Using web-based crowdsourcing as a means to connect with customers is fast becoming a growing trend in business, and companies worldwide are recognizing the need to engage with customers online. Dell was founded on the premise that direct relationships with customers was a better way to deliver technology and services that would best meet customer needs. In February 2007 we launched IdeaStorm as a means to extend our listening to what our customers are asking for and as a bid to gain even deeper insight into how we can make our products and services work harder for our customers.
IdeaStorm is an effective customer listening tool, and in the last three years we have heard from more than 60,000 people offering nearly 13,000 comments. 385 of those ideas have helped us to make changes to our products and services. For example, customer feedback through IdeaStorm led to the keyboard of one of Dell’s best selling laptops, the Mini 10, being redesigned, when customers specified that the apostrophe was positioned awkwardly and needed to be moved.
But in order to effectively tap into the collective intelligence of our customers, we constantly need to ensure we are managing the idea process correctly if crowd-sourcing is to prove an efficient form of customer collaboration for Dell. As we approach our fourth year of IdeaStorm, here are some lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Talking and listening
In order to engage customers in the crowd-sourcing process, we must be willing to get involved with the various online platforms customers use to share their ideas. When engaging online, it’s better to listen to customers’ in order to help shape the products and services we provide as a business rather than simply telling them what we are doing to gain their interest. Any relationship and all our learning’s are based on listening, as well as talking. Engagement is a two way street.
When tapping into the collective intelligence of customers, it is easy to get lost in the flurry of ideas that are suggested and discussed. Creating a discussion focal point encourages more in-depth, purposeful conversations that will allow us to be more active in our responses. We have learned to approach it like a creative brainstorm: if no one categorized and ordered everyone’s ideas, it would be difficult to process and implement them. With this in mind, we introduced Storm Sessions to our latest revision of IdeaStorm in December 2009. These idea-generating sessions are Dell-initiated, topic-specific and time-bound in order to focus our community on important ideas for our business.
Rewarding innovative thinking
The basis of crowd-sourcing lies in the concept of letting the customers’ ideas reign. We respect the individuals who take the time and effort to brainstorm ideas for us, and it’s crucial that we reward customers by demonstrating the implementation of their ideas and by providing active feedback.
Through our years of experimentation, Dell has recognized that the key to engaging successfully online is to listen first. By embedding social media into the fabric of our business, our online outreach is simply a natural extension of the way we interact with customers every day.