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Customer and Company Value, You Must Define Both

Posted by on September 2, 2010

In my presentations I oftentimes reference a quote from Gartner which says the following:

“By 2010 more than half of companies that have established an online community will fail to manage it as an agent of change, ultimately eroding customer value.  Rushing into social computing initiatives without clearly defined benefits for both the company and the customer will be the biggest cause of failure.”

Notice that value must be defined for BOTH the customer AND the COMPANY, something I feel that many organizations miss when developing their social web strategy.  Social media isn’t going to go away and while I’m all for testing and playing around with social channels such as twitter, I think the real benefit comes from being able to solve business challenges while making customers happy.  I thought it would make sense to look at a few simple examples of what defining customer and company value can look like.  We don’t need to get too crazy with defining “value” here because quite honestly most companies are still in the early stages so let’s keep things simple.

  • Looking to speed up or improve the innovation process, soliciting and encouraging customer participation
  • Improve or augment customer support issues through social channels
  • Identify product or service problems via customer feedback
  • Connect with and build relationships with analysts or companies that can result in partnerships or business opportunities
  • Empower customers to become advocates, the advocates act as Jeremiah Owyang calls them, “unpaid armies”
  • Improving the end user experience to keep customers coming back to purchase from you
  • Timely and quality customer service support resulting in less frustration
  • The feeling that the organization values the customer
  • An improved experience when interacting with the company
  • The ability to affect how a product or service is marketed or created which provides a feeling of importance and contribution
  • Offers and promotions available exclusively through relevant channels
  • Peer recognition

You can of course use monitoring tools such as Attensity and Radian 6 to get a better understanding of what your customers are saying about you online and what they expect from you.  This can dramatically help in the customer value creation statement.

Again, these may or may not be specific to your customers or your organization but the key here is actually setting up these key value statements so that you have an idea of what you and your customers are working towards.

  • AmberNaslund

    Jacob –

    This is a good discussion to start, because there's a couple of disconnects in the way we often approach social media. One is that we mistakenly think that the “value” we create for our customers, from our own perspective, is defined by them the same way. In other words, we say we're creating something of value, but we've rarely stopped to stand in the customers' shoes (or even ask them) if they share our definition of what's valuable.

    The second and related is that where social media shines – or anything else for that matter – is in the intersection between the two sets of values. If value to us is defined one way and we use social media to try and accomplish that, but our customers' expectations are completely different, no well-thought out strategy is going to help that, because the objectives are fundamentally misdefined.

    Thanks for bringing up the importance of seeing “value” from more than one place.

    Amber Naslund

    • Don't know why these took me so long to get to! Thanks for stopping by and of course I agree with what you're saying. Asking customers is always the best way to go about doing things yet it's ironic how few companies even bother to do this.

  • Fantastic thought here.
    You're absolutely right that companies are approaching their social media from either one perspective or the other. Amber also makes an excellent point that sometimes what we think will add value for customers is not what they consider to be added value.
    This is where the beauty of social media research can really shine I think. By listening first to customers we can gain knowledge into what our customers really want and how they want it. By really knowing the answers to these questions it becomes easier to create something that will add value for customers while also doing it for the company at the same time.
    I think that finding the perfect way to walk down both roads is going to be the focus for many companies over the next little while. It's going to be exciting though when these companies start figuring it out.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • Thanks for your thoughts Sheldon and always great to chat with folks from Sysomos. I find that listening in the hard part for companies it's actually acting upon and doing something with the information that organizations are finding.

  • This is such a great post and one of those post to be read over ans over again! Fantastic thoughts! Thank you!

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