Corporate Culture Rethink Required?

silos-1In a recent CMO article, Customer Experience Economy Requires Corporate Culture Rethink, former NAB CMO, Sandra de Castro explains that organisations need to break down the long standing silos.

“There is an opportunity to create a revolution in customer experience, but you’re only going to do that if you forget the silos. And there’s the rub,” she said. “You must step across boundaries and look at everything from a customer’s perspective and challenge the fundamental tenets of how we do business.”

And digital is forcing some organisations and providing opportunities to others.

What’s to stop me the next time you log into Internet banking to now only present you with an ad, but an offer, or simple application form to that travel card you’re interested in?” she asked. “And when I do that, it’s not marketing anymore, it’s sales.”

“As you create engaging experiences, and you please your customer, sales becomes fulfilment,” she claimed. “Whether you point someone to an online application form or whether you get someone from the branch or call centre to contact them, when you get engagement right, sales becomes fulfilment.

“The tools of personalised communication can be used just as effectively to create beautiful service experiences for customers as they can to create beautiful marketing,” she said. “We started with pain points and experiences that traditionally had been difficult for customers. In doing that, not only have we taken the pain out of the experience, we’ve actually created engaging experience that communicates customer care.

“So now service is advertising. Or it could all just be experience.

“The boundaries in which the silos of large organisations operated are disappearing faster than ever before and fantastic experience is sitting in the boundaries.”

Read the full article here.

10 Loyalty Lessons From Brands With Superfans

Geoff Smith, SVP of Marketing at CrowdTwist, recently posted an article on about brands with “super fans”.superfan

Customer loyalty is at the root of success for any lasting business. And when that loyalty turns into passionate advocacy, a “superfan” is born. For brands, these dedicated followers can help transform a satisfactory business into a sensational one. The obvious question for brands is: How do you create superfans?

You can read the full article here but the 10 takeaways are as follows:

  1. Strive to offer exceptional customer experiences that far outpace the competition. By winning consumers over with your great products, service, and history, you can drive loyalty and win customers for the long term to advocate for your brand.
  2. Nurture your relationship with superfans by bringing them together in a setting that fits and supports the reputation of your brand.
  3. Remind consumers of the value you offer, whether through low prices or outstanding products, to entice people to keep returning to your brand and singing your praises.
  4. Create compelling stories tied to your brand to keep superfans hooked and craving more.
  5. Find ambassadors who embody your brand and who inspire and resonate with your customers. Don’t be afraid to switch them up to keep your brand fresh and trendy.
  6. Inspire consumers to live a better life. This motivation will help dedicated followers develop a greater appreciation for your brand.
  7. Build your business up over time and allow your loyalists to be part of a shared experience that spreads across generations and inspires them to show their brand passion.
  8. Create something wildly imaginative and popular that consumers want to be part of to transform your ordinary fans into superfans.
  9. Bring your fans together and make them feel part of a powerful and unique experience.
  10. Offer your most loyal customers ways to engage to discover new ideas that can improve the business and help you collect more passionate superfans along the way.

What time is the 3 O’clock Parade?

disFollowing is a Blog post from the Disney Institute

“What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” On any given day in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, you might hear Guests asking our Cast Members this seemingly peculiar question. And, while the question appears to have an obvious answer, we also know that frequently the true question lies beyond the obvious.

As our Guests are often excited and distracted by the myriad of sights and sounds in our Theme Parks, we know that when they ask this question, more than likely, they want to know more than just the start time of the parade. So, Cast Members will ask some additional questions to uncover what it is that the Guest really wants to know…such as, “What time will the parade get to me?” “When should I start waiting to get a good viewing spot?” and “Where is the best place to stand?”

Instead of simply repeating the obvious answer—the actual parade start time—back to the Guest, our Cast Members take this opportunity to draw from their theme park knowledge and Disney service training. They may share with the Guest what time the parade will pass by certain locations in the park, offer possible vantage points to view the parade or advise when to leave another area and still arrive at the parade on time.

