whatever you want to call it, that is impacting the way we engage with our customers.
Let's start the discussion off therapy style, let's come clean about a few things, trust me, you'll feel better:
- We 'own' very little -- our customers, their interactions with our products, our brand and everything that comes with it, none of it belongs to us. If we want to understand these things, let alone influence them, we're going to have to be smarter than 'we' (our firm) collectively can be.
- Understanding our customers is everything -- We often like to think that we're ahead of our own customers, that if they don't 'get it' it's just because we're that revolutionary. Sure, we can argue that sometimes even the customer doesn't know what they want, but that doesn't mean innovation comes from a vacuum. Innovation often comes from an unexpressed but very real need.
- If mind-probed, most of our customers might not like 'us' -- some of them may like our product, but without a conversation, they don't really know 'us'. Sure, we can put 15 people in a room, load them up on sugar, stuff their wallets and let them tell us how much they like us -- or we can try to engage in an equal conversation, take our bruises, and maybe learn something.
- The cookie changes nothing. Our customers are going to interact with other people when we're not around to hand out cookies and juice, they're going to share their feelings and opinions and they're going to influence their friends' purchase behavior far greater than we can.Here's the really scary part: that dialogue, the one we can't possibly control, it's visible, and with the web, it's only going to get more visible.
Nothing I'm saying is truly ground breaking at all, so if you already knew and could easily admit to these simple facts, give yourself a gold star, hell, give yourself two.
So what's my point? The conversation is happening, you're just not seated at the table. But there are other companies, trying to figure this out, with some already setting up the tables and chairs for their customers. This is what I mean by we're going to have to be smarter than 'we' (our firm) collectively can be -- we're going to have to start tapping into the wisdom of crowds -- this is soon going to be the norm and the brands and companies not listening and not involved in earnest discussion are going to be left behind.
When you're seated at the table and you're engaged in the conversation, the quality of the final output grows with the quality of the response. If, for instance, you create a community where your customers can rate, review, and discuss your products and you begin to see negative reviews -- by actively pursuing further discussion, not sweeping the sentiments under the rug, by inviting your most vocal customers into the planning and production process, you'll begin to see an entirely new relationship between your brand and your customers. And with every iteration of this new system, you'll see the quality of the interaction increase.
And now, the concise version, not my soap-box, bully pulpit, bloviating...
Why Invest In Social Features on Your Site? (via)
- Amplify Customer Opinion
- Data, Data, and more Data
- Reduce Support Costs
- Engender Trust