Thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on yesterday’s post. The response was very positive both in emails and in comments. The experience showed me that there are at least two schools of thought on the subject. One side is the vendor and analyst camp, which is supportive of the customer experience idea. The other side is customers who have seen the results and many of whom are not impressed. I consider myself in the middle. I understand the usefulness of customer experience ideas but I am not persuaded that the empathetic approach is enough.
I went digging at the Harvard Business School website and found a trove of commentary by business gurus on the shortcomings of customer experience and if you are interested in the subject, please check it out. What comes across in all this is that while a focus on customer experience is nice — even good — it’s not enough if there’s no culture behind it. Not just any culture but one that sees customer input as more than a bother but as a real opportunity.
I have started calling the information that customers want to share with their vendors, intellectual property because it is. Customers have valuable information that can benefit their vendors exclusively and it’s free if a vendor knows how to ask. The asking should take place in communities set up to gather the information and such communities also can help surface new product and service ideas. Even policy can be influenced through communities and it’s all intellectual property.
So what might it mean if vendors aren’t collecting this freely available IP? They’re probably leaving money on the table. Now, with that in mind, should customer service or customer interaction be seen as a cost or a hidden benefit?