Category Archives: Market Responsiveness Index

Why are so many customer-centric leaders on their own?

businessman thinking in office

Many customer centric leaders we have spoken with are facing challenges they did not expect. While they themselves understand the imperative for a customer culture that will drive future business performance and sustainability and act as role models in leading the business in this way, so often they feel alone and frustrated at the top. Despite their best efforts their leaders don’t see it in the same way.

Why? Because their direct reports are still operating with a functional mindset. Or they see proposed initiatives to strengthen the culture to improve customer experience as extra work they don’t have the time for. Or they don’t understand what it means to be a customer-centric leader and why it is critical in today’s disruptive business environment. And this is spiraled down to middle management and to the people who report to them.

This is perpetuated by managers’ KPIs that are primarily functionally focused. This creates silos, lack of collaboration and lack of effective support for organization-wide initiatives.

This is not solved by ad hoc efforts to get people on board.

It requires a commitment to an organization-wide initiative that measures and benchmarks the current level of customer-centricity and engages leaders at all levels for the their inputs. It requires the development of a customer-centric strategy designed to align people with purpose and job relevance that connects the value they deliver to the customer. It needs to create a focus on easy to understand, credible and robust organization-wide customer metrics that everyone can buy in to. This needs to be part of an implementation roadmap of digestible steps that inspire people to participate in and carry through.

Above all, this must be tangible, meaningful and actionable.

Often the hardest part for a senior leader feeling all alone and frustrated by his or her team members that don’t ‘get it’ is to make a start.

The best place to start is to get a tangible benchmark of where we stand today as a business against the most customer-centric organizations in the world. This assessment involves the participation of all leaders and places a mirror to our business. The Market Responsiveness IndexTM (MRI) is a powerful tool to help you get your team on board. It is an assessment tool that will show you that you are not alone – in fact there are many others in different parts of your business and at different levels that think just like you do.

And they, just like you, want to make a difference that counts.

Why aren’t Public Service Organizations Customer-Centric?

(Photo credit: UCSF)

The Department of Motor Vehicles (Photo credit: UCSF)

Why aren’t many public service organizations like health, tax, education, transport and treasury or utilities such as power and water authorities customer-centric? Public service agencies differ markedly. Some have an exclusive franchise – public schools, police and roads that are taxpayer funded or water and electricity transmission monopolies that are customer funded. Others operate in competitive markets such as postal and parcel services.

But the case for customer centricity is compelling.

The Case for Customer Centricity

Countless studies have documented the link between organizational culture and organizational performance. Specifically, many studies show that a customer-centric culture drives superior service and value for customers resulting in an experience that creates customer satisfaction and advocacy. This in turn drives exceptional organizational performance in terms of productivity, new product/service success, innovation and financial performance.

Government departments and public service organizations have clearly defined missions to provide a service to their constituents. Each reports to a government official who is part of a central, state or local government that represents a community – much of which is made up of customers that experience the service. Poor experience leads to complaints, that in turn, ultimately affects votes for public officials if service is consistently bad.

Public service organizations that do not understand their customers’ changing needs, or worse, don’t care about their customers, will receive complaints that require additional resources to solve. This creates stress for both employees and customers and takes resources away from their core roles. The momentum and complexity of global change are challenging all organizations, including government agencies, to move faster, work smarter, use their resources more effectively and think further ahead.

Most senior leaders of these organizations know this!

What’s the problem?

Many public service organizations try to focus on their customers, but wonder why their customer service programs have not really worked. A key reason is that senior leaders do not understand the difference between customer focus and customer centricity.

If you ask different people in your organization whether it is customer focused or customer-centric you will probably receive a variety of answers. If you then ask them what they mean by that you will probably get many more. Often many senior managers believe their organization or department is customer-centric while others will strongly disagree.

Another reason is that public service organizations do not measure customer centricity and make it a key performance factor for assessing leader and team performance.

The best starting point is to agree on what customer centricity is and then measure it for your organization. This will get everyone on the “same page” and create the mindset and benchmark that enables you to focus on things you should do to strengthen it.

What is customer centricity?

Research tells us that customer centricity requires a particular culture – a shared system of values and norms (mindset and behaviors) that focus all employee activity on improving the customer’s experience. Values define what is important and norms define the appropriate mindset and behavior that leads to what people do.

