Long gone are the days when companies created and delivered their services to a market of passive end users or “consumers”. In the old days (a mere 15-20 years ago) consumers had few if any means of measuring the quality of the services they were buying, let alone any channels to compare their choices with the choices of other similar buyers in their neighbourhood, town or even country. Any comparison of services on a global level, were only to be experienced by the relatively few people with the ability and financial means to travel.
Digital disrupted the foundation of capitalism
Digital changed everything! Digital revolution is just as fundamental in the development of the human race as the agricultural and industrial revolutions that preceded it. You can call it a social revolution because what has really happened is that through digital we’re simply talking to each other more than we have ever done before in the history of our planet.
Digital has enabled “consumers” to break all the rules. It has empowered the individual and given them a powerful voice when combined together challenges the status quo. It has created global transparency, equality and real change faster than any government, activist community or cultural movement could ever dream of.
Above all else digital has disrupted the foundation of capitalism that our financial and business institutions are built on. It is changing the way traditional business is done. These days you can produce and release your own music to a global audience from the comfort of your bedroom or design and make your own products using a desktop 3D printer that costs under 500 dollars. These are interesting times indeed.
So how do companies adapt to this social revolution?
The startups, companies that were born into the digital age, are flexible and by default already deeply integrated with their end users often through Kickstarter crowd funding or other social digital channels. They embrace the opportunities of this new business landscape and if they have a business idea that delivers real value, they prosper. The companies that were born in, or are children of the industrial revolution, are often siloed. They are slow to react to the change and are held back by their scale, heritage and traditional ways of working which at the time were innovative for their original business goals.
Let’s get back to the notion of a social revolution. If you think about people, social usually means that you are good at connecting to others and you have the ability to foster a meaningful or interesting dialogue that the other party/person is keen to listen to and take part of. To be social in our society is usually seen as a positive attribute and people who are social you could argue get better breaks or opportunities in their life. Social is good right? But how many companies are doing a great job of being social?
The word revolution would suggest radical change or a fundamental new way of doing things that fights against the old and creates new. But how many companies are fundamentally changing the way they work to adapt to this new business landscape? I believe we are only seeing the start of this transformation.
The internet, smart phones, tablets, social media and sharing sites have all created great change in the way we socialise and connect. Unless companies adopt these new social dialogue tools and use them to help build positive change, they will be left behind, perceived as a relic of a forgotten era.
Being a successful company means being a social company
A positive future for companies means being a social company, connecting with your customers through your digital channels or services. Your services should be seen not only as business ventures or marketing and sales channels but more importantly as a channel for direct dialogue.
Minimum Viable Products (MVP’s) are the best way for a company to test the core value of their service, ensuring great product to market fit and customer engagement. Live online services are a great way to co-create new ideas and a way for a company to continuously foster a meaningful conversation that consistently engages and interests their customer. The service could reward them for being loyal, enable them to create, allow them to connect to like-minded people. It may even enable them to achieve things they could never imagine achieving on their own.
Digital services as continuous conversation and dialogue tools
If companies begin to perceive their digital services as a continuous conversation with their customers it helps them to consider better the words they would use and the things they should say (the way the service works) and how the service should develop in the future. Just think back to the last conversation you had recently that inspired you or enriched your life in one way or another. That’s exactly the kind of conversation companies need to be having with their customers through their digital services.
If companies begin to design their digital services as dialogue tools rather than static products they stand a much better chance of building strong lasting relationships with their customers. Successful services continuously develop and adapt. They are always relevant and they should always know how their end users feel. It would be nice if they communicated how the company was feeling too. After all it’s just about people talking to people.
Great service takes great commitment
Instead of companies doing projects, developing Apps, portals, webstores or responsive websites, they should think about opening up new dialogue channels with their customers. Great digital services are result of companies' commitment to quality interactions with their customers. Those interactions continuously develop and change, just like in the real world.