Customer Strategy Infographic


It goes without saying that if your organisation pledges to become more customer-centric, you need to innovate your business model through a customer-centric lens. Customer-Centricity is all about the organisations ‘way of work’ or the ‘business system’ that enables the business to design and to deliver a unique, distinctive and consistent customer experience in order to Acquire, Retain and Develop targeted customer Efficiently. An organisation seeking to develop customer-centric capabilities must be willing and able to change its organisation structure, its measures and its employee and distribution incentives to focus on long term business success.

The design of a customer-centric strategy requires an organisation to deeply understand its current customer-centric capability (its departure point on the transformational journey), the nature of customer-centricity to which it aspires, the action and implementation priorities to bridge the gap between the current and the ‘to be’ state as well as the business benefit (financial uplift) derived from this improved level of customer centric capability.

This infographic helps explain the core components of the transformational journey and the customer-strategy, and is based upon the SCHEMA Customer Management Framework which is the methodology we use to drive customer-centric transformation

Exampleco customer management strategy - REAP

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Customer Experience, Systems Thinking, Analytical Thinking & Organisational Design.


To be customer-centric requires business capability to design and to consistently deliver a unique and distinctive customer experience to a selected set of customers in order to acquire, retain and to develop them efficiently.

I was privileged to be taught by the late Dr Russell Ackoff at The Wharton School and he re-enforced my long held belief that one of the major challenges organisations face when trying to transform their business models to become more customer-centric is a lack of systems thinking. Dr Ackoff produced extensive research, insights and knowledge into how systems thinking is the only way to approach organisational development. He explained that many of the challenges we face in trying to understand our organisations such that we can transform them, come from using analytical thinking.

Systems thinking is an approach that views the organisation as a whole (end-to-end) comprised of many parts (functions/silos), yet, at the same time, it is more than the sum of the individual parts. (To deliver a unique and consistent experience requires the organisation to be joined-up – to operate as a single seamless entity.)

Dr Ackoff added that a system is also defined by the function it fulfils in the wider system – this speaks to our organisational role in society and community and embraces the stakeholder universe including, in addition to society,  partners, employees, customers and investors.

Dr Ackoff regularly likened the idea of a system to the human body or to a motor-car. He explained  the 3 principles of the system being defined by the function it fulfils in the wider system (universe) as follows:-

  1. Each part affects the behaviour of the whole. (If the heart and lungs are not functioning correctly then this will affect the well-being of the entire body) – think Leadership Team?
  2. No part has an independent effect on the overall system ( The ability for the muscles to get someone to walk in a straight line will depend on the balance maintained by the inner ear)
  3. The system itself has properties which none of the parts have (If a hand were cut off, the hand would be unable to write. It is the whole system, the whole body, that enables the hand to write)

These principles highlight the challenge many organisations face as they aspire to develop the capability to deliver unique and distinctive experiences. Trying to understand the organisation capability by analysing and restructuring various operating entities in isolation (e.g. let’s optimise the contact centre and make it really efficient.) doesn’t lead to the transformation required. Sadly, in the above-mentioned contact centre example, ‘efficiency’ measures such as average handling time and  # calls answered per day by agent, are the antithesis of customer-centric capability – a customer may want information or may want a problem solved – he/she is not interested in the fact that the agent may have an average handling time target of 2min, 30 seconds, for example.

Taking the analogy further the parts (functions) of the organisation need to mesh together, to be joined up in such a way that they operate seamlessly – to be designed in such a way that they’re supportive of the strategic outcome of the business. The linkages between and across areas of specialisation need to be refined and appropriate for the intended experience. It’s the view and understanding of the whole organisational system as well as an understanding of the universe that allows the organisation to determine where it wants to create it’s ‘high contrast signature experience’ – where it wants to stand head and shoulders above the competition, where it is going to be unique. No business can be the best at absolutely everything.

As per Dr Ackoff, this is akin to taking apart each and every motor car in an attempt, through analysis, to find the best engine, best transmission, best steering, best braking system, best suspension……..best everything. Trying to put all of these ‘best’ parts together would result in an absolute mess as nothing would fit. Trying to scrutinise every part of the system and aggregate an understanding of the parts, doesn’t allow an understanding of the whole. Applying the principles of systems thinking allows an understanding of how the pieces/parts fit together.

Your thoughts?

What leads to un-economic Customer Experience investments?