This is important, because rather than dismissing the “3 o’clock parade?” question as something trivial and offering a blunt response, Cast Members understand that it offers the opportunity to exceed the Guests’ expectations and make them feel special by further personalizing their experience.

This understanding of our Guests, and our Cast Members’ ability to anticipate and respond to this question in a way that exceeds expectation, is not new. Since opening Walt Disney World in 1971, both frontline employees and leaders have worked to fully understand and operationalize our service approach. Today, the “3 o’clock parade” question is commonly used to help Cast Members understand that their answer can either end the conversation, or it can begin a quest for richer discovery.

At Disney Institute, we have seen that an organization can never have exceptional customer service without a profound understanding of its customer at the individual level. Therefore, in order to provide an exceptional service experience, the organization must understand each customer’s needs and wants, and be able to respond accordingly in the service moment.

From what we have observed, every organization has its own “3 o’clock parade” question. First, you must find yours—asking front-line employees is often the best place to start. Then, you must train employees how to anticipate such questions and use them as an opportunity to exceed customer expectations. This represents a huge opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves by reassuring each and every customer that they are truly listening and empathetic to their concerns.

Ask yourself, what is your organization’s “3 o’clock parade” question? How can you help train your employees to forgo the seemingly obvious “need” in favor of understanding what each customer truly “wants”?

Customer Centric IT

CCITIn a recent feature article, Julia King, took a look at a number of companies and how CIOs are refocusing their staffs on Customer Centric IT.

“Increasingly, a customer-centric approach is a matter of competitive advantage, even business survival. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to Walker Information, a national consulting firm focused on customer intelligence.”

King looked at JetBlue, Chico FAS, Pulte Group, Ashbury Automotive Group, Giant Eagle and AgCo. Following is an abridged version of the article.


At JetBlue, CIO Eash Sundaram’s IT team looked to – and continue to emulate – highly regarded, customer-focused companies like Google, Apple and others outside of the airline industry. JetBlue also partnered with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at the Stanford School of Engineering on multiweek projects to immerse JetBlue leaders, including many from IT, in a customer-focused case study of the airline. The program included classroom training plus field research at San Francisco International Airport to help executives better understand customers’ needs and JetBlue’s practices.

At the company’s headquarters in New York, IT is a stand-alone organization, but IT employees are integrated into various functions, like marketing and operations. Sundaram also leads the company’s multi­million-dollar customer experience innovation program, along with JetBlue’s chief commercial officer and chief customer experience officer.

To gain a deeper understanding of new customers, JetBlue dispatches IT staffers and other employees on trips to expansion markets. In the Dominican Republic, for example, many people pay in cash instead of using credit cards, “so IT is now working on a next-generation kiosk to act like an ATM,” Sundaram notes.

Internally, JetBlue also has made customer satisfaction a key factor in employees’ compensation. One-third of Sundaram’s job performance rating is based on how much customers enjoy traveling with JetBlue, he says.

Chico FAS

Shifting IT’s mindset to look beyond company boundaries and focus on paying customerschanges the equation entirely, according to Eric Singleton, CIO at Chico’s FAS, a $2.6 billion specialty retailer with 1,547 stores. “You think about things differently,” he says. “You ask different questions that you don’t ask if you’re in a basement writing code for internal customers.”

That’s why Singleton and other members of his 250-person IT organization regularly visit the company’s stores–to get up close and conversational with shoppers. Singleton is especially keen to observe how women interact with a 24-in. touchscreen that’s mounted in a cabinet near the back of the store. Known as the “tech table,” the touchscreen lets shoppers browse beyond the 60 percent of inventory displayed in physical stores to view and buy hundreds of additional products online.

He describes the table as “a social watering hole” and “an augmented shopping experience that is fueled by the customers’ social energy around it in the moment.”

Best of all, tech table sales routinely add 15 percent to 20 percent to in-store sales totals every day–a figure that’s higher than anyone at Chico’s anticipated.

