What Sugar 6.3 teaches us about customer co-creation

By Chris Bucholtz

Social media and social CRM are the kinds of things that offer multiple points of value. People who have their throwback CRM hats screwed on too tightly tend to see the formula as data+SCRM=sales dollars as the only metric, which isn’t exactly right. There are other benefits to engaging in SCRM – market intelligence, greater customer data and engagement, and improved customer service.

Engagement can lead to product co-creation, which is especially helpful for software companies. They have the ability to add features (or get rid of useless or annoying ones) with each release, so listening to customers seems like a natural thing to do.

We saw that in action today with the release of Sugar 6.3, which has its genesis entirely in the feedback of users of Sugar Community Edition and Sugar’s Developers’ Community.

The developers are never shy about sharing things they like about Sugar and they’re even less shy about things they don’t like, and they had the feeling that community edition was becoming something of an afterthought – so they spoke up. John Mertic, the community leader, received a virtual earful (eyeful? Comment section-ful? The precise word eludes me just now) and, to his credit, brought it back to the team within the company for serious consideration.

The result is the latest edition, which provides more thorough administrative controls, simpler data importing from a wider array of sources, email archiving, quick-edit capabilities, and simpler data importation. Best of all, it’s all available in the free Community Edition, which you can get through a free download.(The paid versions have some additional functionality added to Sugar Logic.)

The point here is not the new version of the software. The point is that it’s an incredibly valuable skill listen to customers and then act on what they’re saying (which the Sugar team has done) and infinitely more helpful than ignoring that community, or to hear what it’s saying and remain immobile (which SugarCRM did, to varying degrees, before this release).

The amount of goodwill that this establishes is hard to measure, but it’s always a good idea to acknowledge the customers who contribute good ideas. It builds loyalty and it makes them feel like peers (rather than people whose ideas you’ve appropriated). It also paves the way for future collaboration.

This isn’t limited strictly to software companies. Other industries are learning about their own products from the customers who use them and can envision ways to make using them better, ranging from automobiles to sporting goods to plumbing hardware. Instead of relying on just your in-house expertise, you can supplement that with the very best practical product evaluators possible – your customers.

If you are looking into CRM, I’d suggest taking a look at Sugar 6.3. If you’re not, I suggest understanding the way 6.3 came about and applying it to your business.

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