Co-creation with customers may be a highly rewarding path, but a path much easier to talk than to walk. That’s why to learn from the experience of pioneer companies in this kind of initiatives its always a good first step.
Dell is one of these pioneers actively asking customers for suggestions on how to improve its business on new services or products they can come up with for them. Dell has a social feature called IdeaStorm, where customers can submit ideas to improve the company’s products or services and vote on the ideas of others. IdeaStorm was launched in February 2007. Since launching, this platform has dealt with about 18.000 ideas and as a result more than 500 customer ideas have been finally implemented.
The story of IdeaStorm is also the story of the commitment needed in Open Innovation in order to succeed.
The original IdeaStorm was essentially an online suggestion box. It does not sound as a big deal, but in 2007 it was something no other company had done. At the time, as it happens still today, most companies didn’t like to be told in public how to improve. The innovative initiative got a lot of attention and quickly positioned Dell as a forward-thinker that recognized that the people they served might have some good thoughts on how to serve them.
But a couple of years after that, Dell’s social media attention apparently moved on to other projects. While the IdeaStorm community kept coming to the site, Dell representatives drifted off. Only one community manager served to a community of over a million members and the user suggestions started piling up and gathering dust.
Many IdeaStorm community members wandered off but many stayed and they were not happy about this abandonment. Dell was not engaging customers on IdeaStorm at the time, but the customers soon discovered they could engage each other. IdeaStorm had begun conversationally, but it had deteriorated in a reverse-direction monologue . While many companies talk to customers without listening, IdeaStorm listened to customers without talking.
Dell finally realized it should join the conversation it had started instead of just watching. The first step was to hire its most vocal community critic to become the new IdeaStorm community manager. Their mission: to focus on bridging the customer-company gap. The result was an “IdeaStorm 2.0” as a much more interactive site. Among major changes we can find:
– Involving the whole company: Idea Partners brings in more Dell representatives as well as 28 corporate partners who represent every aspect of technology, products and innovative ideas. Dell also decided to interact and streamline the flow of ideas from customers to the right person in Dell’s 110,000-emloyee organization.
– Social Media Technology: Online behavior has fundamentally changed since 2007 so now Social Media is a critical component of the online platform.
– Storm Sessions: In a Storm Session, a Dell representative schedules a time to address a specific issue and engages users in dialogue. Storm Sessions are a real-time dialog where the participants are volunteers and usually join because they care about the project rather than need a stipend (as in traditional focus groups).
– Gamification: IdeaStorm rewards contributing community members with points. The top 80 point scorers become designated Dell Rock Stars who will be treated as the top tier of community influencers and included in special programs and activities.
Some other similar platforms to consider: