Are Customers Connected to Customers?

by Jay Deragon on 10/13/2008

Should We Connect Customers to Customers?Business leaders have a unique opportunity to connect customers to customers. However the typical reaction to this proposition is one of fear.

Business leaders fear that if you connect customers to customers they will reveal business weaknesses, complain and create negative PR.

Here is a clue, customers are already connected to customers. A businesses customer base typically represents one or more market segments of business affinities. Businesses create products and services to serve specific needs for target markets, some large and some small. Regardless of the size of market customer segmentation represents a thread of common needs that suppliers, businesses, try and fill.

A bank provides a set of financial services for personal banking needs, for business banking needs. Banks typically target geographic locations whose demographics support the establishment of a branch. The demographics represent businesses and individuals within a geographic domain. People and business within that domain interact formally and informally. Do you think the conversations ever create dialog over banking relations?

The same analogy proves true for any business the scale and scope changes with the size and reach of a business. The one thing that never changes is the fact that customers do in fact connect with other customers. Whether this be at trade shows, local meetings, online or in person, customers are people and they converse about everything and anything.

Kevin Kelly writes in his book New Rules for the New Economy Nothing is as scary to many corporations as the idea of sponsoring dens in which customers can talk to one another. Especially if it is an effective place of communication. Like the web. “You mean,” they ask in wonder, “we should pay a million dollars to develop a web site where customers can swap rumors and make a lot of noise? Where complaints will get passed around and the flames of discontent fanned?” Yes, that’s right. Often that’s what will happen. “Why should we pay our customers to harass us,” they ask, “when they will do that on their own?” Because there is no more powerful force in the network economy than a league of connected customers. They will teach you faster than you could learn any other way. They will be your smartest customers, and, to repeat, whoever has the smartest customers wins.”

“Whatever tools you develop that will aid the creation of relationships between your customers will strengthen the relationship of your customers to you. This effort can also be thought of as Feeding the Web First.”

Businesses cannot insulate or control conversations rather they can engage and learn. Instead of trying to insulate relations and control conversations maybe businesses should connect people and encourage conversations that enhance market opportunities between customers and suppliers. Businesses can also become a conduit of knowledge by enabling the sharing of knowledge, one to one to millions. The social web actually is a model of collaborative conversations that build relationships and create opportunities. What business leader would not want to be engaged in the middle conversations that create market opportunities for them to fill?

Whether customer, employee or supplier, they are all people

Most people don’t live in isolation or do they get satisfaction out of attempts to be controlled. Most people like to be heard and seen as a positive influence in business relations and opportunities. Does a business tell its employees “Today we want you to create negative conversations and turn down any opportunity to serve our customers better”. Not likely however the practices of management are creating the same results but no one wants to hear the real conversations or understand the true state of their relationships with employees, customers and suppliers.

You disagree? Then please point us to a swarm of businesses embracing the social web and doing so with the right intent. We can’t seem to find the “swarms of businesses” rather a few seem to be trying to mimic the actions of people for whatever business intent. The cross road of success for businesses is to be able to think and relate like people rather than trying to make people think and relate like business.

What say you?


Michael Pokocky January 5, 2008 at 11:36 am

@ Ron. You say,{whenever there is an opinion, it simply means there is not enough information, not enough detail}. I think this is a well put observation.

I would clarify this by adding that its all about conversations be they opinions, observations or et al.

What matters is {Participation} in the conversation that creates {added value}.

Kind Regards,

Michael Pokocky

Michael Pokocky January 5, 2008 at 11:33 am

@ Earl.

Well Earl its not about what they are saying; it’s the idea that {They} are thinking for themselves.

To grasp the totality of the whole picture is an impossibility given there are so many conversations and so many people thinking for themselves.

This puts the whole idea of this site’s purpose into perspective: {It} creates a conversation just as {The Others} and these conversations are slices of the whole picture.

What I was inferring politely to Jay that he increase the intersection of these {other} conversations into {this} one to give the reader the perspective that there is much more going on {out there} than is eminently apparent here. Besides Jay has got the ball rolling well and did it alone, so the idea of bringing in {others} voices and their conversations will increase the number of slices of conversations that are really going on.

Kind Regards,

Michael Pokocky

Ronald Wopereis January 5, 2008 at 10:13 am

hi Jay, excellent article
in terms of attention, it is interesting to understand the difference between statistics and faces, between “the customer” and “this customer”.
when attention is paid to market segment, to the traits that differ one group from another, attention is not paid to the individual person
i believe opinions can only exist by the virtue of not looking
– i am a visual person, so i use seeing and looking. please feel free to substitute words that fit other sensitive organs, for instance feeling instead of looking –
or in other words, whenever there is an opinion, it simply means there is not enough information, not enough detail

hope this makes sense
best regards, Ron

miro slodki January 4, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Customers have been connected to one another for millenia

I see this as a very positive thing for a brand/enterprise – it keeps the business on its toes but also uses the same network capability to help define the brand promise the business is prepared to live up to and ensure that the brand promise is understood by everyone.

It is not uncommon for a user group to come to the defense of the brand/business when the accusations are out of line.

In short – dialogue is always a good thing and a damn site better than a monologue

My 2 cents

Earl Rudolfo January 4, 2008 at 11:37 am

Good point, Michael. So what are those others like Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod, Doc Searls, et al saying?


Michael Pokocky January 4, 2008 at 7:27 am

You seem to rely very much on Kevin Kelly.
This does not give us a diverse range of viewpoints.
There’s Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod, Doc Searls, et al.
Bringing multiple conflicting and diverse viewpoints together in a post would make it more interesting Jay, no offense.
Kind Regards,

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