Leaders of customer-centric organizations have found that customer centricity is defined by the capability of an organization to understand, predict and respond to customer, market and external environment changes. It is based on the mindset: “what’s best for the customer is best for the organization” and a set of employee behaviors where the customer is central to the decisions they take and how they are implemented. This does not mean that you give customers everything they want, but by understanding their current and future needs you are best able to deliver value that will satisfy them in meeting their objectives in a way that meets your own goals. Customer centricity should transcend all departments and functions and be an integral part of the way employees behave and perform.

How do you measure it?

There are now valid measurement tools available to benchmark your organization’s level of customer centricity. Based on empirical research two tools can be used to assess where you are. The Market Responsiveness Index is relevant to competitive environments and benchmarks the capabilities of your organization on 7 factors. The Customer Responsiveness Index (CRI) is relevant to the vast number of non-competing government agencies and utilities and benchmarks the capabilities of your organization on 6 factors. Both tools reach into a global database to enable you to compare your level of customer centricity against the best… and the worst. But more important they enable all staff to understand what customer centricity is and what actions you can take to embed it in your organization as a sustainable culture.

Three steps for getting started

The following three steps will create some effective momentum:

  1. Hold a forum of leaders designed to create awareness of what real customer centricity means. This may include a debate on whether your organization is customer-centric with one team taking the positive stance and the other team taking the negative view. This will expose different views and help people understand what “being customer-centric” means.
  2. Measure and benchmark your organization’s level of customer centricity and identify strengths and weakness on the customer-centric factors that drive your performance.
  3. Conduct a leadership workshop designed to review your strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to act on the most important priorities ensuring that all leaders are involved.

These 3 steps will lead you to actioning a customer-centric plan based on an objective understanding of where you stand, some milestones and targets to be achieved and a roadmap to get there.

You will find some valuable tools, case studies and examples to help you through these steps in The Customer Culture Imperative: A Leader’s Guide to Driving Superior Performance, McGraw-Hill New York, 2014 by Linden R. Brown and Chris. L. Brown. (The foundation of the research is in Appendix 1, pages 273-287.)

Breaking down company silos with internal social media tools

cross-functional collaboration

In a recent project with a large Energy company, I was working with the senior management and staff to help develop and embed a customer-centric culture. It is their belief and mine (based on extensive research) that a customer-focused business will drive ongoing prosperity. In our research, along with that of many others, we have found that an important factor in enabling a customer culture to become embedded is internal cross-functional collaboration. We found senior and middle management in the Energy company were stymied in their attempts to focus on customers by emails and informational meetings that dominated their work day. Functions were working in silos with very little cross-function collaboration referencing customers and how to increase customer value.

This is typical of so many large organizations.

Don Tapscott, the author of several books on the impact of digitization on our work world, discusses new forms of collaboration in his newest book, Radical Openness: Four Principles for Unthinkable Success.

In an interview in September 2012, recorded in the McKinsey Quarterly, Tapscott described the new social media tools for collaboration:

“How do we get beyond e-mail to these new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network? Not through Facebook, because that’s not the right tool. But there are tools now: wikis, blogs, microblogging, ideation tools, jams, next-generation project management, what I call collaborative decision management. These are social tools for decision making. These are the new operating systems for the 21st-century enterprise in the sense that these are the platforms upon which talent—you can think of talent as the app—works, and performs, and creates capability.

We had this view that knowledge is a finite asset, it’s inside the boundaries of companies, and you manage it by containerizing it. And this was, of course, illusory, because knowledge is an infinite resource. The most important knowledge is not inside the boundaries of a company. You don’t achieve it through containerization, you achieve it through collaboration.

So, there’s a big change that’s underway right now in rethinking knowledge management. It’s really moving toward what I would call content collaboration, as opposed to trying to stick knowledge into a box where we can access it. E-mail is sort of like what Mark Twain said about the weather. Everybody’s talking about it, and nobody’s doing anything about it. We have to get rid of e-mail.

You need to have a new collaborative suite where, rather than receiving 50 e-mails about a project, you go there and you see what’s new. All the documents that are pertinent to that project are available. You can create a new subgroup to talk about something. You can have a challenge or an ideation or a digital brainstorm to advance the interests of that project. You can co-create a document on a wiki. You can micro-blog the results of this to other people in the corporation who need to be alerted.”

This thinking and these tools apply directly to sharing knowledge about customers and competitors. Effective use of the tools can have a substantial impact on innovation, competitiveness and customer value if they are directed towards sharing across the business a deep understanding of customers, competitors and the changing market environment. This will strengthen an organization’s customer culture which in turn will drive future growth and profitability.

