Change your thinking before you change your strategy

3-way-pieIn another recent HBR articleMark Bonchek and Barry Libert, argue that organisations wanting to undertake a transformation are in need of a new mental model and new measurement model just as much as a new business model.

You have to change how you think before you can change what you do, and then change what you measure to close the loop.

The authors cite examples of companies trying to copy the business model of another and failing as they had not change the way they thought or measured results. The primary example given is the Southwest Airlines business model and the attempts to copy it by Continental Lite, Ted by United, and Song by Delta which all failed. Whereas JetBlue, which has emulated all three models, has succeeded.

Southwest cofounder Herb ‘Kelleher is known for saying: “I tell my employees that we’re in the service business, and it’s incidental that we fly airplanes.” Other carriers fly airplanes that carry people. Southwest serves people using airplanes.”

“Traditional carriers were still thinking about their business as flying planes rather than thinking about serving people, still worrying about capturing share rather than growing the market, and still measuring success based on how well they utilized planes rather than how well they served passengers.”

“In contrast, companies like JetBlue decided to emulate Southwest’s entire system: mental model, business model, and measurement model. Like Southwest, JetBlue focuses on people over planes, with a mission to “bring humanity back to air travel.” Beyond the usual financial metrics, JetBlue also measures the strength of its culture and the quality of its experience.”

You can read the full article here.

 

 

Are you Customer Centric or Competitor Centric?

Cus-v-compIn a recent guest post on HBR, Tara Nicholle-Nelson, explains that companies need to obsess over their customers, not their rivals. As she explains, “The question is not who your competition is but what it is.”

Your competition is any and every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human, high-level problems your company exists to solve.

Nicholle-Nelson goes on to articulate that companies need to change their thinking from selling a ‘product’ in a one-time transaction to selling a ‘transformation’ from the “status quo to the new levels and possibilities“.

In turn, your customers are everybody whom has the “problem your business exists to solve”, not just somebody whom has brought something from your previously.

As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt once said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

You can read the full article here.

Aussie and example of Australian companies that ‘get it’

aussieIt was good to see at a panel discussion at this year’s annual CMO, CIO and ADMA Executive Connections breakfast event, evidence that some Australian companies are really starting to get what it means to be customer centric.

Particularly Aussie, an Australian retail financial services group,  where Aussie Home Loans’ general manager of customer experience and technology, Richard Burns explained he saw a danger in appointing a chief customer officer. “Debates around who owns the customer, I think, are a waste of time,” he said.

“Debates around who owns the customer, I think, are a waste of time.”

“It shows there are some tensions in the culture, which have to be worked through. Because if everyone in the organisation is not passionate about the customer, you will spend a lot of useless time debating what you should be doing.

“Originally my title was general manager, customer, and I changed that because I didn’t want people in the organisation thinking, ‘well you can take care of the customer’. Part of my role is making sure we are all passionate about the customer – that’s part of the ongoing challenge I have. But to say there is one person, I think is very risky.”

At Aussie Home Loans, a number of operational procedures are taking shape in a bid to break down the siloed approach, according to Burns, such as activity-based working.

“If you came into the studio where my team sits, you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s in technology and who’s in marketing,”

“If you came into the studio where my team sits, you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s in technology and who’s in marketing,” he said. “We have also adopted agile right across the business. That started in technology, but now literally every single team, with every single initiative we undertake, is cross-functional. Right through to executive level, everyone can see what the main priorities are, what we are doing and why.”

Read the full recap here.

Why surveying customers is a waste of time…and money!

SurveyA recent survey by James Dodkins at the BP Group helps articulate why surveying customers is a waste of time and money. Shutting down any customer survey functions or activities within an organisation represents one of the ‘quick wins’ of any Transformation Program to transform any organisation into being Customer Centric. Quite simply put, its not customer centric behavior and it costs money, so stop doing it.

  • Only 16% of customers feel their feedback makes a big impact on business improvement
  • 80% of customers feel their feedback makes no, not very much or only a moderate impact on business improvement
  • 65% of customers only give feedback if their experience is extremely good or extremely bad
  • 67% of customers are most likely to give honest feedback electronically
  • 43% of customers feel they have been led, persuaded or coerced into giving better or higher feedback than they otherwise would have
  • 62% of customers are most likely to give feedback on a numerical scale at the expense of getting actual explanations
  • 55% of customers admit they are not always honest with their feedback
  • 59% of customers feel some level of frustration with the frequency of requests for feedback

Read the LinkedIn article here where there is also a link to download the full report.

Can you still win when you out-source your front line?

callcentreI have to admit, up to this point, my customer centric mindset has led me to believe that if there is one area of your business that you should not outsource, its your front line. These teams are the people interacting directly with your customers and delivering ‘moments of truth’, delight or misery to them every day. They are essentially your brand. But the fact is, many business units and organisations do outsource their internal and external front lines, generally for cost reduction purposes.

