Entovation International
Customer Knowledge is NOT Knowledge of the Customer

It has been a long time coming, but enterprises all over the world are beginning to realize the value in treating 'customers as a source of knowledge' - not just someone to whom products and services get delivered! Of course, we defined it in 1993 with research at MIT and there were other theorists long before us. But, over the past few years, several companies have begun to reap significant economic value from the strategy.

Steelcase developed the Business Week Product of the Year in consort with customers. Buckman Laboratories speaks of a span of communication of one...which includes customers. Hubert Saint-Onge (Canada) has been able to differentiate between transaction processing and partnering with customers. Siemens most recently has adopted an 'Innovating with the Customer' approach to delivering services in the Network and Communications group.

There is a new journal on the topic - Journal of Customer Relationships - which includes an article in the most recent edition by me on "Customer Innovation: A Function of Knowledge."

I wrote:

"Customers have always been integral to the innovation process. What else is the purpose of productization and commercialization? However, current global business conditions have shed a new light on the value of customer interaction and the scope and structure of the innovation process itself. Moreover, what good are your customers if they are satisfied, and not successful? This article defines some of the elements of this new economy, provide a rationale for the innovation value-system and illustrates how companies can manage the development of their new products and services to fulfill unarticulated customer needs and unserved markets. This is the only road to sustainable competitive advantage."

Technology Solutions Group (Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.), the journal publisher, will be participating this month in the ComputerWorld Smithsonian Awards Program. For a free subscription, send a note (julie_fitzpatrick@tecsol.com) and mention that you are an ENTOVATION Colleague.

March 10-11, 1998, World Trade Conferences hosted an entire conference on the topic of "Increasing Customer Loyalty through Knowledge Management" in London. The range of speakers included experts from Lotus Consulting, American Express, Xerox, NatWest, Motorola, ABB, AT&T, Nortel, ICL and more.

The messages were clear: customers need to be the focal point of activity.

What has changed, however, is the way that the knowledge of customers can be utilized. Progressive companies are realizing that a learning partnership is a most more viable way to build the long-term relationship they seek. This can be costly. ENTOVATION provided a way to map current products and services against the information/knowledge continuum as well as the degree of customer involvement.

[Note: A short 10-minute videotape (prepared by RM Consulting of the Royal Mail), was made of Debra M. Amidon and can be obtained for $10 plus shipping costs.

Email: debra@entovation.com

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Reprinted from I3 Update - 18.