Community is the Center of Collaboration

Across disciplines and industries, customer and citizen insights are more closely woven into the production process for whatever it might be (software, laws, vehicles, you name it). The age of internal-only product development is over – customers can now bring their thoughts to bear on everything that a company does so that by the time the final product arrives on their doorstep, it is as almost as though they’d placed an order for it: you can recognize the improvements to the main dashboard, that translation tool you asked for is now packaged with it, the changes to the city budget, just as you said they should.

Or at least – this is what you hope for and the organizations that fail to do this are going to be the industry laggards more and more often.

Consider these numbers from Forrester Research that were shared earlier this year:

“eighty-six percent of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities. Sixty-three percent say that they want their customer experience to be the best in their industry and 13% say that they want to be a leader in customer experience across all industries. However, the reality is that few companies are doing anything about optimizing the service experience. Companies are still primarily focused on cost and control measures and only 30% of companies have dedicated budget to customer experience initiatives.”

Despite the overall recognition that successful businesses are those that most closely align to their customer needs, it is still a developing tool. Most customer experiences and most citizen feedback systems leave a lot to be desired and as customer engagement executives begin to look for a system that truly allows them to connect to their customer, they need to keep something in mind:

When it comes right down to it, community is now at the center of collaboration. And true collaboration is what makes great results possible.

The landscape no longer only supports the one-way dialogue (here is this list of questions that we’ve dreamed up, please provide your answers in one of these buckets). All of the tools that we use to communicate are now tools the encourage discussion, dialogue, disagreement, suggestions, and participation in the process.

And while you think about that, think about this:

  • 79% of companies DO NOT define best practices for utilizing and deriving actionable insights from customer feedback.
  • 70% of customer experience management best-in-class adopters use customer feedback to make strategic decisions.
  • 68% of people stop following you because they believe you are indifferent to them.
  • Seth Godin writes (most succinctly), “Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning… for both sides.”

Here’s an example from the private sector: when SAP launched the IdeaScale-powered Business ByDesign Ideas Forum, they had done their homework and had a system to back it up. They launched a pilot program in Germany that received more than 800 ideas, then a little while later an English based Ideas Forum that also generated hundreds of ideas.

The forum kept users up-to-date on ideas with a widget that alerted members to new postings and many of those ideas were included in their final version in feature pack 3.5 and 4.0. Nearly 200 more ideas have been stewarded through to completion.

But SAP employees also found they could easily make arguments for product improvements simply by referencing the forum, asking follow-up questions from those who had made proposals, and continuing the conversation into workshops and beyond. Decisions were easier to prioritize and execute with such a wealth of active, supporting information from an entire population of people who were participating in the same conversation. And the community registration continues to climb.

So once you have the community, what you need to do from there is pretty simple:

  • Listen to your citizen feedback – make sure that the lines of communication are always open.
  • Respond quickly (and personally, if you can) to your contributors. Keep the conversation going and let them know you’re listening.
  • Structure feedback into actionable data. Take that information and turn it into policies, vision statements, new opportunities for research. Both your team and your citizens will appreciate it.

Community is the key to collaboration. How are you building yours?

You can learn more about citizen collaboration in this complimentary webinar set to take place tomorrow, October 30th at 9 a.m. PST. Register here.

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