Book – Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business

outside-inThe book places the fashionable term of “customer experience” to the place that it should occupy – as an extension of company’s business strategy and as an approach that would need to be internalized into the company’s culture. Customer experience is also given its own “area” – not a part of marketing or operation, and definitely not a part of a digital channel – but an independent area that transcends practically all aspects of company’s operation, but can not substitute for lack of these aspects.

The book defines customer experience from the customer’s point of view, who does not need to worry about organizational silos and competing internal channels.

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The book identifies six disciplines of customer experience:

  • Strategy
  • Customer Understanding (research)
  • Design (of customer experiences)
  • Measurement
  • Governance
  • Culture

Strategy is a critical perspective for customer experience as for any other aspect of business.

Your customer experience strategy must match your company strategy.

execThis section had some of the most interesting examples.  The authors in the consulting role asked a company that retained them to improve their customer experience to explain the company’s business strategy…  and the company could not. The consultants quickly ended the conversation with the homework for the executives to learn what their company’s business strategy was.

Any proposals to improve customer experience need to align with customer experience strategy based on the business strategy.  Some proposals that can be right for one organization can be wrong to another.  It would be wrong for a Zip Car to think about adding a live personal concierge to each point of pick up as its business strategy is low cost and self service. It would be  equally wrong for a company emphasizing highly knowledgeable customer service to build a peer-to-peer community for customers to help themselves.

appleThough many companies would love to be “an Apple of their industry,” it is highly unlikely that their business strategy is identical to Apple’s business strategy.  One of the companies hired the same builder that Apple used to design their primary location… and it looks very similar to the Apple store…  Does this approach match the company’s business strategy?  Unlikely…

Design was also an interesting section – a design of the “experience” rather than visual aspects of elements that the experience might contain.

waterAn example of UK Water utility is simply spectacular.  Water utility faced a project of installing water meters for all its customers and switching to charge based on water usage in upcoming years as required by government regulation.  Water Utility hired IDEO to design the experience of the water meter installation, information required, mobile information units in the neighborhood to explain the process during the most inconvenient for the customers time – digging near their homes, the explanation of how to conserve water, the new bill showing the water usage and a gradual switch to the new system when customers were initially billed the same and received information on their water usage, whose who would be paying less under the new system could switch immediately, and whose who would be paying more could switch over upcoming years.

Companies can be at different stages of their own progress to understanding of the customer experience and building it into their general business practices.

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Chief Customer Officer is the new executive position that is appearing in the industry.  Interesting: the position can be found in different companies disregarding their size and about 50% of these companies are in B-to-B areas of business.  Possible explanation is the significant value of each customer for a B-to-B company.

chiefThe authors suggest that some companies will hire Chief Customer Officers because it is fashionable, rather than based on the company’s need and readiness.  this approach will create high profile CCO failures and general industry backlash.  Though the backlash will probably last in the industry for a couple of years, the backlash will be more profound in the companies that had first unsuccessful experience with the CCO.

Not every company may need a CCO now, but we might need to start paying attention to customer experience as our competitors are racing to improve it.  And companies that have better customer experience are more financially successful.

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