Pulte Group

A major break came when PulteGroup decided to relocate its headquarters from Detroit to Atlanta. CIO Joe Drouin says that, after he arrived in 2013, he seized the opportunity to overhaul the IT organization, hire about 35 new people in Atlanta and “bring IT out from behind the curtain to engage on the front lines of the business.”

“We created new roles that would be visible to the rest of the business and engage with our customers and partners,” he says. “We hired a director of customer engagement and a team of people under him. Technology skills were table stakes. We brought people in from a variety of places with the notion that we were looking for people who could sit across the table from a marketing person or homebuilder, or walk into a model home and sit with a sales consultant and have a conversation about what they needed, all in a non-technology-focused way.”

“We viewed every single hire as a critical hire,” he says. “It was so important to make this [customer-centric] shift and this transformation that we couldn’t afford to say ‘This guy is strong technically, but I can’t imagine his ability to really engage.’ So we didn’t make any exceptions to the picture of the person we were trying to hire. It was critical enough to me personally to be in the room and spending time personally because I couldn’t afford to have one person slip by that wouldn’t be there to drive this major shift in the organization.”

“There was this very traditional idea that IT was a service provider and the customer was everyone else inside Pulte,” Drouin says. “Today, we don’t talk about IT and the business. We talk about IT as part of the business–as ingrained and as tightly woven as any other function, and contributing to business strategy. Our customers are [the company’s] end customers.”

Ashbury Automotive Group

More than a few CIOs make the point that precisely defining the word customer is a critical first step toward customer-centric IT. “We make a big point of defining the word customer. A customer is the same in IT as it is for the rest of the business. A customer buys cars, buys services and buys parts,” says Barry Cohen, CIO at Asbury Automotive Group, a $5.9 billion automotive retailer with 82 dealerships. “We don’t even say ‘internal customer.’ In fact, we make a big point of saying IT is part of the business and not like an island off by itself. These are small but important nuances because we’re trying to build a culture where everybody is thinking the same way.”

Asbury’s IT infrastructure is made up mainly of automotive-specific systems and software developed and provided by third parties. The company’s 39-person IT group is focused on managing the service providers and handling field engineering and support at dealerships. For now, IT staffers don’t work directly with people who are shopping for cars but with employees in the dealerships and in other departments who work directly with customers.

The IT team is focused on taking some of the hassle out of the car-buying experience. “If you’ve bought a car, you know that you can spend an entire day in the dealership, so we’re working on customer-facing things like digital signatures and removing some of the paperwork in that process,” Cohen explains.

One of the surprising things Cohen and his team have learned at the dealerships is that, although they do have store hours, they have no set closing time. “I’d always ask what time they go home and they always said ‘When the last customer leaves.’ So, my IT staff is really focused on that now,” he says. “We don’t have hours that we are open or closed. It’s when our customer is there.”

Giant Eagle

For customer-facing technologies, IT has upgraded its quality-assurance and user-interface testing to get insight into what customers want, CIO Anuj Dhanda says. Giant Eagle conducts workshops with customers that IT teams observe. All IT staffers also work in one of the company’s stores to experience firsthand how IT works on the front line for both employees and customers.


“The days of [merely] building a product and bringing it to market don’t work anymore. Between social media and the collapse of distribution channels, there’s a very different customer expectation. One of the biggest shifts everyone in IT has to make is getting from an IT focus to a customer focus,” CIO Sheryl Bunton says.

To get there, IT has to prove its status as a valued partner to the business over and over again. “You have to do it enough so that you build trust. It’s becoming very strong at execution that keeps the business engaged and builds that trust,” she says.

Before business partners are willing to bring IT to meet with external customers, they must be confident it will benefit the customer relationship, Bunton says. “If I was making a sales call, I’m only going to expose my customers [to someone] from IT who I can trust and who will add value to the conversation and who will make me look good,” she says. “Otherwise, the risk just isn’t worth it.”

Read the full article here.

