Are customers more reliable than employees ?

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Some call it crowdsourcing, open innovation, participative innovation, distributed innovation, sometimes (and that how things should end) it’s a part of an ongoing improvement approach, or of a social crm one but one thing is sure : businesses are aware they have to co-built, invent et reinvent things with their wider ecosystem : clients, employees etc, even if many questions remain as for implementation.

In practical terms, there a some usual questionings like  :

– I’ve 30 000 employees who know my company and my products so why should I take the risk of opening to the outside world ? We are numerous enough like that.

– do I have to make internal and external work together ? Should I put them in watertigh bubbles ?

The truth is while businesses that adopt such strategies do it with a purpose, participants, regardless to their sincerity, may  unconsciously be pursuing personal goals that may differ from the corporate ones. It does not matter as long as companies are aware of that and act in the proper way.

At first sight, there’s nothing better a motivated employee who wants to help his company to improve. That’s a well known fact : consummer want to tell businesses what they have on their mind, so losing the opportunity of listening to those who spend their day working for your business would be a true waste. Things precisely get complicated at this point and that’s the reason why businesses have to conside their external ecosystem to get different feedbacks.

For employees, an enterprise is a hierarchical place. That’s a place where power games rule and many think, rightly or wrongly, that even the most constructive feedback or opinion may cause reprisals if some feel they’re being questioned . The fear of sanction may limit participation or bias the results.

So let’s talk about sanction. In any organization, the power of sanctioning belongs to the hierarchy. And who can sanction the hierarchy ? Indirectly the customer who is free to buy or not, what is the supreme sanction (I don’t even mention e-reputation issues).

So customers would be more sincere because they don’t have anything to fear and are in a logic of progress (they want better products and service) while employees may be in a fear logical that can refrain them for involving or may make them misrepresent the truth to say what others want to hear instead of what they have on their mind.

The irony is that your employees are more confortable to criticize and help your competitors to improve their products…and reciprocally. That’s a fact.

So, should employees be excluded from the system ? Not at all but businesses will have to think about the mechanism that will allow to bypass the bias.

There are less dangers with clients, and above all with general public. The downside is that it’s very hard to get the attention from people who are seeked a lot. This is a techno-political challenge that should not be underestimated either.

That’s why listening to your own employees is not enough and why engaging with customers matter.

clients, crowdsourcing, Innovation, open innovation, social crm