It’s extraordinarily easy to make uneconomic investments in customer experience – much of the time and money ‘invested’ is wasted because organisations fail to understand the criticality of systems thinking and the need for ‘silo-busting.’ They also focus on how they ‘deliver’ experiences rather than understanding how people ‘have’ experiences. It is how people ‘have’ an experience that influences the choices they make in the pursuit of what they really want. The culprits that lead to uneconomic investments in customer experience include the following:-

o Reliance on customer satisfaction measures – customer experience investments only pay off when behaviour changes – satisfaction is not an emotional state that drives behaviour
o Voice of the Customer – Henry Ford said “If I had asked customers what they wanted, all we’d have is faster horses’
o Touchpoint Mapping – The highest impact insights and opportunities exist at non-touchpoints – companies ‘deliver’ an experience at touchpoints e.g. dropping car off for service at service desk, getting lift to work, getting a call indicating status of service……………….etc etc etc. People have experiences at non-touchpoints………e.g. frame of mind based upon past service experience BEFORE car is dropped off for service, having to wait for a driver to deliver them to work, having to arrange their day without access to mobility because car is in for service, having to arrange collection of vehicle…………etc etc etc. It’s important to consider and recognise behavioural pathways – what do these events make customers think, feel and what does this influence them to do?
o Service Level Improvement – Incremental improvements in service quality generally do not get customers’ attention or influence behaviour
o ‘Fixing’ the front line – The experience customers have is a product of deeply entrenched organisational behaviour. Training and motivating front line employees does not address this

Source: Frank Capek – Customer Innovations

Customer-Centricity! Oh, I’m Doing that Already!


Yeah right! I had a really interesting discussion with a prospective client recently. He is the MD of a multi franchise vehicle business. Successful? – no doubt. Customer-Centric? – I don’t think so. Yet he was adamant he had ‘customer-centricity’ under control. They were busy hiring someone who was going to drive this initiative. This is a classic example of a refusal to admit to the current reality. A refusal to fully understand what’s wrong with the current way they’re running the operations. A refusal to really understand what customer-centricity is all about.
Will these refusals lead to business failure? I certainly don’t believe so. But I do know that they will lead to lost opportunity. And what really agitates me is a verbal commitment made to developing themselves as an internationally recognised exemplar of customer experience. How, I ask with tears in my eyes? How are they going to enable disruptive change by doing more of what they’ve always been doing? Time will tell. I only wish that people would stop making bold statements that they’re never going to deliver upon, unless they develop a REAL understanding of their current reality, a REAL understanding of the reality to which they aspire, and REAL capacity for change.

Customer Centricity = Sustainability = Customer Centricity = Superior Business Performance


In a recently published article (MIT Sloan Management Review – How to Become a Sustainable Company)the authors point to a study that supports the view that ‘high sustainability’ companies significantly outperformed their counterparts over an 18 year period in terms of both stock market and accounting criteria, such as return on assets and return on equity. Also, stock market performance was higher and there was lower performance volatility. We can therefore conclude that sustainability makes good business sense.
The term ‘sustainable company’ is spoken about and referred to fairly frequently these days. At the core of this trend is the fact that consumers and the general public are not satisfied with businesses that focus solely on short-term profit maximisation. People want businesses to be far more considerate of broad based human needs.
In this context ‘sustainability’ refers to a business philosophy based on balancing financial, social and environmental considerations.
I am a firm believer and supporter of ‘sustainable enterprise’ – I also have this expectation that if a business can balance financial, social and environmental issues then surely they should add ‘customer experience’ to the list? After all, why waste the energy and effort to address social and environmental considerations (which ‘speak’ to us and can therefore be used to create greater levels of loyalty and advocacy) if they don’t design and deliver a differentiated customer experience.
Sadly, I’m a customer of a couple of ‘sustainable’ companies that deliver a customer experience that is mediocre at best and downright unacceptable at worst. This got me thinking from two perspectives – firstly, building organisational capability for sustainability is similar to building organisational capability to deliver differentiated experiences. Secondly, if an organisation is committed to ‘sustainability’ yet doesn’t focus on customer experience, should we be more accepting of mediocrity in delivery of those customer experiences? I say NO! NO! NO! In fact, Customer Experience and Sustainability should go hand in hand – one without the other is indicative of opposing forces.
Your thoughts?

A blended set of measures are critical for customer-centric operationalization


What company doesn’t want to be customer-centric? It’s highly unlikely that any executive wakes up in the morning and makes a statement along the lines of – “Customer-Centricity is not important to us and we shouldn’t consider it!”

That said, to move beyond the lip-service that is so evident around this topic/set of capabilities requires both courage and a commitment to a transformational journey.  Surely everybody with some understanding of change management principles recognises that transformation requires an amended set of measures and/or the addition of some added measures to ensure focus and accountability? Financial metrics and the achievement of profitability targets are, of course, non negotiables.  Today, however, organisations have to balance profitability with social conscience and need to focus much more on stakeholder relationships. The most important stakeholder in almost all cases is the customer.

