Customer Spring

I’m on vacation and have reduced my daily internet diet of posts, tweets, and email to ten minutes or less a day.

Today in Bergen, Norway

Nonetheless, this great post by Dion Hinchcliffe, Converging on the Social Enterprise, made it through my filters and rattled my cage. In this, and a related post, Dion describes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff saying that customers and society are social, but corporations are not. The widening gap may lead to rebellion à la Arab Spring; he calls it corporate spring.

My research into what front-line managers need to be doing in the 21st century workplace has led me to precisely the same conclusion. Two weeks ago I wrote our advisory board that I foresaw a customer spring:

Business organizations are lagging reality. The 21st century is radically different from what came before and yet most businesses act as if nothing has changed.

Half of the adult population of the United States uses social media, up from 5% a scant six years. 750 million people converse on Facebook. Yet most corporations are  reluctant to “take the risk” on social media.

Managers and professionals do daily battle with rigid systems that don’t flex with the times, strain under mountains of trivia, and rely on obsolete practices that serve neither the customer or the company.

Our research suggests that business in general may be facing a “Customer Spring.” Like the Arab Spring, customers who are weary of being dominated by unresponsive corporate regimes will rise in protest and topple the old order.

My colleagues and I have identified 21 optimal behaviors to enable front-line managers and professionals to prosper in 21st century organizations, e.g. delight customers, nurture serendipity, and re-model. Many of these performance drivers won’t work in 20th century-style, a-social businesses.

When our research morphed into a fresh approach to managerial development, should we even offer it to organizations that don’t have a clue about social business?

It wouldn’t feel right selling a product to a company that is not going to get much in return beyond a brief moment of feeling hip. Perhaps we should be content to provide the first management and leadership development programs geared to the social business environment.

Seeing how I’m on vacation, I’m not going to worry about this until returning home in a few weeks. Tomorrow we’re off to Denmark.

Really old-style business: Hanseatic-era warehouses in Bergen


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