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Friday, March 19, 2010

Welcome to the age of co-creation.

It was hardly coincidental that a 140-character message from like-minded service tweep Barry Dalton launched a post on co-creation of service experiences.

He had suggested risk in the proliferation of customer communities for products and services, in that they potentially put the message, delivery and operation of the service out of ‘corporate control’. Further, inaccurate usage information from the customer community could actually create service / product failures.

Barry’s astute observation is part of a developing shift, with both tremendous risk and opportunity, around the experience co-creation that the web in general and social media in particular has enabled.

Customer co-creation is a critical part of any experience. Whether it requires a low level of customer input or deep co-production on the part of the customer, the critical component for a service experience to work is that customers both know their role and are enabled by the service provider to perform it.

In that regard, the internet and social media is almost entirely about co-creation.

Internet channels were first used as ecommerce channels and self-service sites – simple forms of co-creation of a purchase or service experience. But co-creation has developed beyond those simple applications, with service / product user communities, on-demand video “how-to” capabilities, and deep product & service reviews assisting pre-through-post-purchase interactions. With help now everywhere, customers are developing a better understanding of their role than ever before.

At the far end of the spectrum, Twitter and Facebook enable the experience directly through their technology and the aggregation of the networks. Then they get out of the way and let the customers do the rest. Users self-align based on shared interest, debate & advance knowledge subjects self-chosen, and largely self-police the community. With a large number of social media outlets, customer co-creation is the product (service).

The result? Social Media is enabling experience co-creation in ways never before thought of. Customers are becoming higher performers through self education, peer-assisted education through vast user communities, and the proliferation of online service channels.

This shift can be scary. The company now hands a large portion of control back over to the consumers, where the product or service usage information may be incorrect. But tightly linked user communities mean that the information is fairly contained. If it isn’t self policed by other users, the opportunity still exists for the company to monitor and correct misinformation. It makes the product or service stronger to have a user community of 3rd party commentators, even if not every comment is positive.

This shift can also be liberating. Users are developing self service capabilities never dreamed of. As customers become more highly productive in their use of services, they make the company more productive. As their part in delivery increases, so too can their level of satisfaction with a successful outcome. Users have more of a direct hand in the service / product development than ever before, enabling the companies to inexpensively tap into the collective knowledge of those who care most about it.

Customers are already moving on this, so co-creation of your experience is not a choice. The only decisions companies face is how much they can enable, how productive customers can be, and what development they can take away to make the experience that much better.

1 comment:

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