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Your Journey to Ease of Doing Business

Thursday, October 24, 2019

We have already written extensively about Ease of Doing Business. And we will continue to do so. Why, you might ask? Because it’s that important. We see the challenges as pervasive—across virtually all the organizations we have spoken to, worked with, and researched. As a result, we want to highlight any approaches we can to help organizations score some quick wins by becoming systematically easier to do business with.

Love to Hate Journey Mapping

One such technique uses journey mapping. We just love to hate journey mapping—mostly because it’s so often viewed as a panacea for all things wrong with Customer Experience… and beyond. Your customers are dissatisfied? Journey map! Your user interface is rotten? Journey map! Too many service requests? Journey map! Loyalty scores are low? Journey map! Your revenue is down? Journey map! The business is under-performing? Journey map! If only it were that simple.

Journey mapping is a useful tool, but it has to be applied narrowly, for a very specific purpose. In the case of Ease of Doing Business, we apply bits and pieces of it to identify HOTSPOTS where friction is especially egregious.

Focus on Ease of Doing Business Hotspots

So far, in our Ease of Doing Business series, we have discussed exactly what it means, why it’s so importanthow buyers and sellers think about it differently, what the typical business drivers are, what sort of capabilities are required for an effective program, how to build a business case, and—most recently—some critical success factors in making yourself easier to do business with. We believe you can very effectively use journey mapping to quickly identify a handful of these hotspots where customers are especially at risk for defection to effect real change, really fast.

How to Do This In 7 Steps

  1. Identify and characterize prototypical buying personas. Typically, this would include the personas’ background, some demographic data, key identifiers, goals & challenges, and some discussion on what we as the seller can do to help to address those goals & challenges.
  2. Create the initial Ease of Doing Business Map, doing this with a view of the customer lifecycle and each of the most important channels to market. Lifecycle phases can take any form, but we typically use something like: define need; research fulfillment of need; select provider; buy; receive goods or services; use goods or services; maintain; and recommend to the next buyer.
  3. Identify the Ease of Doing Business Hotspots along this journey based on customer, front line employee, intermediary (as appropriate), back office, and management team input. You would be surprised by how valuable the back office (legal, accounts payable, contracts, accounts receivable, etc.) is.
  4. Rinse and repeat. Iterate the personas, the map, and the hotspots through a combination of interviews and workshops and reconcile the hotspots with the typical Ease of Doing Business Drivers seen in research.
  5. Prioritize the hotspots based on how easy and inexpensive it would be to implement fixes versus the positive impact those fixes will have on customers and your employees. Obviously, the hotspots that are easy to fix, inexpensive, and highly impactful to both customers and employees will be the first things you will want to tackle.
  6. Further test the most actionable hotspots by holding them up against your CEO’s vision and priorities for the business and make sure there is line of sight to enterprise operational and financial metrics as well. If you’ve been following along for the last several weeks, these are elements of the business case
  7. Lastly, select the critical few to turn into initiatives and build out a project plan for each, including change management imperatives and a scorecard that will help you gauge incremental progress. You will definitely want to assign tag teams, as discussed last week, to guide each initiative.

Where to Start

We like to start with a customer survey and a series of customer and internal executive front-line employee interviews. That will give you the starting point for the personas and for putting the actual journey map together. And, as always, we’re here to help. If you haven’t already, check out the Ease of Doing Business Accelerator. There’s a public version, where we bring 4-5 companies together for a session that benefits from sharing of best practices and lessons learned across businesses and industries. And there’s a private version where we do a deep dive for one company.

That’s it for now. See you again next week.

Curtis Bingham & Jeb Dasteel


View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: CCO Council | Customer Effort | Customer Retention

Five Critical Success Factors in Becoming Easier to do Business With

Monday, October 14, 2019

If you asked your customers, “How easy is it to do business with us?” what would they say? If you’re like many other companies, they’ll probably say, “Not very.” If you asked customers to compare you with Amazon or Lyft or USAA, they might say, “Not at all!”

How do we make it easier for our customers to buy from us?

