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Are some business functions more suited to opening up to customers using social channels?

In my previous post, I introduced certain business functions that might lend themselves better than others for opening up to external partners and customers using social channels. Let's explore those functions in more detail here.


In my previous post, I introduced certain business functions that might lend themselves better than others for opening up to external partners and customers using social channels. Let's explore those functions in more detail here.

For too long, companies have operated behind multiple process layers with limited knowledge of customer/partner needs. Now, for the first time, social channels are enabling companies to truly be in touch with their customers. Companies should take a systematic approach to dissecting each business function and identify opportunities to facilitate discussions with external partners to benefit both the company and its key stakeholders (customers, partners, employees and ultimately investors).

In the area of supply chain, for example, package delivery companies are making effective use of social channels to enable customers to track their packages, providing them with a richer and more satisfying experience. Another example is how companies are using mechanisms such as supplier networks and open bids to provide higher visibility of their needs to partners and enable suppliers to work with each other to meet the needs of the company.

During product design and manufacturing, companies can encourage feedback and enable collaboration with customers and partners. An example is how certain luxury auto and yacht makers give customers a window into the design process to enable them to customize and personalize what might otherwise be a somewhat standard, albeit high-end product. This lets the customer be more involved in the details and the product becomes a reflection of his or her personality and lifestyle.

Another example being how companies are developing forums to encourage discussions amongst suppliers, partners and customers to share challenges of working with the company and tweak their processes to enable these stakeholders to better work with the company.

Companies spend considerable amount of time driving demand through marketing. However few of them have figured out the right approach to build customer relationships using social channels most are using the same old marketing approaches and hoping for different results. The social consumer is more demanding than his or her more traditional counterpart.

To meet the needs and satisfy the demands of these new consumers, a company must use social channels to better understand their needs and desires, and then determine if its product is the right one for the customer as well as if your current customer is the right consumer of your products. 

On the customer service front, a number of companies have come to realize that their best support staff are customers themselves; users who have encountered similar problems and come up with solutions for their fellow consumers. One example is how companies realized that providing a platform for customers to help each other made sense because often the best customer support person is not a customer support person at all but a fellow user who has encountered similar problems and has easy solutions for fellow users.

Additionally, customers are pushing products to the limit and using them in ways that the company did not originally intend them to be used and who better to advise on this than others users who have done the same. Another example is how airlines, hotels have embraced social forums such as Twitter and Facebook as another channel to be "where their customers are" and serve them through that avenue as well. 

What about functions such as finance, pricing, fulfillment, order management and other operational enablers? I believe these might be harder to open up to external stakeholders however I am interested in hearing from others who have had success in this area.
As always looking forward to your comments and ideas.

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