But as this interview with a Vodafone Spain executive demonstrates, it is possible to outsource your front line and deliver a great customer experience in line with your brand promise. And its no different to how you should align all your teams inside your organisation to deliver successful customer outcomes. So hold off on the ‘in-sourcing’ and ‘re-shoring’ and read this interview undertaken by McKinsey with Vodafone Spain’s, Carmen López-Suevos Hernández.

Vodafone Spain started with a situation that looked like this:

  • almost fully outsourced (onshore & offshore)
  • large number of vendors as each customer service function had outsourced individually
  • often short term contracts
  • ranked last for service levels among major Spanish mobile providers
  • cost pressures made it hard to in-source
  • first contact resolution rates were low
  • call volumes were growing
  • costs were actually increasing (despite the goal of outsourcing)
  • vendors found it difficult to work with Vodafone
  • focus on costs meant relationships were transactional with an emphasis on volumes and fixed prices
  • vendors disliked the constant price pressures
  • vendors with multiple contracts found it was like working with different companies

Vodafone realised it had to refocus on quality of service, not just cost and reevaluate vendor relationships and front line agents who serve their customers.

Vodafone always had goal to reduce overall cost to serve and reducing cost per call is one avenue to do this but when you squeeze vendors on price, they squeeze back by:

  • reducing the quality of people,
  • reducing the ratio of team members to team leaders,
  • reducing the attention given to development & retention

Attrition increases while skills fall and the result is fewer calls resolved on first contact and up front cost benefits are essentially lost as call volumes rise.

The other way to reduce the overall cost to serve is to reduce volumes by solving more calls at first point of contact. This could allow a higher price per call which vendors could re-invest in further quality improvements while Vodafone still comes out in front.

Vodafone realised it needed to change a lot about how they operated, their mind-sets about the role of vendors, performance expectations of them and how they interacted with them. And while they indeed needed to reduce number of vendors and sites, what they really needed was a new operating model.

Fundamentally Vodafone wanted call centre agents whom could turn customers into brand advocates, not just handle calls.

After a 3 year transformation Vodafone Spain was now ranked first for customer satisfaction among major Spanish mobile providers and operating costs fell by double digits. Not a bad turnaround.

And for all the gory detail on how Vodafone did this, you can read how Vodafone did this here.

 

Design Your Employee Experience As You Would For Customers

In a previous post, HR Departments Have To Change, I highlighted an article on LinkedIn encouraging companies to follow in AirBnB’s footsteps and replace traditional HR with a capability focused on the employee experience.

Now a HBR article, Design Your Employee Experience As Thoughtfully As You Design Your Customer Experience, authored by Denise Lee Yohn, argues that companies already know how to improve their employee experience. They simply need to use the same tools and techniques they apply to customer experience and apply them to their HR processes.

I’m not sure I agree with that view as I know first hand there are still many large companies that are not customer centric – they may pay lip service but in reality they are not – and have no immediate plans to become customer centric.

But I do agree that many of the tools and techniques are transferable should they learn them and apply them. These include:

  • applying needs-based segmentation to your employee base rather than simple and, generally irrelevant, demographic factors;
  • understanding the employee journey through the use of journey mapping while recognising that employee journeys, just like customer journeys, are seldom linear;

The best customer experiences bring the company’s distinctive brand values and attributes to life, and the same is true of employee experiences.

Read the full article here.

Unlearning old ways

In a recent HBR article, Why the problem with learning is unlearning, Mark Bonchek contends that in this age of Digital disruption, companies have been too focused on learning new ways of doing things and have not paid enough attention to unlearning the ways of the past.

In every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models that have grown outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing to organization to leadership. To embrace the new logic of value creation, we have to unlearn the old one.

Boncheck clarifies that its not about forgetting what has been learnt in the past, but acquiring the ability to re-frame the situation and use a different mental model.

He gives the example of Porter’s Five forces and the essence behind the model that limits or boundaries must be set and then argues the likes of Google, Uber, Faebook and AirBnB don’t subscribe to this notion of setting limits.

They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead build platforms that enable others to create value. They look to create network effects through ecosystems of customers, suppliers, and partners.

Boncheck also articulates the core problem with modern marketing is the existing “one-to-many mindset” where we pretend “everything is linear and transaction”…

  • We segment into discrete buckets even though people are multidimensional.
  • We treat customers as consumers even when they want to be cocreators.
  • We target buyers and run campaigns that push messages through channels even though real engagement increasingly happens through shared experiences.
  • We move people through a pipeline that goes in one direction even though the customer journey is nonlinear.

He then asserts that “instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.”