Isn’t it just about improving the customer experience?

Turns out, the answer is “No.” Ease of Doing Business trumps CX. As the seminal article “Bad is Stronger than Good” points out, “bad emotions, events and feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” The badness of high customer effort, which ordinarily transcends multiple customer touchpoints, is not easily offset by the goodness of CX improvements, which tend to affect very specific moments. CX is meant to be all-encompassing, but in practice it almost never is. The persistence of rampant Ease of Doing Business challenges in virtually every organization we encounter is proof of that, given the enormous push for CX improvements over the past 10 years.

Ease of Doing Business is on the lips of many CEOs and Board members, and rightly so. The promise of reduced costsis huge. Reducing customer effort can save 37% in operating expenses and induce customers to spend 88% more. Customer effort impairs revenue growth and destroys profits. Ease of Doing Business is the single most important thing for companies to focus on. In earlier articles we listed some of the most common drivers of Ease of Doing Business, but there is a massive disconnect in buyer’s and seller’s perceptions of which drivers are really impacting a given situation.

We’ve watched businesses attempt to become customer-centric for the past decade. Some have succeeded wildly. Others have failed miserably. In an effort to understand why, we interviewed some of the most successful CMOs, CSOs, CCOs, etc. to learn what they did to shape customer strategy.

Based on these interviews and our own experiences, Jeb Dasteel, former chief customer officer of Oracle, and I have developed a Customer Performance Framework. It contains seven leading indicators. Executives who improve these guarantee increased revenue, profits, and job performance. Customer Effort, or Ease of Doing Business, is the #1 most important leading indicator. The Framework also includes 60+ programs that an executive can deploy against those seven leading indicators.

There are five critical steps you should take as you start down the path of making yourself easier to do business with:

  1. Establish Ease of Doing Business Metrics
  2. Understand Critical Drivers of Ease of Doing Business
  3. Develop a Baseline Perception
  4. Identify Ease of Doing Business Hotspots
  5. Establish a Customer Effort Tag Team

Let’s look at these one at a time:

Establish Ease of Doing Business Metrics

The most critical first step is to develop a set of metrics that measure overall Ease of Doing Business as well as transactional customer effort. We’ve found that many CMOs and CCOs are measuring NPS and CSAT, reading verbatims, polling sales teams, etc. to back into identifying processes that might be causing friction for customers. However, very few are formally measuring Ease of Doing Business or customer effort effectively.

A large energy distribution company in the US recently began measuring NPS. However, their customers are largely captive—they may only gain or lose 1 new customer in any given year. A “willingness to recommend” or other loyalty metric isn’t actually going to inform strategy. However, becoming Easier to do Business With is something that can minimize complaints, rescues, escalations, and complaints to regulatory bodies. And it will do more to protect profits and prevent that one lost customer than most any other activity.

Metrics have to be informed by customers. Our research shows there is zero overlap in the top three things we as sellers think are important to fix vs. what buyers believe is important. Metrics have to help us accurately assess the key drivers from our customer’s perspectives. This is the only way we can ensure we’re focused on impactful initiatives. Furthermore, we need to balance customer desires with strategic imperatives and costs to deliver.

We recommend creating an overall Ease of Doing Business metric rolled up from other measures, as well as a transactional Customer Effort Score.

Understand Critical Drivers of Ease of Doing Business

What do your customers say makes you hard to do business with? Is it the sales process? Contracting? Collaboration? On-boarding? We have identified the 10 most common drivers of Ease of Doing Business. We would love to have you share your drivers and help us expand our repository of benchmarks. Can you take 3 minutes and share?

It is critical to establish these drivers using customer input. That’s the whole point of the exercise. Socialize them within your company and use these as a foundation for your Ease of Doing Business improvements.

Develop a Baseline Perception

At the core of any good change initiative is a solid baseline. The same holds true for assessing Ease of Doing Business. It must measure both internal and customer perceptions. We're using a diagnostic tool that measures perceptions and performance in eight broad categories of our Customer Performance Framework. This diagnostic is completed by specifically targeted line of business leaders, front-line employees, and key customers. The results are rolled up into an overall Ease of Doing Business Score.

