Customer Ecosystems

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= business networks that are designed around customers desires 'to get things done', and to connect to their peers about it

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Patricia Seybold:

"Customer ecosystems self-organize around things that customers care about and need to get done, like manage their money, manage their health, design a winning product, take a family vacation, embark on a new career, or complete successful projects at work or in their communities. They’re customer-driven in that customers get to decide what activities and resources they need, who they’d like to have as suppliers, and what constitutes success. So, a customer ecosystem is a business network that’s aligned to help customers get things done—both the things they want to accomplish and the things they want to manage.

A number of visionary companies have been investing in and co-evolving these networks around their brands and with their partners. We’ve been following some of these customer ecosystems for a long time.

They include:

  • The customer ecosystem National Semiconductor built around its WEBENCH® design tools: "a set of sophisticated tools that enable customers to configure, test, and optimize their electronic designs, including real-time information about parts availability and pricing from hundreds of suppliers and distributors."
  • The consumer and partner network that South Africa’s Discovery Insurance has built around its Vitality Wellness program: " a set of scientifically-based health and wellness indicators that health insurance customers are incentivized to meet, along with a vibrant network of health and fitness partners."
  • The thriving global ecosystem that Zazzle has built around its custom printing business: "the combination of their patented printing technology, their ability to leverage their customers’ creativity, and their deep understanding of how to create stores within stores within stores."



"What Are the Six Critical Success Factors for a Viable Customer Ecosystem?

  1. Help customers achieve and/or manage something they care about.
  2. Design for specific target audiences.
  3. Provide a “secret sauce” that transforms customers’ ability to get things done.
  4. Attract partners & suppliers who can contribute to these customers’ success.
  5. Align the entire ecosystem to meet customers ’ success metrics.
  6. Embed, co-brand, and be ubiquitous so customers will encounter and use your secret sauce no matter what their starting point is."



From 'Manage My Stuff' to "Comparing with Others'

Patricia Seybold:


'Customers Want to See Where They Stand & Compare Notes with Others. At the same time that we've been doing online customer experience audits, we've been observing, interviewing, and facilitating group meetings with many of our clients' B2B customers. Here's an interesting pattern we've observed across industries: customers want to manage their stuff, benchmark their performance to others in the same situation, troubleshoot problems, and get and offer advice.

Your customers definitely want self-service tools that enable them to "manage their stuff" on your portals or web sites. They also want to be notified or alerted when certain events occur. The kinds of notifications people want differ greatly by role (managing operations, budgeting, strategic planning, etc. ) and by personality (proactive vs. reactive; want to see anomalies only, or see the status of only specific things, and so on). We've discovered that customers also value the sharing of best practices, collaborative problem-solving, and root cause analysis in and around their stuff!" (


" Online communities and self-service support are not new. What is new is the way in which customers now seem to presume that they should be able to access these peer communities and subject matter experts in and around “their stuff.” They don’t want to log on to a separate online community for support. They want that community to be available to them from within the product they are using and/or from the mobile app they are using to track status or from the customer portal they use to manage their assets and their activities.

Social networks are not new. What is new are the ways in which consumers and business users expect to be able to reach out and connect to those networks specific to the tasks at hand.

In just about every phase of consumer and business life, customers want help organizing and managing all the things they buy, own, do, and coordinate around. We refer to this as the “manage my stuff” customer scenario pattern1. Companies that do a good job of “managing my stuff” are much more likely to win and retain customers’ hearts and minds. Companies that integrate their customer support communities into their “manage my stuff” customer portals and applications will streamline customers’ ability to resolve issues quickly. Companies that enable customers to engage in social networking specific to the disciplines, issues, assets, and causes they are working on, will grow their own network of customer advocates and consultants.

Managing my stuff is a key, but subtle requirement that is at the core of the next generation of win/win business models: customer-centric ecosystems. Integrating online communities and real-time social networking in and around “my stuff” turns a multipartner-supported customer-critical workflow into a truly vibrant and growing customer-centric ecosystem." (