Social networks key to improved customer relations and product development

Social networks key to improved customer relations and product development

Video as a storytelling tool

Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony, once said:

We don’t ask customers what they want – we tell them what they want.

I’ll take his word for it, since Mr. Morita actual has developed very successful products.

Much is being written about the impact that new communication technologies and channels – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – have on traditional marketing and customer service. The deeper question is: Will these new communication channels actually force material changes not just in the way companies market their products but in the strategies and operations they use to develop and build those products as well?

Companies are under increasing pressure to significantly shorten their product cycles and rely much less on well-choreographed and fully-controlled product releases. In a world of constant information flows and leaks to the outside world, they need to accept that they will have to work with smaller changes at shorter intervals – and that they will be subjected to much more visibility and scrutiny from the outside world.

The good news is that for some companies, this makes it possible to leverage much more useful input from customers.

Dell – a company that has had its fair share of public relations struggles – is a good example of a company using social networks to its advantage. The company have launched the Direct2Dell blog, opening up a direct line of communication between the company and its customers.

Dell have also opened a public forum for customer ideas. Dell’s IdeaStorm is a site for customers and other people interested to submit technology and business ideas to the firm, with readers able to vote for their favourites. The company says that this can reduce costs associated with product development as well as provide a larger focus group to provide feedback on a development.

Social networks key to product development

Starbucks have launched MyStarbucksIdea

Social networks key to improved customer relations and product development

And at the same time present on Twitter @MyStarbucksIdea

SalesForce.com has Idea Exchange and uses it to obtain ideas and allow customers to interact with other customers’ ideas:

Salesforce - Social networks key to improved customer relations and product development

Domino’s pizza

Another good example of a brand that has the ability to embrace criticism as well as praise is Domino’s pizza. Instead of cowering in shame or responding angrily to negative online reviews and comments about their products, Dominos pizza met the criticism head on – “The Pizza Turnaround“. They made a documentary describing the extent of their problems and the efforts they were making to improve their products and services. Even more intelligent is the fact that Dominos clearly thought about their long-term business strategy rather than the immediate need to quell any negative comments. They openly addressed the issues that their customers were complaining about so that these same people would  spread word of their proactive response via the same fast-spreading medium.

So what’s the take-away?

Its more than a change in attitude, its derived from a realization that co-creation has many more benefits than better products. It can lead to increased employee morale, advocacy for companies, brands and products, as well as the discovery of new markets.

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About The Author

Torben Rick

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement, development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

Blog Comments

Torben, I only had a few minutes to check out your blog this morning, but I’m glad I did. Your examples of social networking at Dell and Starbucks were great, and I’m going to come back to read about Audi when I have a little more time.

I can see that there is a lot of information on your blog that could be useful to me. Thanks for sending me the link. Keep your eye out for future posts from me.

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