Front-line employees often have a very good sense of where customer frustration is the highest. We often find alignment in perceptions between these employees and customers and then find gaps in perceptions between executives and those same customers. If carefully handled, bringing clarity to these different points of view can be a powerful motivator for change.

The overall Ease of Doing Business score should align with each of the critical drivers to allow for granular measurement of improvement.

Identify Ease of Doing Business Hotspots

Customer effort originated in the call center, because customers were 4x more likely to leave those interactions disloyal.

That is no longer enough. Ease of Doing Business has to be measured across the customer journey.

The root causes of increased effort can be found well upstream of the call center. A major insurance company experienced a massive increase in call volume within days of mailing monthly statements. Frustrations were extremely high. This surge of calls was caused by confusing billing statements accompanied by generic and irrelevant inserts.

Creating an Ease of Doing Business Hotspot Map can be very useful in pinpointing customer effort hotspots and prioritizing solutions. Evaluate each customer touchpoint and customer-impacting process through the lens of Ease of Doing Business:

  • Perceived ease: how hard do customers perceive the job to be done?
  • Actual ease: how much actual time is spent performing the job?
  • Competitive ease: how hard do customers perceive it is to do the same job with competitors?
  • Returned value: How much value does touchpoint improvement yield?

Even though a job to be done doesn’t actually take long, it can be perceived to be high effort. Filling out a supplier form in the vendor’s portal might take little time. But if it is the fifth time your customer has had to re-enter information it becomes high-effort and a source of friction. This friction is additive across many other interactions.

Establish a Customer Effort Tag Team

Customer effort is typically a result of decisions and processes far upstream from where customers say, “You’re hard to do business with!” A single executive rarely has complete span of control over all the drivers of Ease of Doing Business. Therefore, successful customer executives create a cross-functional team. They ensure the team has the explicit permission to examine all processes across the organization.

While at Oracle, Jeb orchestrated cross-functional teams to address the top 10 sources of customer friction. Members of his own team served as consultants to passionate employees from business units that owned the sources of friction. Members were trained and emboldened to make change. Group membership changed based on the initiatives underway.

The Tag Team provides leverage as they work within their respective organizations to address the biggest obstacles to Ease of Doing Business. As well, they help their organizations adhere to standard best practices along the drivers of Ease of Doing Business.


Ease of Doing Business is one of the most important (and overlooked) components of business success. If you’re hard to do business with, customers don’t care that you have made point-in-time or transactional CX improvements.

Armed with the metrics, critical drivers, a baseline customer perception, and Ease of Doing Business hotspots, you and your team have all you need to establish priorities and create an action plan to engage employees in resolving real issues. We just wrote about how critical it is to create a business case to demonstrate and then measure value—even for something as seemingly obvious as Ease of Doing Business.

If you Want Help

If you’d like assistance in developing these and additional capabilities, we’ve created an Ease of Doing Business Accelerator. You can attend a public accelerator and benefit from cross-pollination with other non-competing companies or you can bring it in-house to work exclusively on your own strategies.

If you’d like to learn more or join us at the accelerator, please select a convenient time for a brief call.

Curtis Bingham

Jeb Dasteel, Former chief customer officer, Oracle

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention | Ease of Doing Business

Make it Your Business to Present the Case for Ease of Doing Business

Monday, October 07, 2019

According to Oxford dictionaries, the definition of “business case” is “a justification for a proposed project or undertaking on the basis of its expected commercial benefit.” That makes perfect sense, but why do I need to do this to move forward with a project that so clearly benefits our customers? It seems like the obvious right thing to do. You and I may believe that to the core, but we would be missing a crucial point.

It’s ALWAYS about demonstrating business outcomes—for our customers and for our own business, even with Ease of Doing Business. And the only way to demonstrate business outcomes is to present a business case—and then use that business case as the guardrails for what we do going forward.

So far in our Ease of Doing Business blog series, we have covered:

We are confident that we have made the case for the sense of urgency applied to Ease of Doing Business.

