Co-Creating With Your Customers

Posted by Lucy Halliday On May 18, 2014

Your customers are the most important people in your working life, so why not have them create your product or service offering? It might be a little rogue to let your customers pick up tools and build your next product but it shouldn’t be out of the question to let them be part of the co-creation process.

By knowing what your customers are looking for, you will become aware of what to sell them. The more closely you can tailor your product to your customers, the more lifetime value and advocacy will be received. The new digital world will amplify your customer’s word of mouth, and you will ship more inventory and be more profitable. It sounds so simple, but the question is; what is the best way to know what your customers are looking for? I believe the answer has to be co-creation?

Co-creation is a concept that has been around for fifteen years; it’s a form of marketing strategy that is at the opposite end of the popular traditional paradigm of an active business – passive consumer market construct. The notion views markets as forums for organisations and active customers to share, combine and renew each other’s resources and capabilities to create value through new forms of interaction, service and learning mechanisms.

Co-created value arises in the form of personalised, unique experiences for the customer (value-in-use) and ongoing revenue, learning and enhanced market performance drivers for the organisation (loyalty, relationships, customer word of mouth). Value is co-created with customers if and when a customer is able to personalise his or her experience using a company’s product or service. This is a movement away from customers buying products and services as transactions, to those purchases being made as part of an experience. Customers want to define choices in a manner that reflects their view of value, and they want to interact and transact in their preferred language and style.

There are many organisations that touch on co-creation in their research, design and production process but I hadn’t really grasped the concept and comprehended it to its full potential until I recently used a specific innovative co-creation and analytics platform. The platform called Flamingo, truly allows businesses to interact with their customers as individuals. Pretty cool. Flamingo goes beyond crowd sourcing and ideation by enabling customers to design the experience they want, beyond product and price, within parameters that the business can deliver.

It was quite fitting that I used this digital platform when attending my first Customer Experience Un-conference, which I assume was probably Australia’s first. Unlike a regular conference, attendees facilitated open discussion with each other rather than just listening to monologues by speakers all day. It was an informal and collaborative gathering of subject matter experts with a major focus on strong equality amongst all participants. The agenda was created before and during the event by attendees like myself, with a selection of innovative discussion, subjects, structure and styles.

The day before the conference, I accessed the Flamingo platform over the web where my profile was personalised. I designed my own customer experience with the vendor (which was the Un-conference) and identified not only what I wanted out of the conference, but what I wanted to talk about, what sessions I wanted to attend, how the sessions should be delivered, right down to; how I wanted to be communicated with during the day (I selected twitter). It was as contemporary as any customer experience could get. As the customer, I designed my service, which epitomises personalisation. The best part was being delivered the experience that I helped manufacture.

Research by Fifth Quadrant (the Un-conference event principal) shows that 75% of Australian consumers would like to be able to customise and personalise their own experience and relationships with organisations. 70% of consumers stated they would be happy to use a digital platform to co-create the experience they want. I see tremendous value in this type of co-creation across modes such as; employee experience, customer research, innovation, acquisition, retention and winning back lost business.

Business is about engaging and retaining customers, if customers are having poor experiences then identify co-creation ways to design the experience that they want, to improve retention and lifetime value. Prahalad and Ramaswamy (HBR) stated: “it is impossible for organizations to unlock the value for customers, or for themselves, without those being involved in unlocking the value. Co-creation is shared value-creation.” It is a powerful notion to add your customers to your co-creation partners such as employees, leaders, business partners and suppliers.

So next time you ask; who are our target customers? What are their demographics? What are their goals and desires? How are we going to reach them on a personal level? How will we turn our customers into advocates? And when you are creating “personas” of your target market in attempt to understand age, sex, income, lifestyle, perceived social class, interests, perspectives, likes, dislikes, ambitions, insecurities, and where your customers spend their time and money. Why not consider co-creating with them.

Lucy Halliday