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?

CMO’s Investment Priorities 2014 – I’m shocked


I downloaded an infographic  http://bit.ly/1jtr5l3 this morning from Customer Management Exchange Group that shows the Top 5 Areas of Investment for Marketing  Leaders  and how investment priorities have changed for strategic marketers over the last 12 months

Marketing_Top 5 Investment Priorities 2014

Basically – I’m shocked!

Allow me to qualify by acknowledging that I don’t have the formal definitions of each of the abovementioned investment  areas (e.g. What makes up Marketing Effectiveness) and, aside from the infographic I haven’t seen any of the underlying research. I am only reacting to the infographic.

As somebody who evangelises a customer-centric business model as one of the only ways of building meaningful competitive advantage for most organisations today, my assessment is that these priorities are a ‘step backwards.’ My comments on a couple of these 2014 investment priorities

Let’s begin at Investment Priority #5 for 2014 – Customer Acquisition. World markets remain under pressure in most geographies. The majority of organisations still generate the bulk of their profits through a product-centric mindset  and we know there are cracks in the product-centri c mindset. Amongst others, commodisation is increasingly common due to technology enablement, product/service life cycles are shorter, customers are smarter, products are available anywhere and everywhere due to globalisation and de-regulation of industries. Customer trust in government and corporate remains low. We all know that it costs more to ‘Acquire’ than it does to ‘Retain.’ Why would investment priorities only highlight 1 of the drivers (Customer Acquisition) of customer value management, the others being Retention, Efficiency (cost-to serve understanding) and Penetration (customer development, x-sell & up-sell)

Maybe, just maybe, Investment Priority #4 for 2014 – Marketing Effectiveness addresses the balance across these 4 drivers of customer value management. Maybe, Marketing Effectiveness implies a focus on Retention, Customer Development and Cost to Serve Efficiency in addition to Customer Acquisition.

I’m astounded that Investment Priority#4 for 2013  – Customer Experience, has dropped off the priority schedule. Is this because organisations are finding it too difficult to enable cross functional capability to design and to deliver a unique, distinctive and consistent customer experience? Is this because executive teams are once again becoming increasingly short term focussed?  There will always be tension between the need to deliver profits ‘tomorrow’ and the need to develop sustainability for 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ahead. Maybe organisations are feeling that Customer Experience is too complicated and that it’s easier to talk about than to operationalise. Customer Experience requires cross-functional working. It requires the breakdown of silos and a change in the operating model. A customer-centric business model doesn’t change the importance of organisational performance measurement but it does change what, when and how business performance is measured.  Maybe this is why Investment Priority#2 for 2013 –  Marketing Measurement, Accountability & ROI, has also fallen of the 2014 Priority list.

The other notable difference is that Investment Priority#1 for 2013 – Future Thinking, Trend watching and Forecasting appears nowhere in 2014. My concern is that the 2014 Priorities are therefore not indicating any real commitment to business model innovation.

What are your thoughts and observations?

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-Centric Transformation a no-brainer: Check out why!


I’m guilty! I admit that I’m a customer-centric evangelist because quite frankly, how else can you build meaningful competitive advantage? Customer-centricity is all about differentiation and it’s almost impossible to sustain differentiation around product, price and distribution footprint. But you can sustain differentiation around your customer knowledge, insights and understanding.

Here are 3 questions designed to get you thinking a little differently about the criticality of developing customer-centric capability within your organisation. These ideas are attributed to Don Peppers & Martha Rogers of Peppers & Rogers Group, whom I worked with very briefly around 11 years ago.

1)      Who is the one stakeholder, whom if you maximised the return thereof, would benefit ALL stakeholders?  So think about this – there are generally 5 major stakeholders in businesses today – society, partners, investors, customers and employees. Maximising the return for the investor is not necessarily good for the customer! Maximising the return for the employees doesn’t mean ALL other stakeholders will benefit. Maximising the return for the Customer, on the other hand, certainly does benefit all other stakeholders. This is why the principles of customer-centricity are so important. If an organisation is unable to propagate a supply-demand chain then they are unable to supports investors and all other stakeholders.

