As a small-business owner your goal is to make your customers happy. The tricky part is figuring out how to do that while turning a profit. Suggestions for ways to accomplish this feat have ranged from the practical--say, by providing them a smoothly functioning, reliable website--to the philosophical, like Steve Jobs's suggestion that customers don't know what they want and shouldn't be consulted. 

Now Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly is adding another idea of how to keep customers happy to the mix: Treat them like employees: In a brief but thought-provoking post on his blog, Kelly suggests you:

The opposite notion of treating employees as well and with as much loyalty as customers has been kicking around awhile and was espoused by Southwest Airlines founder Herbert D. Kelleher, among others. The case for appreciating staff the same way you do customers makes obvious human sense (if not always business sense) as people perform better when they feel appreciated, but the converse idea proposed by Kelly is less intuitive.  

Kelleher aside, employees are often treated terribly these days and there are scattered signs that consumers are growing antsy with having so many tasks once handled by employees offloaded onto them (i.e. scanning their own groceries, checking themselves in at the airport and planning their own travel). On the other hand, the idea that customers, trained by technology to demand choice, customization and control, would be sucked into a deeper relationship with a company if given more of a role in producing the end product they will eventually buy seems credible (not to mention the fact that customers might enjoy such a product more). The trick seems to be involving customers more without making them feel exploited. 

How would your customers respond if you handed them some of the responsibilities now handled by your employees?