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Engage Your Customers to Sustain Ease of Doing Business

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Early in this series, we talked about the Customer Performance Framework , which defines a set of capabilities that enable outcomes ensuring “customer performance.” Customer performance is about putting the right attention on your greatest asset: your customers. When you orchestrate key capabilities across your organization with the goal of delivering substantial value for your customers you give those customers all the right incentives to be your greatest advocates. And the return on that asset will be incremental revenue and incremental margin.

There are many different capabilities described in the framework. In combination, those capabilities support the outcomes or objectives, we have talked about: customer acquisition, retention, effort (ease of doing business), engagement, adoption, value, and brand advocacy. 

To date, in this series, we’ve focused singularly on Ease of Doing Business. Customer engagement plays a crucial role in sustaining Ease of Doing Business. We’ve identified a handful of our favorite customer engagement programs that are especially helpful to Ease of Doing Business:

  • Account Management : Simply put, great account management can paper over almost any problem from an Ease of Doing Business point of view. The best account managers intervene on behalf of their customer (ideally without their customer even knowing about it) and advocate, head-off issues, resolve problems as they arise, and proactively develop partnership models that continuously strengthen the relationship and enrich both parties. Strong account management is foundational and must be programmed across all tiers of the customer segmentation strategy. A strong account team or function, supported by strong tools and processes, eases the burden on the customer across almost every dimension of the relationship and across almost every interaction. But account management can’t be the sole Ease of Doing Business facilitator.
  • Coordination of Resources Across Lines of Business : Strong account management will, of course, help this, but beyond the team assigned to work with a particular customer, there needs to be a process for how all front-office and back-office team members work together (versus independently) to service customers, collectively. Basic rules of engagement are key. Standard processes, tools, and metrics are necessary as well. 
  • Orchestration of Customer Care : Especially in complex global B2B situations, even customer care—which is designed to be a solution to a problem—can often be THE problem. You can have multiple geographies and lines of business, and even product lines, simultaneously trying to resolve a problem but in the process making matters worse. Thus, customer care functions need to be highly orchestrated with an eye toward simplifying the interaction for the customer when things inevitably go wrong.
  • Executive Sponsorship : Relationships are the nutrient that nurtures partnerships, enables transactions, and permits growth. In a business setting, we need to be deliberate about how we develop and maintain partnerships at various levels. A robust executive sponsorship program is the backbone of an organization’s ability to manage relationships between its executives and its customers’ executives. The strength of those relationships will form the basis for addressing Ease of Doing Business challenges head-on.
  • Communications Strategy: Having a communications strategy that addresses both the reactive situations and how to proactively connect with your customers will make an enormous impact on Ease of Doing Business for your customers. As this is written, a certain cable company is not communicating with me in any sort of productive manner about my internet service being down (going on 36 hours now). To get updates on when the problem will be fixed, I’m instructed to text ‘update’ to them. I do that and either get nothing in response or an ever-changing estimate or ‘currently, there is no estimated time for when this service will be restored.’ We’ll just say this is the exact opposite of Easy to Do Business With and leave it at that.
  • Advisory Councils: A multi-tiered program of advisory councils, where you have product-feedback councils for your engineers or product designers, industry or market councils for your go-to-market teams, and executive councils for your top management will help with relationship building, provide invaluable feedback, and even secure deals. There are straightforward rules for managing these programs effectively, but it’s mostly about investing in a great learning experience, solid planning (4-6 months lead-time), and getting the exact right people in the room. After that, it’s all about keeping the conversation at a strategic level. Invariably, the feedback will be 70% on Ease of Doing Business. When you fix these customers’ challenges, they will be your greatest advocates.
  • Product Adoption Strategies: Without a deliberate strategy to help your customers push and ease the adoption of your product throughout their organization, whatever objectives they sought when buying your product in the first place will not be achieved. Ease of Doing Business is meaningless without pervasive product adoption.
  • Value Realization: The sooner you are able to help your customers target business benefits, track their progress toward realizing those benefits, and measuring the actual attainment of them, the better off your customer will be—and the better off you’ll be. Modeling your customer interactions around how you help that customer achieve real OUTCOMES is the single most important thing you can do to be a real partner. That, in turn, will yield incremental revenue and most likely margin returns for you. As well, this will create stronger, referenceable customers willing to become powerful brand advocates. This may well be the most elemental approach you can take to address Ease of Doing Business for your customer. 

