Customer Collaboration Is The Future Of Business

A few years back, I witnessed one of my co-workers plotting to seek revenge on Time Warner Cable after a particularly annoying incident. Allegedly, she had taken a whole day off work to wait for the cable guy who never showed up, then later charged her for something she didn't buy; when she called customer service, they put her on hold multiple times. The anger was building in her and she was determined to fix this on her lunch break, so she brought out the big guns: Twitter.

Yep, she took to social media like a bat out of hell, posting a series of scathing tweets directed at her cable enemy. Low and behold, they contacted her in a matter of minutes to set things right.

Unfortunately, I was a fly on the wall for a few other "incidents" like this involving the same cable company -- and like the first story, they usually involved Twitter.

Years later, I'm watching TV and notice a series of ad campaigns by Time Warner cable, poking fun at their past mistakes and vowing to be better. For example, one of the commercials talked about how they no longer offer extended periods of hold, but if you miss their elevator music, you can find their greatest hits on the company website. It's pretty cool that they showed their customers they were being listened to, admitted their mistakes, and vowed to be better. Good on you, Time Warner!

This is a great indication of a shift in customer service culture. Now, more than ever before, customers are actually shaping the way brands conduct business. The everyday person has multiple platforms to talk back to brands -- and if companies are smart, they'll listen to them.

Social media has also changed the way that brands create and sell their product. A prime example is BECCA Cosmetics' recent product launch. The company released its new Champagne Collection Face Palette and it sold out in a little over an hour.

I recently interviewed BECCA's CEO, Robert DeBaker to find out how they did that (you can catch the full interview here on YouTube).

Basically, the makeup mogul doesn't approach social media to "sell" the customer on anything -- as their VP of Marketing will tell you, customers have a great truffle nose and they can spot what is genuine and what is not. So instead, they read, watch, and listen to the content makeup enthusiasts are posting and interact with them. They let the customer be the captain of the story.

After a recent and unexplained spike in sales, the company became very aware of a YouTube sensation named Jaclyn Hill. Over time, this bubbly and very savvy woman generated millions of fans by posting videos about how to achieve different makeup tricks; one week, she happened to post about one of BECCA's products, "Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed." That's when the sales spike happened.

When a second sales spike happened due to another post by Hill, the team at BECCA decided they needed to 1) find Jaclyn to say "thank you" and 2) learn from her.

Yes. A large team of accomplished beauty business professionals went to learn from a single Vlogger. Why? Because among other things, she had a wealth of unbiased knowledge about what real women love and hate about makeup products. Jaclyn used this knowledge to team up with BECCA to create The BECCA X Jaclyn Hill Champagne Collection.

Through Jaclyn, BECCA actually collaborated with millions of customers to create a winning product, so by the time it was released on social media -- people were ready with their credit cards.

The future of business is increasingly collaborative and brands that don't truly listen to their customers will be left in the dust. On social media, customers are literally telling brands what they want. In a complex and competitive digital space, it's the brand that listens and adapts that will live another day.