2)      Would you agree that customers create 100% of business value in almost all cases? Customers create value for businesses every quarter by purchasing products and services. They also create value in another way which is referred to as lifetime value (LTV). LTV is based upon their intention to continue doing business with, and paying money to the organisation. That LTV goes up and down in value, as does a stock/share portfolio. Any reduction, or potential reduction, in that value (brought about possibly through a poor engagement or experience) is bad news for the organisation. This level of understanding and insight of that value change is generally not available within organisations so this reduction in value is not reported to shareholders , albeit that it is akin to the company reporting lower earnings which in almost all cases results in company stock/shares losing value. My friends at Peppers & Rogers have a metric for this which they refer to as ‘Return on Customer’ and this metric is designed to capture both types of value created (actual and LTV) to balance the short term/long term impact of customer value. ROC = (Profit made on customer today + change in LTV)/Initial/beginning LTV.

3)      What do shareholders & investors really want? Most shareholders and investors want confidence that leadership is able to grow a company organically. That means that the organisation will have developed capabilities to Acquire customers, to Retain them and keep them buying from the business, to grow them and to get them to buy more from the business. They’d also want confidence that leadership is able to guide investment and understand the cost-to-serve different customer cohorts/segments to best manage financial return. If the business can demonstrate these capabilities then they are providing REAL value to customers which means they’re providing real value to shareholders/investors at the same time

Customers are a scarce asset. They are valuable and unique. They are measurable. They are the biggest limitation to growth and to understand this will impact the decisions we make.

So…………within your organisations, if customers are the most important asset in your business, who is managing them as such. What operational framework/ architecture/ business model are you using to optimise that asset? Who is tracking the value of the customer today and the value of the customer tomorrow? What does your customer dashboard look like?

Comments?

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

Customer-Centric Transformation: What Good Looks Like – Penetration – Understanding Customer Value – Part 14a of 14c


Designing and executing a customer-centric business model requires end to end organisational alignment. Customer-centric capability development cannot take place in isolation to the rest of the business. The customer-centric journey requires a clear quantified understanding of current organisational capability across all 14 capability areas of the SCHEMA® Customer Management framework in the centre of the REAP Customer-Centric Blueprint below. As important as an understanding of current customer management capability is, so too is an understanding of the capability to which the organisation aspires.

Each week I’ll address another single capability area, sharing with you the Transformation Intent to which your organisation should commit to, as well as ‘What Good Looks Like’ for those organisations that have achieved a fairly high level of maturity in the respective capability area.

The REAP Customer-Centric Organisation Blueprint®

REAP CCOB for Blog

 

 

 

This week we are dealing with Penetration which is one of the four Execution capability areas represented. The Execution layer relates to the capabilities and control levers needed to optimise customer value and includes Retention, Efficiency (understanding cost to serve), Acquisition and Penetration (customer development, cross-sell and up-sell) – collectively referred to as REAP. These are capabilities and initiatives that can be optimised in the short term.

These capabilities support your ability to implement your chosen customer strategies and rely on the fundamental building blocks (Foundations) as well as the Enabling capabilities already discussed in Part 1 to 10 of this series of blog posts.

Each of the four Execution capability areas is made up of sub-components. The Penetration dimension relates to the ability to develop more value from existing customers through cross-sell and up-sell activities to improve return on customer investment. Formal management of high value customers and key accounts is a critical part of this. It also requires clarity as to how you deal with low value customers from a development perspective, if at all. The 3 sub-components of the Penetration dimension are ‘Understanding Customer Value,’  ‘Increasing Customer Value,’ and ‘Managing High Value Customers.’ Each of these areas is addressed in separate, individual blog posts.

Transformation Intent – Penetration

“Delivering sustainable and superior business performance requires the on-going development and growth in the value of your customer base. To do this you need to have an in-depth understanding of your customer value so that you can identify opportunities to increase this value. This potential uplift is then supported through relevant propositions, cross-selling, up-selling, indirect value creation and expansion of existing product usage. In treating different customers differently, high value customers should also be given special attention so that the right team equipped with the necessary budget can deliver on their specific needs.”

