It is well-known in the HR world that the best employees you could ever want were your best customers first. These are the people who learned about your company on their own, invested money in purchasing your product or service, know the level of service that is expected, and understand your company’s culture.
The internet has only made this more true as consumers can now visit a brand as often as they like, get a detailed history of the company, learn about company values, and get information on the entire product line.
This opens the door to an interesting situation – What happens when your consumer knows more about your company than your employees? What if they can give better support and information about your products? What if they are more passionate about your company? What if you can’t hire them?
This is the future and it’s already happening. Companies are finding that there are customers out there who walk into their stores and know more about a company than the sales team. They are often more up-to-speed on products, future products, and ways to make the most out of the product or service.
Thanks to travel companies, like Priceline.com or Orbitz, users can get information from people who have actually experienced destinations, airlines, and hotels first hand.
Buying a car has changed. There are many sites devoted to detailed owner reviews and can make or break a purchase before the test drive.
Retailers are able to give more power to product owners as well. Best Buy has one of the most impressive databases for reviews of any electronics retailer website. Here customers not only decide which product is best for them, but they are also able to give candid and honest reviews to encourage others to make a similar purchase or to stay far away from a particular brand.
Technology and electronics companies can take great advantage of this and cut their technical support costs. One of the biggest supports of this idea is Apple Inc. The iPhone makers website is full of customer generated technical support and tips on how to get the most out of Apple products.
By allowing customers to have this power and influence, you start to show them that you care enough about their experience that you’re willing to expose your company to negative reviews. This helps to foster a good relationship with consumers and will also provide you will feedback, exaggerated or not. If you’re not allowing your customers to use your website as a forum to talk openly about your product or service, it might be something to start considering. Trust is key, and there’s something powerful about allowing your customers to speak openly to others on a site sponsored by your brand.