Changing Customer Interactions


I learned about "crowdsourcing"–and its poster company, CrowdSpring–in a recent article on  What caught my eye though, was a small paragraph about croudsourcing and customer participation

Because of the internet, social media, and websites like CrowdSpring bringing design and decisions to the professional masses, customers are starting to feel left out.  They want to have a say about what should or should not be in the products they are buying.  But it's more than just input, it's also complaints, problems, and issues as well.  It's gotten easier for customers to speak up, so shouldn't their voices be heard?

A lot of big companies like Dell, Best Buy, and Starbucks have said, "Why not?" and created bespoke and expensive websites, or hired thousands of customer service agents to better hear from their customers.  What if your company wanted to do the same, but that much expense wasn't a viable option?

On a separate article on BusinessWeek, I read about the company Intuit, whose 8,000-employees conduct "follow me homes" with their customers by going to homes or offices to make sure the products are working well there.  This method works well for Intuit, but again, it's probably not feasible for anyone else.

This is where I started thinking about several companies I know that use audio conferencing to pursue participation.  Typically, they host a monthly web conference for their new customers, but then they have another audio conference that anyone can join.  Part of the time is spent on updates, a good portion is set aside for Q&A, but most of the conference call is devoted to the customer's comments, complaints, and ideas.

I think these companies might be on the right track.  Regular conference calls are much easier than a "follow me home" for both customer and employee, far less expensive than a mega-website, and just as effective for learning what the customer thinks and wants.

How do you ensure good customer interaction at your company?  I'm interested to know some more techniques, so leave a comment and tell me about yours.