|Dialogue with Customers: Secret to Innovation
by Debra M. Amidon
Enterprises are discovering a rededication to customers in ways rarely practiced by other than the entrepreneurial firm. However, quality and restructuring methodologies have returned executives to their own raison d'etre positioning customers at the heart of business survival. At the same time, cross-boundary alliances are demanding new partnering techniques with all stakeholders, including customers. New initiatives are commonplace, but are generally without an understanding that something is fundamentally different between customer satisfaction and the success of your customers.
This article introduces the concepts in ways that are easily practiced. Simply stated, treat your customers as sources of knowledge, not someone to whom you solely deliver products and services. By practicing value-system (rather than value-chain strategies), companies can take advantage of the business opportunities afforded by a collaborative economy. Similarly, by defining Strategic Business Networks - SBNs (rather than SBUs), companies can leverage all available knowledge sources. Most important, a symbiotic relationship with consumers, customers or clients can help a company envision products and services for unarticulated needs and unserved markets.
Companies who are practicing new ways of interfacing with customers are realizing significant business results. A Profile of Customer Innovation of Steelcase North America provides and understanding of this new partnering relationship. This presentation was originally delivered in a December, 1995, meeting of The Strategic Leadership Forum in the U.S.A.
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