Identify and aligning to Successful Customer Outcomes
“Businesses can be very sloppy about deciding which customers to seek out and acquire” Frederick F. Reichheld
The six questions we ask ourselves in this iterative process are:
I. Who is the customer?
At first glance should be an easy answer however it is not as obvious as it seems. The ultimate customer for any profit making enterprise is the person, or company who provides the revenue by purchasing the products or services we produce. It is a matter of fact that in our inside-out legacy world we have created multiple customer-supplier relationships which include internal ‘service’ providers such as Information Services, Human Resources and so on. In mature Outside-In organisations the internal customer ceases to exist as we progressively partner to align to Successful Customer Outcomes and artefacts such as Service Level Agreements become a thing of the past.
II. What is the Customers current expectation?
The 2006 book “Customer Expectation Management “ Schurter/Towers reviewed in detail the of creating and managing customer expectations and how through clear articulation companies such as Virgin Mobile in the US redefine their market place. In the context of the SCO map we need to understand the customers (as identified in the answer to question 1) current expectation. This often reveals both a challenge and opportunity. Customers will tell it as it is, for instance in an insurance claim process “I expect it is going to take weeks, with lots of paperwork and many phone calls”. That should tell you the current service is most likely poor and fraught with problems, delays and expensive to manage however this presents the opportunity. If that is a market condition (all insurance claims are like this) then moving to a new service proposition will be a potential competitive differentiator.
III. What process does the customer think they are involved with?
In the inside-out world we see process in a functional context. Therefore insurance claims are dealt with by an insurance claims department. Customer Retention is the baby of you guessed it, the Customer retention department and marketing is done by the marketing people. This split of responsibility is a legacy of functional specialisation created by relating to business as a production line. Adam Smith wrote in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ (1776) of an English pin factory. He described the production of a pin in the following way: ”One man draws out the wire, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head: to make the head requires two or three distinct operations: to put it on is a particular business, to whiten the pins is another … and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which in some manufactories are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometime perform two or three of them”. The result of labor division in Smith’s example resulted in productivity increasing by 240 fold. i.e. that the same number of workers made 240 times as many pins as they had been producing before the introduction of labor division. The insights form Smith underpinned the industrial revolution however using this principle to organise ourselves in the 21st century is to a very large part the wrong approach. That is precisely what the answer to the question will tell us – “sorry sir you are talking to the wrong department, let me transfer you”. Or even getting stuck in automated response system hell “press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for the other and 4 if you have missed the first three options.” These are features of the labor division mindset. Ask a customer what process they think they are and you will frequently be surprised by the answer.
IV. What do we do that Impacts customer success?
Often we ask customers to do numerous many activities which appear sensible to receive service or indeed buy products. Relating back to the insurance claim we can see rules and procedure around how to make claims, the correct way to complete forms, the process of collating the information, the timeframes within which to claim, the way we can reimburse you and more. Often times these restrictions that we impose made sense at some time in the past however they may no longer be relevant.
The situation is compounded by the way internal functional specialism focus on project objectives. Richard Prebble, a respected New Zealand politician writes in his 1996 book “I’ve been thinking” of the inability of organisations to think clearly of the amount of work they create and in fact “they spend a million to save a thousand every time”.
His story of the challenge within large organisations is typical “The Post Office told me they were having terrible problems tracking telephone lines … They found an excellent program in Sweden which the Swedes were prepared to sell them for $2m …. So the managers decided to budget $1m for translating into English and another $1m for contingencies. But, as the general manager explained, it had turned out to be more expensive than the contingency budget allowed and they needed another $7m. “How much”, I asked, “have you spent on it so far?” “Thirty-seven million dollars” was the reply. “Why don’t we cancel the programme?” I asked “How can we cancel a programme that has cost $37m?” they asked “Do you believe the programme will ever work?” I asked “No, not properly” “Then write me a letter recommending its cancellation and I will sign it” The relief was visible. I signed the letter, but I knew I needed new managers.”
This type of inside-out thinking causes companies to create apparently sensible checks and controls within processes that actually manifest as customer inconvenience, cost and delay. Are you making the customers lives easier, simpler and more successful?
V. The Successful Customer Outcome – what does the customer really need from us?
At this point we should have enough information to objectively create several statements that articulate the SCO. These statements should be specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Usually there will 6-10 such statements which become the actual key performance measures as move the process Outside-In. For example a North American business school completed the SCO map and created these statements from the customer perspective for an ‘Education loan application’ process:
a. I need to receive my financial assistance
b. I need to receive aid before the semester starts
c. I need to attend the classes I have chosen
d. I do not want to call to chase progress
e. I need to receive the correct amount
f. I do not want to have to fix your mistakes
There is no ambiguity here and we avoid a common mistake of using management weasel words such as ‘efficient, effective, timely’ which may mean things internally but to a customer are of little help. Creating SCO statements that may be used as measures for process success is a key aid on the journey to Outside-In.
VI. And now we reach the core of the onion. What is the one line statement that best articulates our Successful Customer Outcome? This one-liner embodies the very nature of the process and sometimes the business we are in. In ‘Thrive- how to succeed in the Age of the Customer’ McGregor/Towers (2005), Easyjet (Europe’s second largest airline) is used as an example in this quest. Their simple “Bums on Seats” SCO sentence works both from a company perspective (we must maximise utilisation, offer inexpensive seats, get people comfortably and safely to their destinations) and the customers needs “I need a cheap safe seat to get me to the sunshine quickly without a fuss”.
The company one liner will become part of a series which are measureable through the SCO statements and can be tested and revised depending on evolving customer expectations and needs. It may in fact ultimately replace the inside-out strategic process and provide the organisation with its Raison d’être.
Of course when we start the journey it is often sufficient to create SCO maps to help grow understanding and even if the actual SCO Map is subsequently replaced (as we take a broader view) the improvement in understanding around the customer is invaluable.
In the third part of this four part series we will review “Reframe where the process starts and ends”
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