I’m regularly asked what metric should be used to measure customer-centric capability. The reality is ‘a measure’ is not sufficient. Trying to craft a customer strategy, develop customer-centric capabilities and operationalise those capabilities isn’t going to be supported by ‘a measure.’

The purpose of this article/discussion isn’t to wax lyrical about the strengths and weaknesses of individual metrics. It is to share a suggested ‘blend’ of measures that are needed if an organisation is serious about a customer-centric transformational journey.

These are illustrated below. Most will be familiar with Customer Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction, Voice of the Customer and Net Promoter Score. The 2 measures that have less of an understanding are SCHEMA® and Customer Effort Score.

Customer Measures Matrix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very briefly, SCHEMA® is a leading indicator and measures the customer-centric capability of an organisation. It measures how well a business is optimising customer profitability and compares against global benchmarks. It’s a leading metric because, from this level of understanding, an organisation is able to quantify and identify where it needs to build capability to enable it to be customer-centric – in other words what capability is needed to design and deliver a unique and distinctive customer experience in order to acquire, retain and develop targeted customers efficiently.

The Customer Effort Score is another metric that I am hugely supportive of as ‘effort to engage’ is becoming an increasingly important indicator of ‘willingness to do business with’ as well as loyalty. Quite frankly, it’s astounding how difficult it is to do business with many organisations (after all – why should we care about or be expected to adhere to processes that make absolutely no sense to us – why should we have to put up with broken, inefficient engagement capability that wastes out time and requires effort from us?)  Who has any loyalty and wants to support a business that is difficult to do business with.

I chair a senior learning forum called The Customer Council (TCC) and at the end of 2012 we invited Dr Nicola Millard from BT to address TCC. BT have become somewhat of a ‘poster child’ when it comes to Customer Effort Score in action. Have a look at this video, by Dr Nicola Millard, on the topic of Customer Effort: Help or Hype?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5iBs_Kac3U

The Challenges of Implementing Customer-Centric Strategy – What creates the problem?


Let’s face it. There is very little new about the concept of customer-centricity. There is however, plenty of room for improvement in both strategy and execution.

What creates the problem?

  • The traditional functional and product silo design of organisations creates serious problems. In these instances it’s almost impossible to operationalise around ‘the customer.’ Each silo invariably has its own operational structure, own processes, sometimes its own technology, its own distribution model and very often its own ‘sales’ team. Joining up these silos to deliver a unique and distinctive experience is often a ‘step too far.’
  • ‘Slash & Burn’ cost-cutting is not a solution. Customers are not all created equal and shouldn’t all be treated in exactly the same way. Customers are a finite resource and their value lies in their business and value today, as well as their business and value tomorrow – referred to as Life Time Value. (LTV). It’s not in any organisations interest to engage in activity/behaviour that results in the reduction of LTV.
  • Developing and implementing organisational capabilities that enable a customer-centric business model creates structural and integration challenges. Many leaders do not have the guts to commit to the required transformation. Furthermore, personal incentives are often in conflict with the effort and investment needed to develop customer-centric capability.
  • Many organisations are unable to evolve from the mental model of ‘having’ customers to ‘being’ a customer.  As such they’re unable to recognise that they need to provide value that addresses the ‘customer need’ – rather than ‘selling them’ what they have. They are unable to emphasize ‘customer well-being’ in ALL decision making
  • Customers are a finite resource and the source of all revenue and profit, today and tomorrow. They are therefore the most valuable asset of any organisation. In most cases there is no-one with the responsibility of managing that asset. There is no one responsible for knowing and understanding the value of the customer today and tomorrow. There is no one who is able to provide a comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer. There is no one who is responsible for creating customer strategy at the highest level of the organisation in order to maximise the drivers of customer value management viz  REAP – Retention, Efficiency (cost-to-serve understanding), Acquisition and Penetration (customer development, cross-sell & up-sell)
  • ‘Customer Management Illusion.’ Living in a fool’s paradise. Research regularly proves the chasm that exists between what senior executives believe customers think of them and their companies versus what customers actually think. An Accenture study highlighted that 75% of CEOS’ believed that their organisations were customer-centric yet 59% of customers said customer service was somewhat to extremely dissatisfying. (NB: Customer Service is not customer management or customer experience – it is only 1 attribute of a customer-centric business). In a study by the CMO Council 50% of CEOS believed their organisations were extremely customer-centric. Less than one tenth of customers agreed.

Operationalising a customer-centric business model is complex and time consuming. Developing a deep understanding of customer needs, breaking down silos and developing the capability to enhance the customer experience is a good place to start.

Please add your inputs & comments