“In the area of organizational design, we are seeing an evolution from formal hierarchies to fluid networks. But this requires a substantial amount of unlearning. Our instincts are to think of an organization as an org chart. We automatically escalate decisions to the boss. I often hear executives talk about being “more networked,” but what they really mean is collaborating across the silos. To truly become a networked organization, you need decision principles that create both alignment and autonomy. But this requires unlearning in the areas of management, leadership, and governance.”

The good news, Bonchek contends, is we can practice unlearning. So get started today!

Read the full article here.

 

Blue Ocean Analytical Tools

Following are three analytical tools used in the formulation of a Blue Ocean Strategy. The three tools we will look at are:

  • Strategy Canvas
  • Four Actions Framework
  • Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid

The Strategy Canvas

The Strategy Canvas is both a diagnostic tool and an action framework. From a diagnostic point of view, it is used to capture what is happening in the existing market space. The following example from the book describes the US wine market prior to Casella Wines introduction of Yellow Tail.

stratcan

This paints a picture of where the competition is currently investing and the factors they compete on in products, services, delivery and what customers receive from the existing offerings.

Four Actions Framework

The Four Actions Framework asks four key questions to challenge an industry’s preexisting norms.

faf

The eliminate and reduce questions lead you to gaining an insight into how to drop your cost structure while the create and raise questions lead you to gaining an understanding into how to increase customer value and generate new customer demand.

Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid

The third tool supplements the second encouraging action. The example below shows how Casella Wines answered those four key questions.

e-r-c-r-grid

This resulted in a strategy canvas that looked like the following for Casella Wines’ new Yellow Tail brand in the US wine market.

stratcan-yt

You can see from the above picture, Yellow Tails curve has three very important characteristics.

  1. Focus: efforts were not diffused across all key factors of the competition
  2. Divergent: the value curve diverges from the competition
  3. Compelling Tagline: ‘a fun and simple wine to be enjoyed every day’

The red ocean or the blue?

I have recently read the “international bestseller” Blue Ocean Strategy and found it a very insightful read. A blue ocean is essentially an uncontested market space where there are no competitors allowing the company that creates it to excel. However, a blue ocean strategy is not just about delivering something customers want that hasn’t been delivered before, its also about delivering a value innovation for the company as well.

Typically main stream strategy theory suggests companies must either choose a high cost differentiation strategy or a low cost price led strategy. Companies that create blue oceans however simultaneously achieve low cost and differentiation.

Red Ocean Strategy

  • Compete in existing market space
  • Beat the competition
  • Exploit existing demand
  • Make the value-cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a firms activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost

Blue Ocean Strategy

  • Create uncontested market space
  • Make the competition irrelevant
  • Create and capture new demand
  • Break the value-cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a firms activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost

While a company competing in a red ocean fights for existing customers that that market, a company competing in a blue ocean cultivates an entirely new set of customers as it creates an entirely new market space.

For example Cirque du Soleil didn’t just enter the existing market space of traditional circuses, it created an all new market and captured customers whom were not typically customers of the circus but customers whom were looking to be entertained.

It also reduced its costs when compared to traditional circuses by removing big name star performers and animals.

When Casella Wines introduced its ‘easy to drink’, ‘to be enjoyed by everyone’ wine Yellow Tail, to the US market, it took customers from the two distinctive wine markets – the high end and ultra cheap – and combined them with customers whom would normally drink beer, alcopops or cocktails, to create an entirely new market space.

It also reduced its costs by initially creating only one red and one white and bottling them in the same type bottle. Traditionally red wine and white wine had always been sold in two different styles of wine bottle.

In my next post I’ll explore some of the tools and frame works that have been created to both help identify and execute a blue ocean strategy.

HR departments have to change

Just as businesses start focusing on being ‘customer centric’ and developing a ‘customer experience’ that will ensure customers want to repeatedly do business with them, there are many arguing that to be ‘customer centric’, is really to be ‘human centric’ and the same can also be applied to staff.

Some companies, like Airbnb, are redefining the role of the HR department to be broader and replacing the senior most HR role with a ‘Chief Employee Experience Officer’ role.

As Ben Whitter points out in his article “Bye, Bye, Human Resources?” on LinkedIn

Mark Levy’s new role of Chief Employee Experience Officer at Airbnb combines traditional HR functions of recruiting and talent development with marketing, real estate, facilities, social responsibility, and communications.

What is clear is that this move quite visibly positions the employee experience as critical to the business, not HR. This is absolutely right, in my view, and gives practitioners the confidence and belief to know that HR is no longer a support function within the business, because the employee experience, to a large extent, is the business.

…how easy would it be for you to follow Airbnb and co in creating a function dedicated to the employee experience that brings together multiple functions (or silos if they are starting to hinder collective progress), which all play a major organisational role and get them all aligned and driving your business forward?

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