Customer participation – shaping your business around your customers

'It's time customers moved from being passive recipients to active participants'. So said Cathryn Ross, who heads up the water regulator Ofwat.

To encourage the change, Cathryn commissioned a report called ‘Tapped In’ – timed to help the water companies of England and Wales build in customer participation to their business plans for the five years from 2019.

As I researched the report, it became clear very quickly that this was a big change – relevant for every business not just for the water sector. Behind it are four big ideas (that as it happens, spell out the word FACE):

  • Futures: It’s possible to engage customers in imagining the potential future for your organisation and then have them help bring it to life
  • Action: Every business is dependent on how customers act, so behaviour change can become a key strategy to achieve your business objectives
  • Community: All change happens locally and more can be done to give power to communities to imagine and deliver change locally
  • Experience: Technology is enabling customers to have more control over the customer service experience, and more control over products and services.

The ideas here may sound simple but they can be tricky to implement. They imply a series of principles that sometimes don’t come naturally to businesses:

  • The need to think long term
  • The need to share, and in some cases relinquish, control
  • The need to have a clear strategy so that customer engagement is aligned to business objectives
  • The need to have a deep understanding of customer lifestyles and how these lifestyles may be dependent on your products and services
  • The need to be open to good ideas from anywhere
  • The need to be willing to fail.

The water sector is embracing these ideas. They help the sector build naturally on a direction it was heading in and provide a framework for progress. And while sector businesses accept they are probably a little behind the curve today, they know that they won’t be tomorrow.

What does this mean for your organisation? What are the opportunities? And how can you find out more? I’d offer just two thoughts. First, check out the ‘Tapped In’ report, and, while written for the water sector, read it with your business in mind. Second, feel free to contact us to find out more.

John Drummond
Corporate Culture Group