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?

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 – 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 – Identifying New Prospects – Part 13b 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 – Identifying New Prospects

  • The nature of target customers is defined and best potential sources (locations, current suppliers, groupings) of these types of potential customer have been identified.
  • Use is made of all relevant channels of influence and referral both at the individual advocate / trusted advisor level and at the level of influencing bodies and networks. This includes the active exploitation of referrals between business units of the organisation.
  • All pro-active acquisition marketing activity, across all media including social media, is tightly targeted to ensure the highest probability of gaining an attractive mix of new customers efficiently and cost effectively. Marketing activity is effectively terminated where it is resulting in the identification of a poor mix of prospects.
  • Good quality customers who have been lost in the past are targeted for appropriate winback activity, using relevant messages for their reason for leaving, at the right time to ensure the best chance of winning back the most valuable ones.

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 Management Trends and what is important in 2014


It’s that time of the year again when we take out the crystal ball to help us understand the evolving customer management transformation journey.  I’ve put together a combination of strategic imperatives and my observations and insights that relate to each of the imperatives

Enlightened leadership will remain a rare trait – yet without it, forget customer-centric transformation:

By and large the executive team will continue to respond rationally to a world which they understand and recognise but which no longer exists (Ben Obeng) and most organisations will continue along the journey of mediocrity, incrementalism and better sameness. Enlightened leaders, on the other hand, will focus on finding new ways to create, to deliver and to capture value through the lens of the customer, rather than through the lens of the current business model, and will deliver a unique and distinctive customer experience through empowered employees who ascribe to a culture, rather than a rule book.

Living Company Values really matters:

Having a non-negotiable set of values that is strictly adhered to and carries much greater weight than individual performance, is the secret sauce. Businesses that abdicate the customer experience (albeit with good intentions) introduce randomness and inconsistency. Not the way to get people to sit up, take notice and talk about you. Values will, in general, remain nothing other than a ‘words’ which are not part of organisational DNA.

Clarity as to what you stand for, AND what you stand against:

Have a good story about what your brand, product and/or service experience stands for and what that means. Equally important, have a story that also creates clarity about what your brand, product and/or service experience stand against. Metro Bank, a UK high street bank launched in July 2010, exists to provide excellent customer service. They stand against ‘stupid bank rules.’ – this means that they design every procedure around what works for customers, rather than what suits them. 

It’s all about Systems Thinking:

Most organisations won’t ‘get this.’ Customer management is systemic in nature – the enterprise needs to be viewed as a whole, comprised of many parts or functions, yet at the same time it is more than the sum of the individual parts – each part (or function) affects the behaviour of the whole. No part (or function) has an independent effect on the overall enterprise and the overall enterprise has properties which none of the parts have. Going to market with a customer-centric business model requires an understanding of the ‘interaction’ of the functions and the resultant capability of the entire enterprise.

It’s about Insight:

Whether small data or big data, it’s about generating as much relevant insight as possible. Multiple sources of information gathering in structured and unstructured format, in real time across multiple platforms, text analytics and the technology infrastructure support deeper insights that together, enable more effective planning.

Strategy must include, and focus on, ALL drivers of customer value:

Think REAP. There are only 4 drivers that you can use to increase the profitability of customer based activities. Retain more customers for longer, focussing on the best customers. Manage, and decrease (in some deserving cases, increase based upon predictive value models) customer related costs – Efficiency. Acquire a better mix of customers and develop (Penetrate) both the direct and indirect financial value of all customers (up-sell; cross-sell, advocacy, word of mouth).

Most businesses won’t optimise their balance across these drivers

Talent: It’s all about people:

When hiring look for candidates with a questioning disposition (constantly challenging), a connecting disposition (people connecting/colliding to solve challenges), expression of vulnerability (building trust based relationships) and a strong narrative (key driver of success.) Hire people who don’t need support and then support them as much as you can (Google). Consider the impact on the business model of millenials moving into management at a very early age – e.g. Google & Facebook.

Understand the customer journey in detail and be clear as to where you will create your ‘high contrast’ signature experience:

You can’t be the best at absolutely everything so be absolutely clear as to what you want to become known for. At which moments of truth or touchpoint do you want to be 10x better than your nearest competitor? Focus your attention at delivering profound excellence in a specific area and spend less time and money developing a ‘little bit’ of excellence across all touchpoints. Customers don’t notice and don’t care much for incrementalism.

Measures – stop fooling yourself that a measure like CSAT or NPS can drive your customer-management strategy:

Many organisations will fail in this regard. As with any good dashboard, a set of measures are required. You’re fooling yourself if you think ‘a single question’ is sufficient. A blend of measures, leading and lagging, is required. Really important is to have a measure of internal customer management capability that recognises the ‘system.’ Also important is to measure customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction (you can’t be customer-centric if you’re not employee-centric), NPS and customer effort. Understand the interdependencies across these measures; absolutely critical for strategic refinement.

