Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the business world was all about ‘dog eat dog’, keeping your friends close but your enemies closer still, and for goodness sake, never, ever share precious knowledge with anyone other than customers paying big fat fees. The power was vested in the businesses with the expertise, and no one could get at the information, without entering into a business relationship first.
Thankfully those days are gone, replaced by an environment that is much more inclusive, where power is shared, information seemlessly integrated and shared freely. Thanks to major technological advances and healthy competition, expertise is now available through the myriad of ‘channels’ that we use daily. We have GenY and Miss Google https://www.google.co.uk/ to thank for this. So that means adapting in a world where collaboration is our ‘new normal’ and a way of helping our clients.
Here are a few ways to collaborate and if you try them, the chances are that your customers will thank you for treating them like humans who want help, to share and converse with you. Leave it to your competitors to play the corporate power game:
- Understand the motivations – truly knowing the needs of your customers will always be more important than your needs as an organisation. Entering into a successful business relationship is just the same as a personal one. It is not about you. It’s about them. If you recognise this, the rewards will likely be a long and successful relationship
- Don’t do it to them – do it with them. This means a shift from pushing out marketing campaigns, mails and materials, toward getting into conversations. Ask questions. Listen. Take time out to get closer. Even involve your customers in your decisions and you will learn far more about how you can help than by issuing your latest missive on a topic of great (but only to you) importance
- Get creative – according to a report from BDO https://twitter.com/bdoaccountant and The Centre for Future Studies http://www.futurestudies.co.uk/home.htm “businesses are beginning to recognise that their future source of competitive advantage lies in their creative capabilities, encouraging collaboration, drawing on diverse perspectives …”. I stumbled upon an interesting example of this from someone who recognises design skills have rich applications, to help design new solutions, by drawing out buyer needs with insight. Tim Brown https://twitter.com/tceb62, president & CEO Ideo, says they have a “Human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Sounds like a compelling way to align your clients’ needs with ways you can genuinely help them and a great example of how to tackle point two
- Design your customer interface – yes that’s a bit of jargon but forgive me just this once. What is important is standing back and making sure that each way a customer makes contact with you is designed around their needs (rather than you or your systems design). Make sure that every route is simple, works (stating the obvious but it needs to be said) and respects them and their needs. First Direct https://twitter.com/firstdirect is a rare business in the retail banking sector because they treat me as a human being. How? They make it extremely easy for me to bank in any way that suits me rather than one imposed on me – rather than an automated telephone system favoured by many of their competitors on the high street
- Pass it forward – this is something I learned from Dr Sam Collins https://twitter.com/DrSamCollins of the inspirational Aspire Company http://www.aspirewomen.co.uk. Sam believes (and delivers) that our whole point is to help others, to listen, share, collaborate and network in a very authentic way. Not because we’ve been told to get better at networking (the common corporate method) but because we naturally have good networks and we can usually do more for people than businesses encourage (unless a cheque is being written). Sam’s philosophy is simple. Pay it forward and the rewards will be there – both personally and commercially.
Sam’s approach has the ring of truth in it for me, so spurs me on to motivate and inspire businesses to use what you’ve got to be successful. Simply put – encourage your employees to be brilliant human beings first and business folk second. Anyone got a great example of this in action?