The Value of Customer Experience

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently conducted a global survey of over 500 senior executives across 21 countries, including 165 CEOs. The results conclude that,

“if done well, CX initiatives can reduce costs, increase profitability and revenues, and improve customer satisfaction.”

Other key findings included:

  • 27% of companies will increase investment in Customer Experience Programs over the next 3 years by more than 25%
  • 57% of companies plan to increase investment by at least 10% in the next three years
  • 86% of A/NZ c-level executives surveyed considered “improving CX” a key driver for their company’s digital transformation
  • an upsurge in investment is linked directly to the correlation between CEO engagement in customer experience and company performance in revenue growth and profitability
  • 58% of A/NZ companies said the CEO directly leads CX initiatives, followed by the CMO (1%) CXO (9%) and CIO (9%).
  • A direct correlation between CEO engagement in customer experience and profitability is also driving investment
  • CEOs leading CX initiatives are more likely to transform a company’s future success
  • 58% of A/NZ companies reported a much higher profitability than their competitors when the CEO was in charge of customer experience
  • 67% of A/NZ companies were more likely to measure the success, or return on investment, of CX initiatives
  • Spending on traditional CX channels in A/NZ companies were set to drop to 45 % in terms of importance in the next three years. These are being overtaken by social media, Web self-service and online assistance.
  • 60% of business leaders still believe face-to-face interaction between companies and customers is an important and effective CX channel

Read the full report here.

Pathways to Customer Centricity

cus-centric-1In a recent article, How IBM, Intuit, and Rich Products Became More Customer Centric, published by Harvard Business Review, Brad Power and Steve Stanton share their research into different pathways companies are taking to become more customer centric.

“…wanting to be closer with customers, and knowing what actual, operational pathways to take in order to achieve this are two very different things.”

IBM “assembled teams for each product or service that combined designers with engineers and created a new development process.” IBM “came up with a hybrid method for product development that combined elements” of both Continuous Delivery and Design Thinking.

Rich Products replaced their “old, functional “silo-based” process, [where] a marketing person with a new customer opportunity would contact his or her favorite R&D associate, the regulatory and quality assurance departments, packaging, and the plant. This ad hoc, sequential approach was replaced by a cross-functional team, which simultaneously accelerated its time to market and created a much more “intimate” relationship between Rich’s associates and its customers.”

Using the principles of Deep Customer Empathy, Go Broad to Go Narrow and Rapid Experiments with Customers, “Intuit began driving design thinking deep into its culture and operations. To do this they trained and deployed a cadre of 200 Innovation Catalysts who were embedded into the business units, created and held a large number of immersive experiential workshops, and added design thinking into their leadership training programs.”

The full article is well worth a read.

How did we get here?

customer-mgWith all this talk about becoming Customer Centric or an Outside In organisation, how did we lose focus of our customers anyway and what is it we have been focusing on instead?

Many point to Adam Smith’s seminal work “The Wealth of Nations” and in particular his observations of the division of labour in English pin factories at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution for the answers. To paraphrase Smith

A pin-maker could perhaps make one pin a day. But if the task of making a pin is divided up into 18 smaller, specialised tasks – i.e. one man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head, and so on – split up among 10 people, then they could make the equivalent of 4800 pins per man per day.

Essentially the division of labour in the pin factory Smith observed was responsible for a 4800% increase in productivity. Now which business is going to ignore that sort of productivity gain? As a result, the industrial revolution saw the productionisation of businesses and other organisations into conveyor belts of specialised labour that resulted in astronomical improvements in productivity and huge reductions in per unit costs. Conveyor belts with the customer at the very end, many steps removed from both the workers in the middle and those at the start who decided what product to build and how to build it. We became ‘product centric’.

Over time many of these products became commodities though and there would be a need to differentiate yourself by the service you offered. Of course some businesses and organisations, generally those that were small in size and local in geography, never lost sight of this.