What Good Looks Like – Understanding Customer Value

  • Definitions of how customer value is calculated have been agreed and implemented for the current, to-date & future/lifetime value levels. Proxies have been developed where real data is not available.
  • Analysis has been carried out of value distribution across the customer base and there is clarity about what each of the main value drivers are (e.g. acquisition rate, attrition rate, product holding, market cost etc.).
  • The development of value (upwards and downwards) over time at the absolute level and at the share-of-spend level is understood for different types of customers.
  • Opportunities to develop customer value are identified based on analysis of current purchase patterns, predictive modelling and any other identifiable indicators.
  • Staff are clear on how much value varies between customers and the critical importance of taking special care of the most valuable.

For more insight into customer-centric business model innovation as well as more insight into this particular area of the REAP Customer-Centric Blueprint, please see my book “The Customer-Centric Blueprint’ – http://amzn.to/ZILg4y

Customer-Centric Transformation: What Good Looks Like – Acquisition – Understanding Acquisition – Part 13a of 14


 

Designing and executing a customer-centric business model requires end to end organisational alignment. Customer-centric capability development cannot take place in isolation to the rest of the business. The customer-centric journey requires a clear quantified understanding of current organisational capability across all 14 capability areas of the SCHEMA® Customer Management framework in the centre of the REAP Customer-Centric Blueprint below. As important as an understanding of current customer management capability is, so too is an understanding of the capability to which the organisation aspires.

 

Each week I’ll address another single capability area, sharing with you the Transformation Intent to which your organisation should commit to, as well as ‘What Good Looks Like’ for those organisations that have achieved a fairly high level of maturity in the respective capability area.

 

The REAP Customer-Centric Organisation Blueprint®

 

REAP CCOB for Blog

 

 

 

This week we are dealing with Acquisition which is one of the four Execution capability areas represented. The Execution layer relates to the capabilities and control levers needed to optimise customer value and includes Retention, Efficiency (understanding cost to serve), Acquisition and Penetration (customer development, cross-sell and up-sell) – collectively referred to as REAP. These are capabilities and initiatives that can be optimised in the short term.

 

These capabilities support your ability to implement your chosen customer strategies and rely on the fundamental building blocks (Foundations) as well as the Enabling capabilities already discussed in Part 1 to 10 of this series of blog posts.

 

Each of the four Execution capability areas is made up of sub-components. The Acquisition dimension focuses on the specific, practical activities that will support you to increase both the quality and volume of new customers. Acquisition explores ways in which you can increase the size of your customer universe and your share of it. The 5 sub-components of the Acquisition dimension are ‘Understanding Acquisition,’  ‘Identifying New Prospects,’ ‘Managing Interest,’ ‘Converting Sales,’ and ‘Setting up & Activating.’  Each of these areas is addressed in separate, individual blog posts.

 

Transformation Intent – Acquisition

 

“A customer-centric Acquisition approach begins with a clear and intimate understanding of your customer universe and the factors that impact your ability to sell to them. Acquiring your share of this customer universe is achieved through appropriate targeted marketing activity across a broad range of relevant channels and media, and interest generated is managed effectively so that prospects are kept warm until the sale is closed. While the sales process itself should focus on closing the sale, it should also take into account effective lead management, specific sales targets and rewards and careful controls over pricing. Customer-centricity also recognises that new clients have not been secured until you have taken them through an experience-based initiation process, where they are made to feel welcome and are well informed.”

 

What Good Looks Like – Understanding Acquisition

 

  • The current and potential size of the customer universe/s for the organisation’s market/s is understood, making acquisition planning and targeting realistic and not just based on previous year plus x%. The Universe share (as opposed to market volume share) is fully understood for each of the main competitors.
  • Sales processes are understood in terms of both why they fail and why they succeed, from both the internal and the customer point of view, as well as which internal / market factors most impact on sales success rates.
  • The demographic and socio-graphic nature of newly acquired customers from each channel / source is understood, along with how far and how quickly their value builds up to its peak level. Acquisition activity is increasingly targeted at attracting good customers and not just any customer.

 

For more insight into customer-centric business model innovation as well as more insight into this particular area of the REAP Customer-Centric Blueprint, please see my book “The Customer-Centric Blueprint’ – http://amzn.to/ZILg4y