I was a fairly high level employee in the past. In a company of 3000+ I was four heads away from the CEO. Not saying I was four positions from being the CEO – but I was four heads away from talking to the CEO. In fact, I often talked to the CEO directly, even though it meant going over my bosses heads. They knew it when I did it (in fact, they often encouraged it).
So today I got a job offer – it was a very nice position with a known company. The salary was of course more than I could hope for. Paid auto, paid this, paid that.
Forgetting the fact that I have two children in High School, and can’t move, I had other considerations. I shared them with the potential employer. I won’t give you their responses, just my questions. They were far to nice to me for me to publicly humiliate them. But you can assume by the fact I turned the position down that they didn’t have good answers to the questions.
1) Would you rather talk to a happy advertiser or a disgruntled customer?
2) Do you consider Press Releases to be “communicating with your customers”?
3) If you have an “open door” policy, does that extend to customers?
4) Are their any customer advocates on your Board of Directors?
5) Do you think that building a brand relies on building a community?
I won’t/can’t go into much more detail on this now, but basically I’ve done my time in big impassioned and impersonal companies. I would rather not make money than make money that way again.
This company (an old-school company) just doesn’t get that there is a shift in relationship between companies and customers. Customers will no longer settle for “the basics”. Customers expect more, and have a voice that they never had before.
If you run a company, old-school or new, and you *really* want to engage your customers in your business – if you want to take advantage of their collective wisdom, if you want to bring customers into your decision making processes – then call me. I want to help a company that is willing to become partners with their customers, no matter how large or small that customer is – they all have a voice, and you should hear it.
The Internet is a powerful tool/weapon for consumers, and your customers. That voice can work for you, or against you. Social networking will change big business – if it hasn’t already it will soon.
There is no reason that big business cannot change in a positive way and adopt the inevitable – even embrace it. Those companies that decide now to change to a more open and customer friendly format will do well. The rest will wither and die on the vine. It may take a number of years, but it will happen.