Unfortunately though, particularly in large organisations, the production line mentality dominated and is as strong as ever even today. Take a look at this Mckinsey & Co article from 2014 “The Enterprise IT Infrastructure Agenda for 2014“, which recommends that IT departments “Make the transition to a plan-build-run organizational model”. Plan-build-run, hmmm, what does that sound like? At least it is heartening to see that some practitioners like Julian Dunn at Chef are not swayed.

Reading on, though, I came across the section entitled “Improve organizational execution”, and I have some concerns about McKinsey’s proposed remedies. It’s certainly true that organizational execution needs improvement, because IT organizations today are widely seen as being too slow, bureaucratic and inefficient to keep up with business demands. Why, then, does McKinsey advocate a “plan/build/run organizational model” when this kind of silo-ization is what negatively affects the speed of IT service delivery today?

The DNA of the industrial revolution has also found its way into the education systems of developed nations. Hence it has become ingrained in modern human history and is constantly perpetuated. This fantastic shortened and animated video of a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson explains how this same DNA has led to education systems that are not customer (student) centric and essentially “educate” our creative capacity out of us.

And here’s another take from American Author and Marketer, Seth Godin, along a similar vein.

Bringing a ‘Customer-Centric’ Focus to Life at Your Company

Alex Raymond recently wrote this great piece on becoming Customer Centric within your company. Alex writes…

What I call “customer centricity” begins with creating a business culture where the customer is at the center of everything you do. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, it doesn’t matter how great your products are or how exceptional your financial prowess. As Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote in Return on Customer, “Without customers, you don’t have a business. You have a hobby.”

In other words, “customer-centric” isn’t just a buzzword — in the business world, it’s mandatory. But too many CEOs or entrepreneurs will just add “customer-focused” to their vision statement and call it a day. That isn’t enough, by far.

True, customer-centricity involves rethinking how business is done. It involves everything from strong efforts at insight and analytics to strategy and customer experience. It involves tearing down silos and thinking like a customer. For instance, your customer views all of your departments and functions as a single entity — and so should you.

Read the full article here.

Talk Is Cheap

Ian Golding touches on an all-too-familiar occurrence we all see in organisations we work in from time to time.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked in a variety of organisations across multiple industries who have all TALKED a very good game when it comes to being customer focused. If I had a Pound or Euro or Dollar for every senior leader who has uttered the words – ‘we want to put the customer at the heart of everything we do’ – I would have a nice little pile of cash!

As Ian explains “Talking about Customer Experience is EASY. Literally anyone can do it.” but…

The reality is that to START actually being customer centric, an organisation must acknowledge that it may not actually be customer centric in the first place. That is why the transition from TALKING to STARTING is HARD.

However, once an organisation has started…

When it comes to Customer Experience, an organisation’s ability to SUSTAIN its approach to Customer Experience INDEFINITELY is without question the HARDEST challenge of them all.

See Ian’s insightful thoughts in his full post here.

Why have Customer Service?

Seth Godin recently authored an insightful post on his Blogcustomerservice

Customer service is difficult, expensive and unpredictable. But it’s a mistake to assume that any particular example is automatically either good or bad. A company might spend almost nothing on customer service but still succeed in reaching its goals.


Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish.

Seth goes on to articulate many uses of Customer Service, including:

  • To create a significant competitive advantage by engaging with customers in a way that others can’t or won’t.
  • To streamline the delivery of inexpensive goods produced in an industrial way.
  • To lower expectations and satisfy customers by giving them exactly what you promised, which is not much.
  • To raise expectations and delight customers by giving them way more than they hoped for, which was a lot.
  • To dance with customers in an act of co-creation.
  • To diminish negative word of mouth.
  • To build extraordinary trust.
  • To treat different people differently.
  • To race with competitors to lower customer service costs just a bit more than they will.
  • Because you can.

Every single person who makes budget decisions, staffing decisions and customer service decisions must to be clear about which strategy you picked, needs to be able to state, “we’re doing this because it’s congruent with what we say customer service is for.”

See Seth’s full post here.

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