Agility:

What? You’ve got to be joking! We have processes to adhere to and internal SLA’s.

Time is one of the most precious resources of any enterprise and of clients/consumers. Strategic agility is the ability to capitalise on opportunities and dodge threats with speed and with assurance. Without agility you lose the capability to ‘leap-frog’ competition and react nimbly to changing market dynamics and customer needs.

Content is king:

Today’s customer is content thirsty, yet also very discerning of what they view, read and share. Great content is the keystone of digital success, yet sustainable content generation is most often not given the prioritisation it needs

Innovation comes from anywhere. Encourage & Harness it:

This is one of the nine core principles of innovation at Google. It calls for the development of an Innovation Culture. Innovation can come from the top down as well as bottom up, and in the places you least expect. For example, a medical doctor on Google’s staff argued persuasively that Google had a moral obligation to extend help to those typing searches under the phrase “how to commit suicide.” He ignited the charge to adjust the search engine’s response so that the top of the screen reveals the toll free phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The call volume went up by nine percent soon thereafter. The same change has been adopted in many other countries.

Experimentation:

This requires an ‘outside-in’ mind-set supported by client/customer collaboration and co-creation. The idea is not to wait for what you perceive to be perfection because, through the customer lens, it’s unlikely to be. Rather, iterate your experience amongst a ‘test segment’ of client or customer. Be prepared to fail fast or scale quickly, depending on the outcome.

Your thoughts?

Customer-Centric Transformation: What Good Looks Like – Retention – Pro-Active Retention Activity – Part 11c 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 Retention 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 include 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. In developing Retention capabilities it is important to understand the drivers that create and maintain loyalty as well as the factors that destroy it, important to consider how to retain through business as usual, important to consider pro-active retention activity and how to best manage dissatisfaction. Each of these areas is addressed in separate, individual blog posts.

Transformation Intent – Retention

“Retention is all about understanding your customer base and the drivers that create and maintain loyalty as well as the factors that destroy it. Coupled with this is the need to consistently deliver on your promise while ensuring that over-delivery is balanced against the overriding goal of doing just enough to ensure repurchase. A retention strategy also demands that you are pro-active with your customers, monitoring them for signs of defection and implementing constructive plans to generate customer commitment to repurchase. Should customers become dissatisfied, the right flows of communication alert you so that the issues can be addressed promptly and consistently, whilst solving the problem at a root cause level.”

What Good Looks Like – Pro-active Retention Activity

  • Customer involvement at both the ‘content contribution’ and at deeper levels (both on-line and off-line) is enabled and actively encouraged.
  • Explicit retention messages are fed into on-going communication activity as well as forming the basis of specific retention activity where it is known to be most needed.
  • The way that customers want their loyalty recognised has been researched and reward schemes developed that consider experiential as well as product rewards. Alternatively, a clear, strategic decision has been made not to reward loyalty.
  • Customers are scored for their likelihood to leave and are constantly monitored for signs that they may do so. Mechanisms are in place to pre-empt and prevent an exit decision. Where this fails an effective ‘Save’ process is in place with the highest quality staff and realistic incentives in place to prevent loss.
  • The management of customers voluntarily leaving actively minimizes any collateral risks and looks to increase the chances of future return or winback.

 

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 – Agility and Workflow – Part 9 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 Agility & Workflow which is one of the six Enabling capability areas represented. The Enablers explore the components needed to energise your transformation and will invariably involve changes that can be planned for within the current business cycle, for implementation in the next budgetary or operating period. These components support your capability to implement your chosen customer strategies and rely on the fundamental building blocks (Foundations) already discussed in Part 1 to 4 of this series of blog posts.
Transformation Intent – Agility and Workflow
“The ability to deliver a customer-centric experience is dependent on the speed at which your organisation can mobilise itself so that you can meet the changing needs of your customers and act on new opportunities as soon as they arise. In order to do this you need an agile decision-making infrastructure that is supported by efficient and technology-enabled processes that integrate teams and deliver on the opportunities for real-time responses.”

What Good Looks Like – Agility and Workflow
• The organisation is set up to take customer insight and feedback through to new or amended processes / propositions quickly and is checking that customers perceive this agility.

• Processes are actively managed to ensure the right people receive the right prompts and information at the right time and are able to action it within defined timelines.

• The opportunities and customer need for real-time working are understood and the relevant data is available to enable clear movement towards this in the most important areas.

• Collaboration between customer-impacting colleagues is encouraged and enabled by relevant technology on an overall basis as well as being targeted at specific areas of need.

• Centres of Excellence are used to formerly incubate and develop good practices in one part of the organisation in a way that is specifically designed to support ‘packaged’ transfer of learning across the enterprise.

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