IBM launched its Smarter Commerce Global Summit on Tuesday by introducing the idea of the Chief Executive Customer. Customers empowered by social media and the Internet need to be considered in charge of the company -- part of the C-suite.
To succeed in the new age of customer empowerment, companies need to enchant customers, said Guy Kawasaki, who hosted the Orlando conference. Not coincidentally, Kawasaki is the author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, a book about how to influence other people while maintaining the highest standards of ethics. Kawasaki is former chief evangelist at Apple and co-founder of the Alltop news service.
Craig Hayman, general manager for industry solutions at the IBM Software Group, gave the example of a company that changed its business entirely by listening to its customers. (IBM sponsors Internet Evolution.) During the Great Depression, that company made a product to clean soot off walls. It was very popular and useful at a time when buildings were heated by coal. But the slow economy reduced demand for both coal and the cleaning product. The company discovered that children liked to play with its product, and so the business repurposed the product as a toy.
That product is Play-Doh.
A more recent example: Laura Mercier Cosmetics. When Dr. Phil's wife said that company's products were her favorite, the business had to move quickly to take advantage of the spike in demand. It optimized its Website quickly to focus on searches from the Dr. Phil site, cross-selling, and upselling, and it worked with suppliers and partners to take advantage of demand, Hayman said.
Businesses need to learn from these examples, he said. "Are you one company or a collection of many? Are you collaborating with your partners to organize around the customer?"
Part of optimizing around the customer is improving the supply chain to deliver great products on demand.
For example, Lenovo began to redesign its supply chain seven years ago, when it acquired IBM's PC business. It decided to optimize the supply chain around the customer, rather than cutting costs, said Gerry Smith, senior vice president for global supply chain at Lenovo. The goal was to deliver an excellent customer experience, rather than simply saving money.
In another example, Husqvarna, a Swedish company that makes outdoor power equipment such as chain saws and lawn mowers, created a partner portal to give its customers complete visibility into the supply chain. The customers can see where products will be delivered from, when they will be delivered, and how many units are in stock. The portal was a result of a marketing-IT partnership.
Bank of America used its mobile app as a way to enchant customers. The app lets customers send money using only the recipient's email address or phone number. Aditya Bhasin, senior vice president of customer marketing and digital banking, described how a father used it to send money to his college-age son, along with a bonus to celebrate the son's success in college. The son, who was negligent about staying in touch with parents, as college students often are, responded to tell his parents he loved them.
The functionality of the app was less important than the emotional connection of the message, Bhasin said.
Similarly, Bank of America takes its Facebook page beyond simply accumulating Likes and comments, Bhasin said. He noted that Facebook has 800 million members. "In the old days, if there was a street corner with 800 million people, what would we have done? We would have built a branch there." So Bank of America built a branch on its Facebook page, adding the ability to get live customer support on Facebook.
"We use inhuman technology to create personal human interaction," Bhasin said.