With a good sense of what it is, why it is important, how customers think about it, and how you begin to address it, your Ease of Doing Business program, or series of initiatives, should now be subjected to the rigors of a business case.

It’s natural to assume that a business case is all about return on investment (ROI) or internal rate of return (IRR) or other such measures of benefits versus costs. Of course, any of these is an important element of a business case but, in our experience, we believe that there are six other elements that must be included to make that business case truly complete and compelling.

The 7 Elements of a Complete & Compelling Business Case for Ease of Doing Business:

  1. Improvement Goals & Related Timeline– These are the tangible, operational business and customer outcomes you seek as a result of becoming easier to do business with. These outcomes are expressed in terms easily understood by business leaders and customers. They are mapped onto a realistic timeline to show when the incremental benefits will be realized.
  2. Resources & Accountability– The implementation resources (human, financial, and otherwise) that represent your investment over the lifespan of the program. These include specific accountabilities for not just the implementation tasks, but for the continued effort to actually attain the improvement goals. This is NOT a project plan. You can depict that level of resourcing detail elsewhere.
  3. Costs & Benefits Targeted– Here are the financials. To put this together in the most compelling way, we encourage organizations to create “value trees” that map prospective Ease of Doing Business improvements to specific profitability and revenue goals, showing the linkages of the Ease of Doing Business drivers to performance indicators, and then to higher level operational metrics, and ultimately, to financial metrics. The bottom line can then be represented in whatever standard financial justification used by the firm (e.g. ROI, IRR).
  4. Change Management Challenges and Critical Success Factors– Without a deliberate plan for driving change and employee engagement through the organization, your Ease of Doing Business program doesn’t stand a chance. This requires an honest look at the culture and politics of the organization and a creative, marketing-oriented approach to engaging the organization, one employee at a time.
  5. Strategic/Competitive Analysis– Baselining where you and your customers are with Ease of Doing business is, of course, essential – but also key is understanding where your market and key competitors are. SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis has been around since the 60’s but it still works very well. Use this—or something like it—to assess how your Ease of Doing Business program will affect your customers, your competitive positioning, and your business.
  6. Value Realization– The definitive business case is great to document a moment in time, but unless you have a plan for tracking and measuring the actual value realized from that point forward, it will only get you so far. Here are some additional guidelines to follow for developing the business case: including targeting the expected benefits in the business case, trackingincremental progress against the business case through the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business program (across each of the initiatives), and then measuringactual business outcomes realized in ‘production.’
  7. Next Steps– Here is where you outline the first steps that will be taken to launch the Ease of Doing Business program. Especially important here are the “early wins” that help build the critical momentum needed to instill confidence and garner excitement for the whole program. 

You may be thinking that this feels a lot like a project plan and too much for a business case. Well, your CFO, COO, and CEO are far less likely to read or listen to you present your project plan and far more likely to pay close attention to your business case. And that business case has to speak their language, meaning it has to address exactly what Ease of Doing Business initiatives are trying to accomplish: not just for customers, but for your business. It also has to comprehensively tackle the risks and rewards of the effort, putting it in the context of the market in which your business operates. All this does not mean you have to create a dissertation. Complete doesn’t mean lengthy. It just means that you have demonstrated thoroughness in thought process and analysis as you MAKE THE CASE FOR EASE OF DOING BUSINESS.

Let us know what you think. If you want help, we’re here for you. Check out the Ease of Doing Business Accelerator

Curtis Bingham

Jeb Dasteel, former CCO of Oracle

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Ease of Doing Business

Apply a Little Human WD-40 to your Customer Friction Problems

Wednesday, October 02, 2019


A good friend and colleague, Anne Bowman, commented on a recent article saying, “We need to create human versions of WD-40” to lubricate away the friction between our company and our customers.

Friction ruins nearly every mating surface, from metal, plastic, and even stones in a river blasted by water over time. WD-40 is often used to lubricate and protect surfaces from moisture which, on metal, can cause friction-inducing rust.