How would you rate your level of cross-functional collaboration? To what degree are you using the new social media tools for internal collaboration? Why not benchmark your level of collaboration and take action to strengthen it?

4 ways Electronic Arts navigated major Tectonic Shifts impacting their Customers

tectonic_shifts_in_technology_and_customer_impacts

Many industries today are experiencing market and technology shifts in their marketplaces that are somewhat like the clashing of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Industries including publishing and printing, education, telecommunications, media, advertising, health and retail are all facing massive change. How does an organization navigate a techtonic shift?

Electronic Arts Labels (EA), the world’s leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment  faced a techtonic shift in 2007 with the rapid change occurring from retail packaged goods products to new digital delivery platforms. The new CEO at that time, John Riccitello, presented his vision as a burning platform – you are in the middle of the ocean on an oil platform that is on fire. You either hold on and ride it down or you jump off and face the unknowns of a swirling ocean.

In his article titled “Getting into your customers’ heads”, Krish Krishnakanthan finds out what EA had to do to navigate this techtonic shift. To transform from a retail products business to a digital supplier using new platforms such as social networks, mobile phones and tablets.

The key success factors:

1)   Measuring and tracking customer usage of games, external gaming-publication reviews (critical review success is linked with sales performance). For that part of the business with direct sales to consumers, they use technology to measure customer interactions and the lifetime value of each customer.

2)   Changes in the competitive landscape with low entry barriers and the emergence of small game developers has required  EA to restructure its business to give decentralized profit and loss control to product line/brand managers to enable them to compete with specific identified competitors.

3)   Enhanced communication and collaboration between development teams and marketing teams to co-ordinate go-to-market strategies.

4)   Scanning the external environment through consumer blogs and social media to identify new shifts in consumer opinion, competitive plays, new technology impacts on customers and economic forces affecting the market. This has required a culture change by EA. One which centers their whole business around the customer. An adaptive, future focused customer culture has enabled EA to cross the chasm created by the techtonic shift they faced.

Staying on the “oil platform’ would have meant riding the business to the bottom – out of business. Is your industry facing a techtonic shift? If so, check where you stand on “customer culture”. Is it strong enough to be adaptive and resilient to the storm ahead?

Has Cisco got its strategic alignment right?

creating alignment in a roller-coaster economyCisco’s roller coaster 2012 was due in part to the Eurozone crisis that took a heavy toll on network spending and a subdued US market. It seems set for a better 2013 due to restructuring initiatives, undertaken during 2012, and more favorable prospects in its U.S. market.

Analysts at Forbes report that Cisco has scaled back its ambitions to diversify into 30 new businesses and instead is focusing on those areas that add value to its core routing and switching businesses. As a result, it has restructured its operations and cut jobs in areas that are not its core focus, making the organization leaner and more efficient. It helps Cisco to benefit more from the long-term growth trends of data demand and cloud computing. The analysts report that Cisco’s

“fundamentals remain solid due to the ongoing transition from wired to wireless networks, the burgeoning usage of data on both mobile and wired networks as well as a strong demand for cloud-computing routing solutions on the enterprise side.”

Cisco has also announced the acquisition of Meraki, a smaller networking firm that provides cloud-based services to small and mid-sized companies. This acquisition gives Cisco a big opportunity to tap into the fast growing mid-market segment as well as use Meraki’s product line to create a compelling cloud-based platform for bigger customers down the road. With businesses increasingly looking to move to the cloud and networks becoming more software and cloud-focused, Cisco’s move will help it address changing trends and compete better with fast-growing rivals such as Aruba Networks. Alcatel Lucent’s recent foray into core routers also poses a risk for Cisco.

The omens are good for Cisco, but the combined effects of restructuring, refocusing, acquisitions and more aggressive competitors place substantial strain on the resilience of its culture.

While senior management might be clear on strategy and focus, does strategic alignment exist across the reduced workforce and the recently acquired Meraki?

Has the company retained its innovative customer-centric culture? Is the company measuring and benchmarking its customer-centricity to identify any potential weaknesses and associated risks to growth and profitability?

For Cisco to gain the momentum that analysts expect it will need to ensure its strategic re-alignment is embedded in all parts of the business. This means that all employees and contractors need to understand what the strategic focus is and how it translates into their everyday work. They then need to consistently act to support it and the goals of the business by providing superior value to customers.

