Customers are both a source of knowledge and the potential for value creation. 

Evolving relationships

The way customers are engaged in the business development activities of firms is facing a radical rethinking. Customer dialogue has emerged as a key notion to describe the type of relationship that companies try to establish with their customers. As products and services become more and more complex, this also affects how the customer dialogue is staged and facilitated. There is often a need to involve customers, suppliers and other stakeholders in the overall process of co-creating value. The more demanding the offering design process becomes, the more important it is that different parties can jointly agree on how to establish a solution which satisfies customers, is cost efficient, and also provides a platform for further development. In this respect the customer can influence how cost effective the offering becomes, which are the key value adding features, and who else should be engaged to secure that all relevant knowledge is available for a successful innovation to emerge.

Customers as partners

Seeing customers as partners in co-creation is only half of the challenge in successful customer orientation. In most cases customers are not at all interested or motivated to participate in the innovation activities orchestrated by the supplier. The customer simply wants a solution to a problem, or a product or service satisfying a basic need. For the seller it is therefore of utmost importance to be able to balance these two perspectives, efficiency and creativity, so that customers genuinely get the value they are looking for.

Direct access to customers provides a two-way learning process. Managers can learn about their customers’ expectations and capabilities. Equally, customers can learn what the company can offer. Mastering customer dialogue has subsequently  become a core capability of most companies. Developing this capability has been one of the cornerstones of the Synocus innovation methodology, and is well documented both in our writings and in a multitude of successful customer cases.