Future Customer Experience Differentiation Will Require New Operating Models

At some point after their companies find and fix the low-hanging fruit that creates problems for customers, customer experience leaders hit a wall. That wall is the outdated operational models upon which most companies were built. These models were conceived decades ago, based on the existing capabilities and constraints of the day, when the primary vehicle for value was tied up in the product/service itself. Within these operating models, firms have worked to optimize processes like marketing, sales, and distribution focused on getting to the transaction. Support has been a cost center so limited as much as possible. But this kind of operating model has critical problems. Here are a few that just scratch the surface:

  • Product lines obstruct customer needs that cross the company. Companies organized by product lines force customers to navigate different marketing messages, sales teams, billing systems, and websites and support organizations to get what they need, while internal staff waste effort and fail to create synergies that could deliver a bigger value proposition.
  • Channel strategies don’t account for information transparency. Like product lines, firms regularly treat channels as separate P&Ls. This artifact results in disjointed pricing, confusing return policies, botched hand-offs, and assorted other mishaps that undermine the customer experience. Moreover, it leaves little incentive for the fiefdoms to cooperate on behalf of the customer.
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Q&A With David Shapiro, VP Of Member Experience For Medicare And Retirement, UnitedHealth Group

There is a staggering amount of customer experience work going on in the healthcare industry these days. From providers (the docs), to pharma companies and payers (health insurers), everyone is trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

One guy who’s figured out a lot is David Shapiro, who wowed members of Forrester’s Customer Experience Council last year with a presentation of how UnitedHealth Group uses journey maps to transform experiences. David is the vice president of member experience for Medicare and retirement at UnitedHealth, and he's one of the speakers at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East on June 25th and 26th in New York.

In advance of his speech, we put some questions to David about the evolution of customer experience at his organization.

David Shapiro

Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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Winning The Customer Experience Game (Part 2)

It may come as a surprise to some to hear that technology teams play an important role in the implementation of an effective customer experience strategy, but that's the conclusion from our latest research.

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Have Your Cake And Eat It Too!

 

How can your firm deliver great, loyalty-inspiring customer experience – and achieve its efficiency objectives?

Firms that want to boost Return on Equity (ROE) or Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) must improve productivity.  And in a very real sense Productivity = value / resources.  But too often, the role of IT is to reduce the denominator – resources, and usually leave the numerator – value, to someone else to worry about. So many EA professionals are expected to deliver cost or risk reduction - reducing the resources required for delivery of that value, or the risk associated with that delivery. They usually take an inside-out view with a primary focus on efficiency; and struggle to engage with the value delivery side of the equation.

But if productivity = value / resources, then the challenge is to both reduce resources and deliver enhanced value.   The opportunity for Business Architecture and BPM professionals is to connect great customer outcomes and experiences (the value side of the equation) to scalable and efficient back office operations within the organization. That’s “both/and” – not “either/or.”

But how do you do that?

Generally speaking, business people don’t really care too much for efficiency. They come to work for the value they deliver to their customers; not the reductionist philosophy of cutting costs. If you want to engage them on a journey toward performance improvement, leading with the efficiency side of the equation can be a mistake.

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YouTube Wants You To Pay So It Can Have More Of Everything

YouTube finally announced this week that it would allow channels to charge monthly fees to access content on YouTube. Some have predicted that YouTube’s subscription model would undercut its ad model in an echo of the infamous pay-wall problem that has bedeviled online newspapers as they shifted from ad-supported to paid. Others have suggested that this shows that YouTube is up against an advertising wall of its own making — advertisers will only pay so much to advertise against this amateur and semi-pro content (and to be fair, I am in this camp even though I don’t think this fact is dire). And still others gleefully wait to watch as YouTube learns how hard it is to get people to pay for things online.

In fact, all three of these things are minor asides in YouTube’s decision-making, as I see it. Instead of reacting to these and other constraints, YouTube is proacting on imminent opportunity. YouTube is basically making a grab for more of everything that matters:

  1. More business model options. TV is both ad-supported and subscription-supported, and that works just fine. It gives companies like HBO the creative flexibility to generate content that advertisers may not be ready for, and it gives companies like Scripps the freedom to promise more home-focused entertainment that home-focused advertisers care about. That flexibility is crucial to the ongoing success of those companies, and it will be crucial to YouTube as well. Although in YouTube’s case, I would be surprised if the revenue balance in the one- to two-year time frame exceeded 10% or 15% subscription to advertising.  
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Lessons From A CIO Forum Conversation On Employee Engagement

Yesterday afternoon, I moderated a panel on the role the IT department can play in the business's employee engagement efforts. Any follower of this blog knows that this is a topic I've talked about a lot lately (see previous posts here and here) because hiring, developing and retaining talented and productive employees is critical in the Age of the Customer. The panelists were Ed Flahive, Vice President Global Learning & Development at State Street, Mike Peterson, CIO and Vice President at CHG Healthcare Services, and Ray Velez, Chief Technology Officer at Razorfish. As you've probably observed, this was an eclectic group, representing human resources, IT and client delivery groups respectively. Well, that was on purpose. This topic requires perspectives from both business leaders and technologists. Having had 24 hours to think about that discussion, I thought I would share a few a-ha's I had from my conversation with these gentlemen:

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Announcing Speakers For Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum East, 2013 – June 25 & 26 in NYC!

I’m excited to finally be able to talk publicly about our CX Forum East in New York at the end of June. The theme this year is “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.” We picked that theme because ever since last fall when we published Outside In, our book about customer experience, people have been asking us to show them how to either get started on the path to CX maturity or accelerate their progress. This forum is all about helping people create customized roadmaps for their organizations.

Megan Burns will kick off the first day of the event with a speech about “The Path To Customer Experience Maturity.” The speech will debut new research about companies that successfully adopted new competencies and changed employee behavior. Attendees will be the first ones to get copies of Megan’s new report that details her findings – I’m editing the report and I am really jazzed about what she’d discovering.

Kerry Bodine, my co-author for Outside In, will kick off the second day of the event with a speech about customer experience innovation. Her speech will also be based on new research. She’ll detail her findings  into what distinguishes incremental CX improvements from true innovations. She’ll also describe how companies can create innovation engines within their organizations – the “road map” for the advanced class. For those of you who want to leap ahead of the pack and truly differentiate through customer experience, this is a “must see” presentation.  

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Customer Signals For Adapting Experiences

A chemical manufacturer with a solid customer listening program noticed an uptick in complaints about pricing. Unlike many firms, which would take the comments at face value and take action accordingly, this company first stepped back and reflected on its strategy:  it sold premium chemical for advanced applications targeted at particular industries, so it surmised that the company shouldn’t see this kind of feedback. It did some root cause analysis, talking to those customers. It learned that some distributors were selling chemicals for applications in markets better served by off-the-shelf, commodity products. As a result, not only were these distributors driving detractors, which were creating a headwind for selling into their target market, but they were wasting time on low-value sales and more importantly, using valuable resources internally that made the company competitive in target markets (e.g. scientists to help innovative clients discover new applications for the chemicals). The company decided that the right course of action was to re-visit its distributor training and communications programs to better ensure sales teams understood the core value proposition and how to find the high value opportunities.

There are at least a few lessons to take away from this story.

Know your customer experience strategy. Firms often have blanket statements such as “we aim to delight our customers.” When these lack a connection to a company strategy, which should clearly articulate value propositions for specific target markets, firms can spend a lot of time and energy jumping through hoops trying to serve customers it never should have acquired in the first place. A situation that the chemical manufacturer avoided by reflecting on its strategy to direct its activities.

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