This week I have been travelling to see Forrester’s I&O Leadership Board (FLB) members in Paris and working on my I&O FLB workshop session for Orlando and London happening in October, titled ‘An Outside In Approach To Your IT Strategy’. During my conversations I have been discussing Forrester’s excellent new book entitled ‘Outside In, The Power of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’. It contains great insight and examples on how successful companies are adapting to the “age of the customer” by ensuring experience rich relationships.
So what does 'putting the customers at the center of your business' mean to I&O Professionals?
Firstly, we need to ditch the word ‘users’. It’s a dirty word in my vocabulary as it conjures up images of employees being ‘addicted’ to our IT services. Our employees are not going to go ‘cold turkey’ on us if they don’t get their corporate IT fix. They are our internal IT customers who have feelings, needs and wants plus are increasingly able to source their own technology services to increase their productivity.
Development leaders! Project leaders and business analysts! Application and solution architects! Want to move forward on your business technology (BT) journey and be viewed by your business stakeholders as a valuable team member? Take a tip from last week's Forums held in Boston. Embrace Business Process Management (BPM) And Customer Experience. Don't ignore them, embrace them. Why? They're essential to helping you achieve your business outcomes.
I know, I know. You read the above and now think "Gee Kyle, what's next? Going to enlighten me on some new BPM or customer experience management technology that's going to transform my very existence, my company's future?"
Nope. Let me explain....
Last week we hosted more than 250 of your application development and delivery and business process peers in Boston and focused on how to succeed in the new world of customer engagement. The most impactful discussions I heard were the side conversations we held with attendees, sometimes occurring over dinner and cocktails. We didn't discuss technology. We discussed the skills your peers were developing in two fundamental areas:
BPM - no, not the technology but the Lean and Six Sigma based methods, techniques, and tools organizations use to focus on business processes and not functions; to strive for continuous improvement; and to focus on customer value.
Customer experience - defined more eloquently by my peer Harley Manning, but I'll summarize as the methods, techniques, and tools used to understand how customers perceive their interactions with your company.
Dan Simpson understands business transformation - and the critical role the customer plays in it. Before joining Trustmark, Dan led the Enterprise Technology Group at Physicians Mutual in Omaha, Neb., where he was the driving force behind the company’s business transformation strategy and the Greenfield program, which implemented new customer-centric business processes, service-oriented architecture (SOA), a new enterprise data warehouse, and several key business applications. For these efforts, Dan was recognized as Technology Chief of the Year in 2010 by the Applied Information Management Institute.
Q: What are the business challenges and issues that typically motivate the need for business and IT transformation?
Dan Simpson: Common challenges facing business today include changes in market conditions, consumer behavior, and the regulatory environment as well as increasing competition and complexity. The inability to adapt to these changes drives the need to put new business process and technology foundations in place.
Q: How have you approached business process redesign?
Dan Simpson: The most effective approach is to focus on business process first before diving into systems. Depending on specific situations, I’ve seen great value in taking an approach where processes redesign starts and ends with the customer. This customer-driven approach helps drive customer-friendly decisions and efficiencies.
Q: What is a customer-driven application, and why is that concept important to transformation outcomes?
I had the good fortune to work with Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell and Empowered, on a groundbreaking new report. Along with colleagues from across Forrester, he has raised the red flag on a new era of competitive advantage that ties together what technology has brought us — information — with the end goal in mind — the customer — to define a new strategic focal point for companies that he and we now call the age of the customer. See his initial blog post here, or watch this video about the report:
Why is this so important? Because many companies have maximized the value of information that has dominated technology investment and decision-making since the early 1990s when the Internet boom began, computers got substantially cheaper and more powerful, and connectedness began to change the dynamic between people and companies. Over the next decade or more, the only way companies will truly stand apart from their competition will be a devotion to combining information, technology, and decision-making into a defensible and fundamentally stronger position — obsessing about the best customers that they have and demonstrating that value in terms of products, marketing, and service.
