Connected strategies for a relationship economy

Last week London hosted the annual conference of the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) with the theme this year being ‘connected strategies for a relationship economy.’

I was particularly interested in a talk titled “Relationships versus Contacts: Propaganda, Marketing and Feedback, versus Global Co-Creation” by Professor Prabhu Guptara, Distinguished Professor of Global Business Management.

I have been out to India recently and I was thinking of ways in which we could learn from some of the strategies they are already using. In fact the UK National Outsourcing Association (NOA) was also out in Mumbai recently meeting the Teleperformance team at the annual Nasscom summit – the big annual gathering of technology and BPO companies in India.

The real question about the research of Professor Gupta is whether customers can guide your business, ethical, cultural, and leadership decisions? Is this even possible or desirable for customers to almost directly lead the strategy of a business? And if not, then why not?

I think that many more companies are going to find themselves on a journey soon where customer service becomes customer engagement and this eventually leads to customers having a direct impact on business strategy.

A striking example is the Lego toy company. They encourage customers to design new products. Customer can send their ideas to the company for consideration. Other customers vote on the ideas they like with every idea allowed one year to gather support.

If an idea passes a certain milestone of support then the Lego team will consider the idea. If the idea gets a higher level of support then it can be automatically approved and put into production without the executives even taking a decision themselves – the customers can bring a new product to market if enough of them agree that they want to buy it.

Why can’t a similar feedback and innovation model work for banks or retailers? It really is the next step towards managing the relationship economy that the ICS conference was focused on.

Let me know your thoughts on this move to managing relationships and allowing customers to set business strategy. Leave a comment here or tweet me on @aniederer.

Lego Scooby Gang


Photo by David Pickett licensed under Creative Commons.

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