It is much more difficult to encourage and then maintain participation in a collaborative partnership with the customers of the partner businesses.  This is where the continuous monitoring and improvement program enters into the equation to provide a framework to generate the continued interest and participation of the customers in the collaborative partnership.  Customers require encouragement and clear demonstration and then delivery of benefits to their participation in the collaborative partnership.  Since there is no formal agreement or contract with customers to participate in your collaborative partnership your customers require a continuous stream of interaction and demonstrated benefits that will result from their participation in the partnership.   


A continuous stream of interaction can be very difficult at first and requires dedication and stamina to produce content that both attracts customers and also encourages interaction and contribution from customers.  The content entirely depends on your customer base however you must not make assumptions on your customer base and interests because this will surely either miss a the mark on interest or overlook a segment of your customer and most likely it will cause both issues.  Interaction with your customers will allow you to learn from them as well as sell to them.  In many ways this is the basis and foundation for collaboration; the interaction and learning from each other that allows and encourages both sides to develop a relationship.


Collaboration with your customer is not just producing and maintaining a web site and it is not just sending broadcast email messages to your customers.  Collaboration is interaction and communication between yourself and your customers, it is a relationship a great deal beyond the one way broadcast of information or encouraging sales in multiple channels.  Collaboration with your customers is difficult because you must determine how to interact with your customers and different customers are comfortable with different types of interaction.  Collaboration requires a range of communication and interaction to meet the different types demanded by customers.  There is no set method of developing the collaboration relationship and that is why the continuous improvement process of plan, do, check, act is so important to developing and maintaining the customer collaborative relationship.


Continuous improvement methods provide a very flexible engine to developing and maintaining the customer relationship and provides a basis for maintaining the relationship.  This can be challenging at first because of a lack of participation from the customer and will require frequent changes in order to tune the model to align with your customer demands and comfort in communication.  Your customers will also be adjusting and changing their preconceptions on interactions and reactions to your collaboration trials so what may not work today may be a perfect fit later in the relationship as it grows and matures.  This requires constant maintenance and review in order to maintain the customer interest and this must be taken into account.  This is a long term investment that may not produce great results in the short term and you must take this into account.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?