March 22, 2000 Group Discussion

Co-opting Customer Competence
What Are the Implications for Emergency Management?

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator


Online Transcript
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Discussion Questions

Related Pages:
Co-opting Customer Competence (reprint order info)
Customer Service is Serious Business to FEMA


EIIP Virtual Forum Group Discussion
Wednesday - March 22, 2000 - 12:00 Noon EST

Co-opting Customer Competence
What Are the Implications for Emergency Management?

Amy Sebring
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The Virtual Forum featured a group discussion on the theme "Co-opting Customer Competence: What Are the Implications for Emergency Management?" Each participant was encouraged to read the related links and discussion questions prior to the start of the session.

The basis for the open discussion was an article in the Harvard Business Review by C. K. Prahalad entitled "Co-opting Customer Competence." There has been quite an emphasis recently on general customer service orientation however very little in terms of applying a customer orientation in Emergency Management. Questions for discussion and input from the audience defined what our "products" are and who our customers are - the end result of the 10 questions was a lively and provocative discussion.


  1. What are the products and services of emergency management?

  2. Who are our customers?

  3. Can a customer-based perspective help to overcome stereotypical perceptions of victims?

  4. "In the new market-place, companies have to recognize that their dialogue with their customers is a dialogue of equals." How can we encourage an active dialogue with our customers?

  5. "[C]ustomers in the new economy are finding it easier to form, on their own, self-selecting virtual communities.... Smart companies are finding ways to mobilize customer communities." How can we encourage and mobilize customer communities?

  6. "Consumers' experiences of a ... product or service -- and therefore their judgement of that product or service -- will vary according to their skills as users." How do we manage customer diversity?

  7. "The product, in fact, is no more than an artifact around which customers have experiences. What's more, customers are not prepared to accept experiences fabricated by companies. Increasingly, they want to shape those experiences themselves, both individually and with experts or other customers." How can we provide opportunities for personalization?

  8. "Shaping expectations is not just about traditional one-way communication .... It is about engaging current and potential consumers in public debate. It is about educating customers and being educated." How can we shape expectations through dialogue?

  9. "Although managers can regard the customer as a source of competence, they also have to face the reality that their customers are becoming their competititors." How do we deal with the ever-increasing sources of information directly available to customers?

  10. "Engaging in a dialogue with a diverse and evolving customer base in multiple channels will place a high premium on organizational flexibility." How can we become more flexible?

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Virtual Forum Page