There is no room for complacency at Cisco. We have seen the havoc that has been wrought on Hewlett-Packard’s culture and its subsequent business performance through acquisitions and frequent refocusing in recent years.

Do you have strategic alignment embedded in your business?

Has your business undergone restructuring and refocusing in the last 2 years?

Do people in all functions and groups know your vision and strategy and exactly how they are supporting it in their everyday work?

The only real way to find out is to measure and benchmark your level of strategic alignment.

What is Hewlett-Packard missing in creating its future? Only the most important ingredient!

the missing piece - customer culture

Almost all organizations develop annual plans and budgets. Many have strategic plans that are designed to chart their way through the next 3 to 5 years. A few use scenario planning to identify possible future environments and plot strategies and contingencies to deal with different scenarios as they occur.

In Chaotics, authors Philip Kotler and John Caslione demonstrate that it’s a simple and profoundly important fact that the practice of management needs retooling. They go on to provide business leaders with a system for navigating the turbulent times we are facing.

The tool that most companies have missed in working to create their futures is the adaptive, future oriented, customer-centric culture that enables them to prosper in an environment of continuous change and turbulence.

Hewlett-Packard is one of many examples of missed opportunities and lack of attention to cultural fit – both in terms of the absorption of their acquisitions such as its latest debacle with Autonomy and through losing its customer-centric culture led by a succession of CEOs that lost focus on what has made HP great – its people and their relationships with customers (supported by quality products).

HP cannot re-create its former greatness unless it revisits the fundamentals of developing an adaptive, future-oriented customer culture. To do this it must start by measuring its current level of customer-centricity in all its businesses – in all functions and in all groups. This will tell it where its strengths and weaknesses lie and what it needs to do to create the culture it needs for the future. These measurement benchmarks will tell HP which parts of the business are most at risk to current and future turbulence and what it must do to mitigate those risks. They will also tell HP what they can expect in trends in business results (revenue, profit, customer retention, new product success) in different parts of their business.

If HP does not use the right diagnostic tools to measure and benchmark its level of customer culture which includes its adaptability and future orientation it will be missing its most important element for creating its future. It will be making decisions in part blindfolded and it will be relying on luck, rather than well founded judgment to secure its future.

Does your business have a culture that can secure its future? Do you systematically measure it in a way that ties relevant cultural attributes to future business performance?

7 ways to make a customer culture stick

how to make customer culture stick

Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last two posts I outlined the actions to take at the initiation and implementation stages. In this post I focus on the 7 actions to take during the embedding stage.

The focus of this stage is on institutionalizing the customer culture through supporting systems, on-going training, increased employee empowerment and accountability of all individuals and teams for delivering an improved customer experience.

1. Formalization of customer culture through symbols, rituals and artifacts

This often includes organization structure changes, more open office designs, images of customers taking precedence over images of products, customer invitations to corporate meetings and cross-function teams evaluating new market opportunities.

2. Development of customer focus behaviors at leader and individual levels

Key performance indicators measuring the level of customer focus are formalized for performance reviews and designing personal development programs.

3. Delegation of decisions from the Customer Engagement Council (made up of senior and influential leaders) to all organization members

The power to make decisions on behalf of the company shifts to all employees within an agreed framework. This new empowerment and accountability is sometimes hard to accept by long-standing employees. Some companies have used a “buddy” approach to help less experienced staff gain new skills and confidence.

4. Measurement of customer culture

Culture change is not a “bolt-on”; it is a “built-in” process. Effectively done, it can’t be “unbolted”. Measurement covering the breadth and depth of the organization is necessary to determine to what extent customer culture has been built in.

5. Measurement of customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy against targets

Ongoing measurement is part of customer culture embedding and provides a frequent benchmark of customer engagement performance. It guides how the organization needs to adapt to changing market trends and customer needs.

6. Formal alignment of rewards and recognition with customer metrics

Remuneration systems and promotion is formally tied to customer culture behaviors and customer engagement performance.

7. On-going training program

This is valuable for two groups:

  • new and recent hires
  • pockets and groups within the organization found to be lacking a customer mindset and relevant skills

Documented case studies of successes and learnings are often used to demonstrate successful customer engagement experiences.

My next post will outline the actions required to reinforce the customer culture and avoid the complacency and arrogance that frequently occurs with sustained success.