Friction between you and your customers can ruin the relationship no matter how invested you both are in working together. Friction in business processes creates no intrinsic value for customers. If every customer interaction is wrought with friction, bureaucracy, complexity, or wasted time, there can never be real loyalty and certainly not high lifetime value.

What is your WD-40? How can you reduce customer friction or effort and become Easy to Do Business With?

During the past year, Jeb Dasteel, former chief customer officer of Oracle, and I have been interviewing successful CMOs, CDOs, CCOs, and other customer strategy executives to learn what works in reducing friction at the customer interface.

Based on our experiences and interviews, there are a handful of critical capabilities that companies need to deploy to truly become easy to do business with.

The first capability is a strong Customer Advocacy  function. This must effectively and regularly gather the voice of the customer (VOC) with a special emphasis on high-touch assessments of top customers, in real-time. As well, this function must have the ability to determine both the customer and business impact of this feedback. Like peeling an onion, becoming easier to do business with is a process that requires us to distill and prioritize key themes for systemic resolution, progressively tackling issues of increasing difficulty. Strong customer advocacy also requires a strong and steady hand in orchestrating the customer care function across channels and lines of business, as well as an aggressive process for issue escalation and resolution.

Another capability is the Roadmap & Strategy  function. Because customer executives typically don’t own all customer-impacting processes, Ease of Doing Business demands the ability to influence the organization using customer data and business impact to prioritize friction reduction efforts. One of the critical capabilities within the strategy function is the development of leading and trailing indicators that establish the guidewires for the entire organization as focus is applied to driving change, measuring incremental progress in reduction of friction, celebrating successes, and making the inevitable course corrections.

Successful Ease of Doing Business initiatives require a strong Orchestration & Engagement function to drive service recovery, account management, engagement, and customer success processes. Strong customer engagement enables friction hotspots to be easily identified and validated through VOC and advisory councils, and solutions are best tested directly with those customers directly affected.

Perhaps the most important capability in reducing friction and driving Ease of Doing Business is the Analysis & Insights  function. Altogether too often, friction isn’t noticed until the relationship is frayed so badly a rescue is very costly or damaged beyond repair and the customer has left. Strong customer measurements, analytics, and insights are critical.

Distilling a single, comprehensive set of metrics that presents an overall view of Ease of Doing Business is hard work. But the payoff is enormous. In our interviews with CMOs, CCOs, and other customer strategy executives, we’ve found that many are measuring NPS, CSAT, reading verbatims, or polling sales teams, etc. to back into identifying processes that might be adversely impacting Ease of Doing Business or customer effort. However, very few are directly measuring this effectively.

We recommend creating an overall Ease of Doing Business metric that is rolled up from other measures, and a transactional Customer Effort Score that can be surveyed after specific interactions.

The last capability we’ll mention is Employee Engagement & Organizational Change. The most successful customer executives are changing their game by incorporating the Ease of Doing Business and customer effort metrics into employee MBOs. And they are engaging employees across the business in cross-functional teams to fix the biggest issues.

How can you leverage these capabilities to become the human equivalent of WD-40 and not only insulate customers from the biggest sources of friction, but remove them altogether?

What are YOU doing to reduce customer friction? Share your examples in the comment section below!

If you want help..

If you’d like assistance in developing these and additional capabilities, we’ve created an  Ease of Doing Business Accelerator, a 1.5-day workshop designed for senior executives from marketing, customer care, services, other critical customer-facing roles, AND their cross-functional teams. It enables you to work on real customer strategy challenges & opportunities for you plus 3-4 members of your cross-functional team.

You’ll walk away with a clear definition of Ease of Doing Business/effort drivers, an explicit linkage of drivers to operational and financial metrics important to your CEO, and a detailed plan to resolve the highest priority Ease of Doing Business obstacles.

You can attend a public accelerator and benefit from cross-pollination with other non-competing companies or you can bring it in-house to work exclusively on your own strategies.

If you’d like to learn more or join us at the accelerator, please select a  convenient time for a brief call.


View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Ease of Doing Business