Nothing is as scary to many corporations as the idea of sponsoring dens in which customers can talk to one another. Especially if it is an effective place of communication. Like the web. "You mean," they ask in wonder, "we should pay a million dollars to develop a web site where customers can swap rumors and make a lot of noise? Where complaints will get passed around and the flames of discontent fanned?" Yes, that's right. Often that's what will happen. "Why should we pay our customers to harass us," they ask, "when they will do that on their own?" Because there is no more powerful force in the network economy than a league of connected customers. They will teach you faster than you could learn any other way. They will be your smartest customers, and, to repeat, whoever has the smartest customers wins.
Just recently E-trade, the pioneering online stock broker, took the bold step of setting up an online chat area for its customers. We'll see more smart companies do this. Whatever tools you develop that will aid the creation of relationships between your customers will strengthen the relationship of your customers to you. This effort can also be thought of as Feeding the Web First.