In summary, you can think about Ease of Doing Business in two ways: first, how to identify and address the key challenges you are facing today; and then what are the programs and capabilities needed to sustain Ease of Doing Business, as portrayed in this graphic:

These capabilities, or programs, service Ease of Doing Business over the long haul. Where to begin is always a great question, which we have addressed a number of different ways over the past couple of months.

If you’d like to continue the dialog or if you’re interested in learning more, check out our Ease of Doing Business Accelerator here .

Until next time,

Curtis & Jeb

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Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Engagement | Ease of Doing Business

Your CEO Only Cares About Results

Monday, November 04, 2019


We can talk about customer strategy until we’re blue in the face. But at the end of the day, your CEO only cares about RESULTS. 

Executives who are too process-focused on things like journey maps, customer experience, NPS, and Design Thinking are failing to translate their initiatives into business results. They’re not able to point to the revenue they’ve contributed to bringing in. Or profits they’ve helped increase. Or even severe customer problems they’ve resolved that led to customer turnarounds, incremental revenue protection, and margin improvement. In short, these executives are at serious risk of being irrelevant to the CEO.

This article shows you how to translate your Ease of Doing Business strategy into a detailed action plan you can take to your CEO and get funded. And ensure you can demonstrate relevant ROI.

Previously on Ease of Doing Business

As all good TV series must begin, “Previously on…” We’ve written fairly extensively about Ease of Doing Business in our series of articles covering: 

  1. Why it is so important for you to  focus RIGHT NOW on Ease of Doing Business  
  2. How  buyers and sellers think very differently about Ease of Doing Business —and how that difference can sabotage your efforts
  3. The most  common causes of friction  that upset your customers and prevent your revenue/profit growth
  4. The  critical organizational capabilities  you must find or develop to successfully become easier to do business with
  5. How to  build a business case  around Ease of Doing Business to convince the CFO and CEO to invest
  6. Critical success factors  that enable you to become easier to do business with
  7. How to  discover Ease of Doing Business Hotspots , or the most egregious issues that are creating friction for customers, impairing revenue and profits, and preventing growth.

Creating an Overriding Vision for Hotspot Resolution

In our most recent article, we identified and prioritized a number of Ease of Doing Business hotspots that are frustrating customers. We’ve chosen the low-hanging fruit: those that have a high impact on customers and are relatively easy to implement, according to a number of criteria we laid out. 

Now how do you make these urgent hotspots actionable and fix them for customers?

Describe Hotspot Outcomes and Success Measures

While breaking down hotspots into specific initiatives, and to ensure those initiatives stay on point, you need to create a clear description of ideal outcomes and what success means for each of the chosen Ease of Doing Business Hotspots.

Within your cross-functional teams, ask yourselves:

  1. What does a successful end-state look like? 
  2. How will customers experience the future state differently? 
  3. How will employees see it differently? How will our business be better off? 
  4. And how will you measure it?

Spending a few moments describing the ideal future state from the perspective of each stakeholder will ensure everyone working on the project downstream will have a clear picture of what they’re working towards.

For example, an insurance company we have worked with found a huge Ease of Doing Business hotspot. Their customers were complaining about having to spend too much time on the phone to obtain updates, claim status, or other updates. The company set out to decrease customer effort in interactions by driving one million customer hours out of their contact center. This is a perfectly clear future state and a great success metric that everyone in the company can understand. 

Break Down Hotspots into Initiatives

Armed with a clear understanding of what the future looks like for each Ease of Doing Business Hotspot, it is time to break each hotspot down into specific initiatives that can be managed by a cross-functional Tag Team. 

As you examine the hotspots, you need to perform root-cause analyses to ensure you’re not working on mere symptoms. Remember that high-effort experiences often begin WAAY upstream. 

One company was experiencing 33% annual customer churn. Interviews with customers, sales, and customer care showed that the problem wasn’t about poor customer rescue and retention processes in customer care. Instead, the churn problem began in marketing and sales an entire year before the customers churned. 

The sales team was selling very complex network hardware to companies that didn’t have sophisticated IT staff. Product complexity quickly overwhelmed inexperienced IT staff. 

The short-term answer was to help marketing and sales target and qualify companies with more mature IT organizations. The longer-term answer was to create a more intuitive and automated product interface that didn’t require such in-depth training and experience in network traffic analysis.

Similarly, another company was experiencing huge spikes in call center volume. Analysis indicated these spikes always occurred within 5 days of mailing monthly billing statements. The overall hotspot goal was to decrease the spikes and overall call center traffic by 10%. 

The most successful initiative was to change monthly billing statements to include ONLY inserts and language relevant to customer recipients, rather than inserts and disclaimers for ALL states in which the company did business. 

Engage Process Owners and Customers

As you seek the root cause, it is especially helpful to engage process owners, front-line employees who feel the pain that customers do, and especially customers. The more you can engage customers to help diagnose and treat your hotspots, the closer you’ll be to solutions that truly benefit customers.

Be specific in enumerating how you will engage employees AND customers in defining, developing, and proving the initiative.

Define Impact Statements

For each initiative, be specific in describing: 

  1. Impact of the initiative on customers
  2. Impact on employees
  3. Impact on company
  4. Ease of deployment
  5. Measures of success

Set Reasonable Goals and Timeframes

We recommend no more than 5-10 big initiatives to be pursued at a time. Any more than this and you end up stretching your precious resources too thin and you risk taking too long to demonstrate results. 

You should ideally structure your initiative so your teams can complete it within one quarter. This helps you create a sense of urgency and build powerful momentum. On rare occasions, an initiative might span two quarters. 

Build the Project Plan

Once you have the initiative defined and scoped, it is time to create an action plan that will guide the implementation going forward.

The action plan needs to include a list of key actions to be taken, person(s) responsible, and completion deadline. 

Outline the Change Management Imperatives

This is also the time to consider critical success factors for change management:

  1. Who is the executive sponsor? 
  2. What are the risks? 
  3. Who is potentially an obstacle to the successful completion of this initiative? 
  4. What other resources might be necessary? Are there capabilities we don’t have and need to rent, buy, or build?
  5. How will customers be engaged? Employees?

Create the Scorecard

It is very important to create a scorecard for this action plan. How will this action plan contribute to the overall Hotspot outcomes and success criteria? What does success look like? 

How will customers be involved in evaluating success? Will you call them? Survey them? Involve them in the analysis, development, and testing? How will this initiative contribute to your overall Ease of Doing Business score or your customer effort score? 

Finalize the Business Case

Before wrapping up, we need to revisit and finalize the business case and ROI estimates. What are the costs that might be incurred as you execute the action plan? Consider both hard cost investments and soft-costs in terms of people-time for those working on the project.

Validate the Action Plan

Before we can consider the action plans set in stone, you need to validate the plans with executives, process owners, and especially, customers. 

Customers can be particularly valuable not only in ensuring that the changes you plan to make solve actual problems but also in helping gain buy-in from the organization. 


While it does take some time and effort to develop a well-conceived strategic plan, preparing with this level of detail is the most effective way to convince the CEO and CFO to support and fund your customer initiatives. This level of detail is incredibly valuable when cross-functional teams grow beyond your immediate span of control and are empowered to execute without your involvement. And this rigor helps you measure your outcomes so you can prove ROI to your CEO and improved Ease of Doing Business for your customers. 

If you haven’t already, check out the  Ease of Doing Business Accelerator . It is a very intensive 1.5 day workshop that helps you and your team discover hotspots and translate them into action plans in which you can get your CEO to invest. We’d love to have you join us in either a public version or one private to YOUR company. 

Curtis Bingham

Jeb Dasteel (former CCO, Oracle)

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Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Engagement | Ease of Doing Business

Ease of Doing Business: Do You Know What’s Driving Your Customers Away?

Monday, September 23, 2019



Ease of Doing Business: There is quite a lot written about this at the macroeconomic level. The World Bank measures Ease of Doing Business for 190 countries, based on detailed characteristics including how hard it is to start a new business, labor market regulations, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, trading across borders, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts. This follows the whole lifecycle of a business in each of these countries:

Source: World Bank “Doing Business 2019” Report, 16thEdition, The World Bank Group

It struck us when we looked at this that there are undeniable parallels here to the individual firm and how we look at ease of doing business at the microeconomic level—from the firm perspective and how it relates to the firm’s customers. Starting a business roughly equates to initiating the relationshipbetween buyer and seller. Getting a location translates to establishing the basic infrastructurefor doing business together (how the goods or services will flow). Accessing finance means establishing commercial terms and putting contracts in place. Dealing with day-to-day operations is pretty much just like it sounds: it’s all about transactions and interactions. Lastly, operating in a secure business environment is about dealing with issues and assuring business continuity.