Do you think your company is customer obsessed already? Look at your customer systems and ask yourself some key questions:
Do you know the share of wallet you maintain with customers?
Do you engage customers when they are not in the buying cycle?
How should you measure customer experience? Is it even possible to measure something that feels as squishy as customer experience?
As it turns out, you can measure it, you should measure it, and you even have some decent options for measuring it. Your alternatives range from monitoring the real-world interactions your customers have with your firm (like clicks on a site or the length of a call) to asking your customers for their perceptions of those interactions (the real customer experience) to tracking what your customers do as a result of the experience (like making another purchase or recommending you).
At Forrester, we have our own direct measure of customer experience that we’ve been using since 2007: the Customer Experience Index (CxPi). Today we published the results for 2011, which are based on research conducted at the end of 2010.
To help understand those results, let me explain how the CxPi works. We ask more than 7,000 consumers to identify companies they do business with in 13 different industries. We then ask respondents to tell us how well each firm met their needs, how easy the firm was to work with, and how enjoyable it was to work with (questions that correspond to the three levels of the classic customer experience pyramid). Then for all three questions, we calculate each firm’s CxPi score by subtracting the percentage of its customers who reported a bad experience from the percentage who reported a good experience. The overall CxPi is an average of those three results.
Quantifies the correlation between a rise in a company’s Customer Experience Index score and the corresponding increase in three loyalty metrics that every company cares about: purchase intent, likelihood to switch business to a competitor, and likelihood to recommend.
Makes conservative but realistic assumptions about the business fundamentals of companies in 13 different industries.
Produces eyepopping projections of increased annual revenue as a result of realistically attainable improvements in customer experience — by industry.
Technology vendors are disconnected from their customers. If the problem were simple, such as changing message themes, tech vendors could easily adapt.
When looking at tech vendors, the "problem" is long-standing, entrenched behaviors about how products and solutions go to market. The "problem" includes customers that now want to buy "business outcomes" rather than traditional products. The "problem" includes sales organizations that fail to learn about the customer's business or requirements. The "problem" includes marketing organizations that fail to recognize that while they get to aim the gun, only sales can pull the trigger. Across these three processes, companies are trying to shoot faster, shoot bigger bullets, or even aim at different targets when the real problem is eye-hand coordination - or aligning methods and messages.
Selling technology requires three processes to align: (1) the customer problem solving process; (2) the vendor selling process; and (3) the marketing processes for communicating solutions. Gaps in these processes will cause finger-pointing within the vendor, raise the average cost of sales, lengthen the sales cycle, increase turnover of sales and marketing employees, confuse customers, etc. Few tech vendors are changing their internal methodologies to align these processes.
How are these gaps in your organization? How is your company addressing these gaps? We'd love to hear your experience!
(Next in this series, Forrester will introduce "portfolio management" as framework to help sales enablement professionals align these silos.)
Would you classify your marketing organization as "highly accountable"? What I mean is, are you always able to accurately measure the true business value of your marketing efforts, and do your senior leaders trust the results? If you're like most marketers, the honest answer to that question is a resounding "no". Proving the business value of multichannel marketing is getting progressively harder—and more important—because:
Traditional marketing measurement practices are rooted in stable but inflexible tactics that leave marketers ill-equipped to keep pace with the real time nature of channel digitization.
CFOs wield ever-more influence over marketing budgets, which is driving your CMO to lean harder on you to measure business results with scientific rigor.
Your customers are in control; uncertainty and unpredictability are the norm; and marketers that can't adapt appropriately are doomed to fail.
This is where you come in. I believe that Customer Intelligence professionals are remarkably well positioned to address these challenges head on, and improve marketing accountability across the enterprise. Why? Because you sit at the cross-section of unfettered access to mountains of customer data from a dizzying array of online and offline sources. "Big data" as the recent article data, data, everywhere in The Economist puts it, is big business. CI professionals are right in the middle of it all helping firms capture customer data, analyze it, measure business results, and act upon the findings.