Strategy, Innovation & Leadership LAB

Beyond Consumerism: Conscious Collaboration With Your Customer

February 26, 2015

Primitive capitalism promoted a view of power dynamics where the objective of the organisation was to corner and dominate the market, now is the way forward conscious collaboration, says CEO Grant Sieff IC Growth Group and teacher of several TIAS programs.

Image: © Nationale Beeldbank

It’s counter-intuitive, it’s anti-consumerist, but it may just be the best way forward for organisations and their customers, and for global sanity: a new, more mature and responsible way to achieve profitability and sustainability. For both the organisation and the customer, it’s about consciousness: how to know when to say no to the wrong things and resist temptation, and yes to the right things, for the right reasons.

Conscious collaboration involves a deliberate attempt by the organisation to position itself in the centre of the varying perspectives of the customer, the stakeholders, the organisation itself, and its larger vision or purpose. Organisational values in a collaborative culture mean that it’s no longer good enough to for customers to have to shoulder the burden of needing to protect themselves from the subtle and not so subtle appeal to their needs, wants and values from advertisers and businesses in a consumerist world.

Primitive capitalism may have promoted a view of power dynamics where the objective of the organisation was to corner and dominate the market in order to charge premium prices and maximize profits. In this view, customer education was a negative - an ignorant, dependent customer made it easier to extract a profit.  Megatrends in the last two decades have unalterably changed these dynamics. The information revolution, market innovation, the global economy, reduced barriers to entry, social media and device-driven communication continue to have a dramatic impact on the bargaining power and the relationships between the stakeholders of every organisation. So much so, that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, organisations need to lead the way in levelling or equalizing the power differentials between themselves and prospective customers to best serve all involved parties. 

How to make the change: ten key themes

The following ten themes are interdependent.  They build a values-hierarchy for the organisation, and need to be considered together as an integrated whole, to bring about a fundamental shift from the traditional way of treating customers as a means to an end, to a new way of customer partnering and collaboration.

1. Reflect on why conscious collaboration is important 
2. Introduce a new approach to listening: ‘diagnostic listening’ 
3. Know when to say no to the customer
4. Refer the customer on to a better solution that meets their needs
5. Build collaborative relationships with other providers
6. Role model new behaviours with staff
7. Be upfront about values and principles
8. Learn from and reward the customer 
9. Analyse customer behaviour
10. Never stop asking 

The psychologist, Victor Frankl, stated that ‘between a stimulus and a response lies a gap; inside this gap lies your freedom’. This article suggests that it is becoming more important for organisations to engage actively with the gaps between their current and future states, between themselves and their customers, and with the tensions at play within customers’ wants and needs. The way to ‘freedom’, or lasting relevance for organisations in a challenging world, may be through a more conscious collaboration with customers, that necessitates a new modus operandi, underpinned by lived values.

Read more

Beyond Consumerism: Conscious Collaboration With Your Customer, Grant Sieff & Joleen Silbert (2015)

Relevant articles