"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Friday, July 27, 2007

Customer Integration into Business

Customer integration into business is not necessarily a new concept altogether, but it is gaining a new perspective and importance in the 21st century due to the current shifts in values, paradigms and social culture. At the heart of the concepts is an idea that customers are not only the end users of products or services created by an organization, but also participants in the creation and production. The benefits are two-fold – the organizations receive better information to base their decisions upon, and the consumers get an opportunity to shape the commercial culture around them. There are companies (like Hubspan, for example) that are creating new systems for businesses to use in order to consolidate their customer knowledge data and make it easier to interpret and maintain. However, as the 21st century moves along, we shall see an increasing importance of creating a relationship with customers that extends beyond the traditional exchange of goods and services to the complete integration upon which the futures of both parties become intertwined.

The idea of customer integrations has to do with differentiation between shareholders and stakeholders. While “shareholders” are the ones responsible and (often) benefiting from the profits of an organization, “stakeholders” are the ones ultimately affected by the organization’s actions. Customers fall into the “stakeholders” category, and with the increasing attention given to this particular group, they are slowly gaining more control over the business functions. As the old paradigms are replaced by new ones, and the world is moving towards a more holistic vision, it is natural to see a gradual integration of consumers’ interests and concerns into those of organizations. This process is simply a part of the much greater change in the social fabric of the world as a whole. The customers (or the end users, stakeholders, consumers, etc) become a part of an organization, and it is in their power to make a company either a success or a failure. The companies that choose to accept this new way of thinking and doing business will ultimately have a great competitive advantage over those who do not. Ultimately, though, customer integration into business will become as essential to the concept of doing commerce as profitability is now to being successful.

In all, customer integration allows for a greater share in common knowledge, which is benefiting to everyone involved. It equalizes the providers and receivers of goods and services on many levels, connecting the society as never before. It is not merely a merging of different groups of people that were not working together before; it is a comment on how the present society as a whole is moving from the isolationist view of the world to the interconnected future. The beginning of it is clearly seen in the increasing number of resources being devoted to understanding the customers’ innate needs and wants, separate from those created deliberately by consumption-oriented organizations. It is furthermore expressed as the influence customers are exerting on the companies to be more socially responsible – just one of the examples how the stakeholders are moving from a very passive onlookers to active participants in the world business. In the near future, managers will find it essential for their business to adapt techniques and strategies directed at integrating the customers’ knowledge, concerns, needs, wants and expectations about the future into their decision-making.

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