What It Takes To Let Customers Run The Show
Customer-driven decisions are more common than you think. And we don’t mean decisions with the consumer in mind – these are by the everyday consumer. While it may seem new concept, decisions made by customers, also known as crowdsourcing, has been done in the past.
Several companies have made use of the “crowd” to innovate, with varying degrees of success. But why would companies trust the crowd over their own judgement?
The crowd validates your judgement – so why not let them judge?
As the old marketing adage goes, “the customer is always right”. Traditionally businesses and individuals have gauged customer sentiment through research, including focus groups and surveys. This has begun to change. Social media has provided (or forcibly made itself) another avenue for organisations to get quick insights from. In the same vein of “quick” i.e. speed, we have crowdsourcing, which draws on the brains of the community to see valuable perspectives at low cost.
This strategy has risen in prominence due to its inherent nature in crowdfunding. Users only pool money if they believe in a project and its creators. In addition, backers are able to leave comments and provide feedback. These avenues provide creators with a diverse range of signals to validate and tweak their product or strategy.
The only unknown then is the quality of these signals, which businesses need to be able to filter.
Customer Engagement, Retention, and Decision Making
In addition to market validation, some marketing campaigns have invoked crowdsourcing to come up with details like the name of an upcoming product. These tactics are employed for the sake of customer engagement with the brand, fostering ownership and loyalty. Crowdfunding has taken this a step up through the use of incentives that scale to contribution.
The engagement process has been shifting to an increasingly two-way process, but one can argue that current models are still inherently very top-down in approach. Businesses and creators today are still making decisions without the consensus of their community, with the belief that ‘the ends justify the means’. Common sense dictates that this is not wrong; the end goal is always success. With this in mind, we can say that everything a business does is justified.
The ugly demons of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding have however reared their head many times. Actual scams are rare, but once you add in failures or even unsatisfactory performance you get the full scope of the deep-seated question mark named Trust. Generally, most people will backers to temper their expectations. However, we believe more can be done to combat this issue.
The tradition method of funding typically requires the business owner to cede some control of the business to their investors. It can be argued that investors typically have the interests of the company at heart, since they’re looking to turn a profit (for their bottom lines) at the end of the day.
However, differences in opinions can arise. The prospect of retaining autonomy of the business has thus become an appealing prospect to some. Businesses now have more leeway to make decisions based on customer sentiment – a core tenet at the end of the day.
Too many chefs spoil the broth?
There are many well-documented benefits to crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Studies have shown that the wisdom of the crowd on average makes the right decisions.
However, crowdsourcing comes with its own downsides. Ceding decisions and even control to a large community entails running business through organized chaos, which businesses need to keep a tight lid on to progress. Gathering consensus from the crowd is inherently a noisy process. Not only do the right questions need to be asked, the right answers need to be drawn out as well.
It is difficult to verify the authenticity or expertise of every single user out there. This exposes another issue – the wisdom of the crowd can be unreliable at times. Several crowdsourcing campaigns, such as those for customer engagement, have backfired after a circle of users banded together to troll.
Reaching a consensus on decisions or what constitutes as “quality” has never been easy. It goes without saying that boundaries need to be set for the community to adhere to and keep discussions healthy. Resources need to be allocated to screen and monitor discussions.
This may however be not enough to truly tap on the crowd – and there is more that can be done to make it fully two-way, or even “decentralized”. In order to truly draw from the “crowd”, a way must exist for us to determine the quality of feedback; a user’s reputation. This can be said to be a form of crowdsourced curation, not unlike systems already in place on sites like Reddit. On Reddit, users are able to upvote or downvote posts and see each other’s post history.
We believe in the potential of tapping on the crowd to expand how businesses operate today – from market research, to customer engagement, and crowdfunding. Yet for all the talk about crowdsourcing, it is inevitable that there will always be a need for creators – entrepreneurs, self-starters, who are able to devise and articulate their visions for the world.
What the world needs now is a better way to refine these ideas and bridge the gap dividing them and the end goal – fruition.
Learn more about Black Lotus here.