Let’s look at the typical Ease of Doing Business drivers and organize them this same way:

Time and again, as Jeb and I have spoken to or worked with clients, we see these same drivers. In Jeb's experience as chief customer officer at Oracle for 11 years, when he made big improvements in contracting, relationship management (specifically account management), and issue resolution, Oracle made a substantial difference for its customers. Meaning, those tend to be the big levers from a customer perspective.

While we do see a high degree of consistency in what impacts customers, there’s every possibility we are missing something. We’d like your input on what you are experiencing in this one-question survey. Are there Ease of Doing Business drivers we’ve missed in the above list? How would YOU prioritize these? Which ones have the greatest customer impact?

These drivers are the center of our methodology in working with organizations to make them easier to do business with. We’ve worked with and interviewed scores of executives who’ve asked for help in becoming easier to do business with—so we’ve created an Ease of Doing Business Accelerator for top executives and 3-4 members of your cross-functional team to create a specific action plan for YOUR challenges. Join our upcoming session on November 13-14 in Seattle, where we will:

  • Define and prioritize ease of doing business challenges
  • Link each of the Ease of Doing Business drivers to the operational and financial metrics most essential to your CEO
  • Develop an action plan: specific initiatives to address the top priority Ease of Doing Business challenges
  • Create a process for root cause/corrective actions to address Ease of Doing Business needs by customer segment on an ongoing basis

The World Bank's objective is to "drive inclusive, sustainable economic growth.” While we of course want the same thing, our goals are a little simpler—and arguably more achievable. We want to help you understand your Ease of Doing Business drivers and create an action plan that will create greater value for your customers and for you.

We hope to see you in November!

Curtis Bingham, founder and CEO, CCO Council

Jeb Dasteel, former CCO, Oracle

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

Why go digital? Because it is all about the Value of Customer Engagement

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Customers with the best experience generate 140% more revenue. Digital transformation enables greater customer engagement, and therefore greater revenue.

What is the business value of an improved customer experience? CEOs have never responded well when chief customer officers (CCOs) say “Trust me, this is the right thing to do.” In fact, the average tenure of a CCO is only 27 months (recent CCO Council research). Why is this so low? One reason is that some customer executives struggle to demonstrate quantifiable ROI for customer initiatives. When the CEO and CFO are making priority decisions they simply can’t compare the returns for investing in CX improvements with hiring another salesperson.  Or worse, when the company hits a revenue road bump, the CCO’s initiatives and sometimes even the CCO herself are the first to be cut because their value cannot be quantified.

According to research published in HBR by Medallia, customers with the highest CX scores generate 140% more revenue than those with the lowest.

Medallia examined in depth two companies, one transactional and one subscription based. Transactional companies typically measure return frequency and average spend per visit. Subscription-based companies typically measure duration of repeat business, typically through retention, cross-sell, and upsell. They examined customer feedback and experience scores at a point in time, and then actual behavior for the subsequent year. This is important, as one of the downfalls of NPS measurement is that it measures nebulous intent and not actual behavior.

After controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases such as affinity or natural consumption cycles, Medallia found a strong correlation between CX and revenue. Revenue generated by each customer increased significantly with higher CX scores. The customers with the best past experiences generated 140% greater revenue than customers with the worst past experiences.

For the subscription business, customers having the poorest experience stood only a 43% chance of being a member a year later, and were only likely to remain a member for a little over a year. Conversely, those with the best experiences were 74% likely to remain a member a year later, and were likely to remain a member for six years.

Done right, digital transformation promises improved customer engagement, a better experience doing so, and decreased costs to serve. And that’s a compelling argument.

How are you demonstrating the ROI of your customer initiatives and CX programs to your CEO?

P.S. Next question: Would it be valuable to have a discussion about where you need to go next in your digital transformation?

I've created a comprehensive digital assessment that benchmarks against the world's leading companies in six critical dimensions and gives you a prioritized roadmap going forward. I've partnered with Bob Taylor, former CCO of Samsung SDS and present CDO of from.digital, a digital transformation agency to bring this to you.

If you'd like to discuss, please call me at 978-226-8675 or email curtis@ccocouncil.org.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Engagement | Customer Insight | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention

Why Go Digital? Because Your Customers May Already Be There

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A recent HBR article described a 2016 study examining the forecast rate of digital disruption. Executive search firm Russell Reynolds surveyed 2000 C-level executives in 15 industries, asking them to describe the expected rate of digital disruption during the coming 12 months.

