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?

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Customer-Centricity = Blue Ocean Strategy


I’ve long been a supporter of ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ thinking. I’m also a firm believer that the greatest opportunities for business today lie with business model innovation – i.e. finding new ways to create, deliver and capture value. This enables the creation of uncontested market space – ripe for growth.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean strategy, created by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, deals with the reality of companies long engaging in head-to-head competition in search of profitable growth. These companies have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share and struggled for differentiation. This head-on competition often results in nothing but a bloody ‘read-ocean’ of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool and failing to build any meaningful and sustained strategy to create profitable growth in the future.

It is suggested that the business universe consists of 2 distinct kinds of space, viz red oceans and blue oceans. Red oceans represent all the industries in existence today – the known market space. In red oceans, industry boundaries are defined and accepted and the competitive rules of the game are well understood. Here, companies try to outperform their rivals in order to grab a greater share of existing demand. As the space gets more and more crowded, prospects for profit and growth are reduced. Products become commodities and increasing competition turns the water bloody.

Blue oceans, on the other hand, denote all industries not in existence today – the unknown market space, untainted by competition. In blue oceans, demand is created rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid. There are primarily two ways to create blue oceans. In limited instances companies can give rise to completely new industries. In most cases however, a blue ocean is created from within a red ocean when a company alters the boundaries of an existing industry.

One of the most effective ways to create blue oceans – to create meaningful competitive advantage, is to develop organisational capabilities that enable the enterprise to design and to deliver unique and distinctive customer experiences, and through this capability, to create value that is distinctive in the market. This is about satisfying a real customer/client need that deals not only with an appropriate, relevant and unique product or service, but also addresses the experiential and emotional elements that the customer/client needs.

The Challenge of Growth – Value Innovation

Profitable, organic growth is a tremendous challenge facing many companies today.  As organisations get larger the organic growth challenges become bigger. Very often the value differentiator that led to the initial growth is lost or diminished as more nimble and agile competitors step in to disrupt.

Most companies share an implicit set of beliefs about ‘how we compete in our industry or in our strategic group.’ They share a conventional wisdom about who their customers are and what they value and what products and services their industry should be offering. Their strategy is dominated by the idea of staying ahead of the competition. They view business opportunities through the lens of their existing assets and capabilities – they ask, given what we have, what is the best we can do? This leads to competitive convergence – they end up competing solely on the basis of incremental improvements in cost or quality or both.

Differentiated, winning organisations with enlightened leadership pay little attention to matching or beating their rivals – instead they seek to make competitors irrelevant through a strategic logic called value innovation.

Value innovators do not accept their industry conditions as given. They do not set strategy accordingly. They do not let competitors set the parameters of their strategic thinking – they do not focus on comparing strengths and weaknesses with those of their competitors in order to build an advantage. They are not interested in competing at the margin for incremental share.

Value innovation logic starts with the ambition to dominate the market by offering a tremendous leap in value. Value innovators do not let what we can do today condition their view of what is required to ‘win’ tomorrow.

An analysis of major innovations within existing corporations in the past decade shows that precious few have been business model related and an American Management Association study a few years back determined that no more than 10% of innovation investment at global companies is focussed on developing new business models.

Shareholders today want to understand that companies are able to grow organically. Customers are a finite resource. Companies need to prove to shareholders that they are capable of acquiring more of this limited resource, need to prove they are capable of retaining those customers that they have, particularly the valuable ones, need to allocate resource efficiently and manage the cost-to-serve those customers based upon what they’re worth today and what they will be worth tomorrow and need to have a sufficiently compelling customer value proposition that ensures they can develop their current customers through appropriate and relevant up-sell and cross-sell initiatives.

This is about developing leaps in value for both the organisation and the buyers, creating all new profitable demand.

The creation of blue oceans is reliant on innovation across products, services and delivery (experience). Those companies most successful at repeating value innovation are those who take advantage of all 3 of these platforms. Sadly, too many organisations limit their strategic options by focussing on only 1 dimension of strategy.

Competing in overcrowded industries is no way to sustain high performance. Developing and operationalising a customer-centric business model will enable an organisation to stand out.

For more insight into customer-centric business model innovation, please see my book “The Customer-Centric Blueprint’ – http://amzn.to/ZILg4y

(Much of this content is attributed to various Harvard Business Review articles – Blue Ocean Strategy by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Value Innovation: The Strategic Logic of High Growth by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Creating New Market Space by W, Chan Kin and Renee Mauborgne and Insead MBA Mini Elective – Blue Ocean Strategy Simulation Course)

Customer-Centric Transformation: What Good Looks Like – Penetration – Managing High Value Customers – Part 14c 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 – Managing High Value Customers

  • Current and potentially high value customers are identified and managed as a specific category with additional resources and budget, even if there is no formal concept of key accounts, or they do not fall into the definition of key accounts.
  • Planning for customers that do classify as formal key accounts is a meaningful exercise that drives resource allocation, customer activity and relationship development rather than just setting targets and budgets. It involves a wider range of internal stakeholders for each account and is at least transparent to the customer if it does not actively involve them.
  • Key accounts are managed at a deeper and more pro-active level than other customers with regular reviews of the relationship as well as progress against the plan. Opportunities for meaningful collaboration on a shared-risk basis are actively sought.

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 – Penetration – Increasing Customer Value – Part 14b 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 – Increasing Customer Value

  • Value development is managed as a business discipline (like acquisition or retention) with: clear ownership / responsibility; detailed planning; specific propositions; checks that it is generating incremental value.
  • Active stimulation mechanisms are in place to increase usage / value / frequency of purchasing the organisations’ core products.
  • Opportunities to sell ‘up’ to a higher level of value are sought and supported by appropriate offers, especially at point of sale.
  • Cross-selling is driven through both outbound and inbound channels, based on clear rules-of-engagement and prompts to ensure appropriate offers are made from the organisation’s whole portfolio.
  • Low value customers are identified against clear definitions and specifically dealt with so as to drive up their value or at least prevent it being made worse.
  • The valuation of customers and stimulation of this value extends beyond pure transaction value, into areas such as advocacy and referral.

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 – 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 – Setting Up & Activating – Part 13e 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 – Setting Up & Activating

  • The new customer set-up process is specifically engineered to be a great first experience with organisation. The welcoming activity that follows happens quickly and in a way that is appropriate to the new customer’s potential value and any history with the organisation.
  • Clear definitions are in place to define when customers have settled into an active relationship with the organisation. Very regular reporting identifies those who have not done so and pre-planned activity is undertaken to address these customers.
  • The duration and nature of new customers’ “early experience phase” is understood and for appropriate customers is addressed with an appropriate ‘nursery’ programme to care-take them through. A specific new customer segment (or set of segments) ensures they are treated correctly and at sensible cost until they can be allocated to a more meaningful in-life segment.

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 – Converting Sales – Part 13d 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 – Converting Sales

  • Sales targets and rewards are ‘scientific’, recognise differences between the types of customers (brand-new, won-back, re-purchasing) converted and drive the most appropriate behaviours in the sales channels.
  • Sales Leads are distributed, followed up, monitored and reported on in a way that balances the best experience for the customer with the most beneficial result for the organisation, irrespective of where the lead was generated or the channel through which it was received.
  • Pricing is actively used as part of the acquisition mix, but this is done on an analytical and controlled basis to prevent profit being given away that cannot be recovered later.
  • Sales processes and support mechanisms are focused on supporting the ‘close’, sharing in the customer’s excitement and finally celebrating the sales success.
  • As much as possible is done to prevent even starting on selling activity with potentially ‘bad’ customers and this can be effectively stopped where necessary.

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