Embracing the humanity of your customers has another distinct advantage — customers can also help you run your business. Companies that recognize that their customers are thinking/feeling/doing human beings often learn to work effectively with them to operate and improve organizations. This has cost advantages, of course, but it also opens up new opportunities for increased quality and differentiation.
Intuit is a great example of a company that leverages their customers as contributors. Intuit actively engages customers in everything from coming up with new product ideas to answering service questions from other customers. Employees still do the bulk of the work at Intuit, but customers improve their work at almost every step in the value chain. Threadless, the fast- growing T-shirt company, takes this customer operating role a step further by using customers to create the vast majority of new product designs. At Threadless, employees improve the work done by customers.
Customer insight and creativity is among the most underutilized assets in organizations today. Particularly in our current economic climate, it’s worth it for most companies to explore ways that their customers can play a more active role in creating the products and services they consume.