Social Importance of Keeping Our Commitments to Others
While the following remarks are intended to apply to the corporate management of external relationships in the practice of open innovation, they fully apply to any business that deals with customers...in other words, any business.
Each of us is extremely diligent about keeping the commitments we make to our co-workers, clients and managers. We are typically more disciplined about being prompt with those who have the greatest direct impact on our lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, we naively believe that we can be less fastidious about managing relationships with external parties as we perceive that the consequences of failing to do so are low. The reality is that when we don't keep our commitments, we risk sending a (possibly unintentional) message to the other parties that we hold a relatively low view of them. In this age of social media, this is an unnecessary and unwise risk.
I'm sure that all of us by now have heard horror stories about companies that may have treated some customers in a perceived shabby or disrespectful fashion, only to have this behavior broadcasted via world wide social media outlets. Whether it's a small town restaurant providing poor service or a huge chain goofing up a promotional offer, in this age of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, word gets around...quickly! And if one doesn't believe that these transmitted attacks can't have a potentially large business impact...think again. Companies are becoming increasingly proactive about the timely management of negative consumer feedback delivered via social media. Reputations.com was founded to help firms manage and in some cases, to mitigate damage caused by online criticism and attacks. So, as corproate open innovation transactions become more commonplace, should companies (and their employees) feel that the repeated perceived slights they inflict on external parties will go unrecognized?
I don't mean to point the finger at others and not also at myself. As a technology scout representing corporate clients, I have on occasion been inconsistent with my communications with external technology providers. While the reasons for these lapses may be completely reasonable and understandable, they still aren't right. And further, while they may register with the other party more as an annoyance than a major slight, they still should be avoided where possible. In contrast, when I make timely communications a priority, the other party's appreciation for this behavior is palpable. It makes an extremely favorable impression on them. Clearly, it is an important touchpoint, and therefore should be managed closely.
Given the aforementioned dynamic, it should be obvious as to why keeping our commitments with external parties is more important than ever. Besides being professional, courteous and "the right thing to do" there are other practical considerations. Just as good behavior and practices can be broadly celebrated, flagrant lapses can also become "news", with potentially devastating consequences to professional reputations.
Last week, I discussed the launch of crowdfunding websites (e.g. TechMoola) intended to attract investors for technology development programs. In response to my question as to whether these sites offered attractive alternatives to gadget and product oriented Kickstarter, Bob Oros replied, "New technology development is too much of a black hole for the crowdfunding investor types, they need more tangible evidence of what it is they're getting into. They're consumers, so...they need visuals and "touchy-feely" stuff to comprehend what's being offered." I suspect Bob is right. While TechMoolatv videos aim to address, I'm not sure that these will appeal to "the masses". Thanks Bob for your thoughtful input.