Friday, 29 December 2017

Customer engagement model; the community model: what (Short version)

 There are 2 versions.  This short version explains the use of the community model – the ‘what’ and ‘why’.  Click here for the (full version) – what, why, how and expands on use cases.
Surveys have shown that companies want to pursue digitisation but don’t know how.  Perhaps they are not yet familiar with the techniques.  This post expounds on one.

Most of us have in fact come across the community model.  Before making a booking at AirBnB, we look at the reviews.  Reviewing is a consumer activity.  What is written in aggregate can make or break a buying decision.  AirBnB unlike the traditional hotels, use the community model deliberately to enhance their business, providing important information consumers want.  In fact, most internet startups use it in one form or another.  It creates value for the business in a digital era.  So can you.

The community model, one stratagem to execute crowdsourcing, engages a specific community to  directly or indirectly contribute towards a goal….to help with sales (AirBnB), provide better customer service, design a better product, spot a trend...and is achieved over a few months to the long term.  It is a deliberate use of the community for business  To utilize the crowd the scheme has to tap into our social nature (AirBnB) or be appealing to the target community, say, potential subcontractors to a bicycle maker.  And value must be exchanged.

The community is made up of customers, would-be customers, partners, the public or a combination, over a subject of common interest.  It can come from those working in a specific industry, the like-minded or fans of retail brands.

To be sure, it is unconventional (for now) but it works.

How YC Alum Polymail Grew to Over 25,000 Active Users with Continuous Customer Development” - Jul 27, 2017, codementor

The Polymail example can be rephrased as ‘How do you build a product your users actually want?’

Learn from internet startups

’What has provided a lifeline to Alibaba is the user-generated rating systems for the thousands of online small merchants that Alibaba would otherwise have no way to police.’ ….this also saves Alibaba the cost of a bigger internal audit group.

Threadless, an online merchant sells T-shirts but it does not have its own designers.  Instead it runs design competitions online.  Members submit their ideas and then voted on the one they liked best.  Hundreds of thousands of people use the site blogging and chatting about designs and socialising with their fellow enthusiasts.  They also buy a lot of shirts.

BMW hosted a ‘virtual innovation agency’ on its website.  Smaller businesses submit ideas hoping to establish a relationship.

The next example is classic Jeff Bezos who gets the internet way of doing business.

‘Early on the company hired a lot of editors to write book and music reviews—and then ­decided to use customers’ critiques instead. ‘ - Jeff Bezos's Top 10 Leadership Lessons.

OpenSignal is more like a traditional firm but uses the tools the digital economy offers brilliantly.

“OpenSignal, which crowdsource its figures on telco signal quality and data speed from users who have installed its app on their Apple or Android smartphones.”….There is no better way to do this and certainly not the traditional way with field teams that samples data only from time to time…This is volunteerism at work since contributors don’t get anything in return except feel-good.

The challenge here is the ability to accept ideas outside the conventional.  If you are working in a 20-year old firm similar to OpenSignal, it would be using the sampling method, something the industry has been using for decades - would an executive even think of using something so different?  The conventional method is tested, used by all in the industry and accepted by clients.  And crowdsourcing sounds iffy.  As we know, change is a bugbear within almost all organisations and many managers will simply say, ‘we have been doing it this way for years…’  While this is generally true, where we are in now is an era of change and modern tools allow things to be done better.

What can the community model be used for, for an enterprise?

If you apply it correctly, it can

·         improve customer service
·         improve product/service development
·         improve a product
·         track trends
·         support marketing and branding
·         assist sales

Engaging the community is a very important component of a business for OpenSignal.  To others, including FourSquare it is THE business.  For an enterprise, use the community model for specific corporate goals.  Treat it as a business tool, like you would, advertisements.

An architectural firm could develop a public online site to design houses.  Enthusiasts participating provide the data to keep the firm in tune with consumer trends, through their creations and chatter.  A percentage could become customers because it is convenient to after they have outlined what they like. 

If you value data, the community model sets up a ‘mining’ operation.

The skill here is the ability to seed peer activity.

Click here (full version) to continue with the ‘how’, how you can apply the model to your business.