Executives expect digital disruption to be the most severe in B2C industries, particularly in media. 57% of Technology execs expect moderate or massive digital disruption. My personal conversations with chief customer officers (CCOs) confirm that B2B industries are not far behind. Oracle, facing considerable pressure from SaaS providers and other competitors, recently moved 90% of their business to the cloud.

The research indicates that industries most vulnerable to digital disruption are those that have low barriers to entry and are comprised of large companies with legacy business models. Digitally agile competitors gain greater economies of scale and capture greater value by automating expensive processes. A recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers said that approximately "86 percent of respondents said they prefer using self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative." Thus, many digitally agile competitors are providing self-service re-ordering and saving money while providing a better customer experience.

Where are you at? I'd love to hear how would you answer the same question: In your industry, what level of digital disruption are you expecting during the coming year: none, low, moderate, or massive?

P.S. Next question: would it be valuable to have a discussion about where you need to go next in your digital transformation?

I've created a comprehensive digital assessment that benchmarks against the world's leading companies in six critical dimensions and gives you a prioritized roadmap going forward. I've partnered with Bob Taylor, former CCO of Samsung SDS and present CDO of from.digital, a digital transformation agency to bring this to you.

If you'd like to discuss, please call me at 978-226-8675 or email curtis@ccocouncil.org.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Engagement | Customer Insight

The Impact of the Chief Customer Officer, Part II

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Last week, I described recent research conducted by the CCO Council into the impact of the chief customer officer on company financials. This week, I discuss the findings in detail and provide recommendations for managing them.

1. Customer Centricity is a two-year investment

Developing and improving customer strategy is a profitable but longer-term investment. It takes at least two years for the CCO's activities to flow through the company and make a significant impact on top- and bottom-line results. Once these results materialize, however, they appear to continue to grow commensurate with the investment. B2C industries tend to see results more rapidly than B2B. Industries with intense competition show heightened impact from the CCO.  

Recommendation: CEOs and Boards must commit from the outset to support and invest in the CCO and his/her initiatives for a minimum of two years to ensure the highest ROI. In turn, CCOs must manage the expectations of the CEO and Board to allow for this two-year probationary period. 

2. The CCO must show contribution to long-term revenue and profitability improvements 

Companies have demonstrated measurable improvements in revenues and profits while employing a CCO. In some cases, overall revenue drops after the CCO's departure. This research shows that the CCO can and should be accountable for improving top-and bottom-line results, although the impact may not be measurable on a quarterly basis.

Recommendation: CEOs should expect the CCO to provide, in addition to intermediate metrics, quantifiable impact on revenue and profits, and ensure the systems are in place to properly track the CCO's contribution. The CCO should begin by providing a clear line of sight from his or her actions to revenue and profitability. In some cases, the CEO and CCO may need to begin by agreeing upon an intermediate goal of driving loyalty and accept academic research proving that loyalty drives revenue and profit. However, this can only be temporary. 

3. In absence of growth, the CCO may help prevent a slide 

In some industries that experienced negative growth, the presence of the CCO helped stem the decline suffered through competitors and maintain revenues/profits through stronger customer relationships and trust.

Recommendation: The CCO must "bank" customer trust and loyalty to protect customers against hard times. CEOs need to take a less transactional view of activities that may pay dividends at a later date. 

4. Everyone says they are customer centric... 

Every company claims to be customer centric, but fewer actually are. Many publicly-stated company policies remain company centric rather than customer centric, and in the end, those whose actions are aligned with their customer needs are more successful.

Recommendation: The CCO should, with the support of the CEO, examine the policies, actions, and restrictions to ensure that customer needs are met on balance with business needs.

This study clearly shows one thing: CCO's are adding value to the bottom line. While growing steadily from fewer than 30 in 2003, CCOs are the newest, and by far the smallest, component of the C-suite. Many companies look at the CCO position and question if they can afford to add it to their C-Suite team, but the numbers turn that question on its head and ask how they can afford NOT to do so.  

Whether you are a company looking to create a CCO position or currently a CCO looking for resources, we invite to you to explore the CCO Council (www.ccocouncil.org) to give you and your company a true competitive advantage.

*This article is the second in a two-part series excerpted from The Impact of the CCO, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Engagement | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention