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Innovation Must Begin with Customers

Monday, February 10, 2014

The new reality is that innovation must start with customers. To effectively leverage innovation to fuel customer-centric growth, companies need to do three things:

Develop and regularly refresh an extraordinarily deep understanding of customers’ needs, wants, desires, and attitudes regarding their products, services, and the company itself

It isn’t too hard to find out what customers need, want, and are willing to pay for these days: customers are demanding to be heard, across an unprecedented proliferation of channels and platforms. Unfortunately, not nearly enough companies make sufficient effort to systematically capture and utilize available customer insight, choosing instead to operate “from the gut”, or rely upon outdated third-party research.

To effectively listen, you must speak with and learn from customers, vendors, partners, and others, wherever they can be found. You need to scour the social web, public forums, and user communities to woo influential users, bloggers, exemplars and advocates who can meaningfully contribute to your growing body of knowledge. Of course you need to solicit information about product issues, too, but there is far more than that to be gained. You must delve deeper into customer attributes, perceptions, dissatisfiers, and how they reflect upon your business processes. That data will enable you to quantify, justify, and defend the value you provide. It will also help you fortify customer purchase and retention drivers, as well as to discover new, profitable opportunities.

Assign executive champions for innovation initiatives

Great leaders are those who can recognize significant innovation and successfully evaluate it, vet it with customers, and commercialize it. Executive leadership alone has the ability to understand potential, forswear risk, fund great ideas, and remove obstacles. Companies must create executive-level support for well-qualified initiatives so they see the light of day and have a chance to contribute to the company’s bottom line. As well, these contributions must be formally measured and rewarded to ensure that the desired results are achieved. 

The CCO Roadmap identifies innovation as one of the key responsibilities of the chief customer officer (CCO). The CCO is in a unique position from which to identify, evaluate, and refine customer-centric innovations to ensure the greatest success. World-class CCOs have at their fingertips data identifying the most valuable and profitable customers whose needs are most important to consider. In addition, these CCOs have the strongest B2B customer connections and the greatest B2C credibility to garner participation in customer listening activities that discover, test, and refine innovative ideas. Leveraging their in-depth customer understanding, CCOs can effectively ground the most promising innovation efforts in reality.

Create a unified process for identifying and qualifying new opportunities for products, services, markets, or segments

With the seemingly unending supply of new business opportunities, how do you go about evaluating them all to determine which ones are viable? For Proctor & Gamble, the process was relatively straightforward: it identified the five biggest customer issues for each its divisions and then spent time with key customers to identify the desired experience around each issue. It then began to source solutions from innovation marketplaces, evaluating each according to potential profit contribution, strategic fit, and overall improvement to the desired customer experience. While your process may be different, the most important thing is to ensure that there is a unified process that everyone in your organization understands and can follow.

It is clear that sustained, profitable innovation must come from customers. Those companies that strive to intimately understand their customers’ needs, wants, and desires and profitably satisfy them better than their competitors are those who will win in the customers’ eyes and in the marketplace. Let your customers guide your next strategic move so you can grow profits as you attract more of the best customers and keep them longer. 

This blog post is excerpted from Curtis's full-length article, Innovation Starts With Customers. Visit our Exclusive Resources page for other articles by Curtis.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Engagement | Customer Insight | Innovation

Customer Engagement Models: Riot Games

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Many companies today have developed paths to greater engagement and greater profitability through recruiting the involvement of their customers. To restate the definition of engagement: it is the extent of a customer's willingness to invest his/her discretionary time for a mutual benefit, and particularly for the benefit of a business.

Established in Southern California in 2006, Riot Games is a US-based publisher best known for its multiplayer online battle arena title, League of Legends. As a testament to the level of engagement Riot Games has achieved with its player base, today the average percentage of new players that come through word of mouth is between 85 and 90%. A significant contributor to this engagement is structural: Riot created a game that's simply more fun to play with friends. Players recruit their friends to play with them because they enjoy a better gaming experience.

One of Riot's most outstanding examples of player engagement can be found within the process by which it enables its player community to recognize and manage negative in-game behavior, called the Tribunal. The game is played in sessions that last anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes at a time. At the end of each session, if a player behaved exhibited any unsportsmanlike behavior such as berating teammates or name calling, the other players can report him. When enough reports are filed against an individual - a number based upon the ratio of reports filed to total games played - a case file comprised of chat logs (in game instant-messaging), statistics, game data, activity, etc. is generated.

This case is displayed at random to members of the tribunal; other players in the community who have voluntarily chosen to participate in regulating and weighing in on community behavior. Through the constructive feedback of peers, Riot attempts to optimize teamwork, cooperation and positive player experiences. The best outcome is for a player to never show up at the tribunal again. Therefore, all systems are designed to adjust, not punish, behavior by allowing players equal ability to reward their peers for positive behavior by 'honoring' them after a game. When players do actually get punished, they are sent all the details in their case files: what they did, how others felt about it, why it had a negative impact on player experience, and why it was bad.

In Riot's example, it is peers - fellow players - who are applying and enforcing standards of appropriate gaming behavior; they are devoting their discretionary time to preserve the quality of experience for everyone. This strengthens the community, gives it greater credibility and authority, and at the same time frees company resources to be spent on more valuable opportunities. It also fosters greater engagement by players and a stronger commitment to the game's ecosystem.

*This post is excerpted from The Bingham Advisory: The Customer Engagement Trajectory, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

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Categories: Customer Engagement | Customer Insight | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention

Customer Engagement Models: Oracle

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oracle has hundreds of thousands of customers and dozens of customer programs. It measures customer engagement of its biggest accounts on an account-by-account basis. The company focuses on those top accounts that, combined, contribute the clear majority of Oracle’s annual revenue. The company has identified the eight customer programs that have the highest correlation to satisfaction, loyalty, referenceability, and revenue. The measure of engagement then is the number of these programs in which a top customer participates.

Overall engagement is measured along a continuum that begins with the transactional buyer (least engaged), increases through the buyer who is engaged in customer programs, further increases through the buyer who is partnering with the company on product roadmaps and strategies, and culminates in the buyer who is an advocate for the company (most engaged). Participation in only a couple of key programs places a customer at the transactional end of the continuum; participation in most of them places a customer at the advocate end. The company continuously measures revenue across key customers because it believes that it is easier to gain incremental revenue from existing customers than to acquire new customers and it has determined that there is a cause and effect relationship between engagement and incremental revenue. In fact, Oracle’s most-engaged are generating approximately three times the revenue of transactional buyers.

Oracle is actively partnering with their customers to improve the business. More than 7,000 of Oracle’s customers are involved in some sort of an advisory board. Some of them are executive level advisory boards, and some are product-oriented, defining product features and functionalities. Participants are expected to meet minimum meeting participation requirements. Should people be unable to participate, Oracle will allow the customer to retire from that board to make room for a more active participant.

At the advocacy end of Oracle’s engagement continuum, more than 600 Oracle customers were involved in a significant speaking engagement on the company’s behalf during fiscal year 2013. Those 600 are of the over 15,000 customers who are actively involved in referencing for Oracle under an agreed-on, individualized customer reference plan. Engagements range from Oracle’s own OpenWorld conference to participating in an advertising or product launch campaign or leading a best practices discussion with other customers and prospects. A significant segment of those speakers are senior level executives--influential people from influential brands.

Oracle also examines what content is created when determining how engaged its advocacy-level customers are. Content can come in many forms, including written and video content. During fiscal year 2013, in total Oracle produced almost 5,000 pieces of content with its engaged customers, including testimonials, case studies, fact sheets, videos, and advertisements. Furthermore, Oracle measures two facets of advocacy in its engaged customers. The first applies to customers that are even willing to engage in advocacy activities, whether or not they actually do so. The second applies to customers that are not only willing, but also actively involved in advocacy efforts such as developing content or speaking.

In summary, Oracle’s efforts are focused on engaging as much as possible those customers who are among the top contributors to annual revenue and who are already demonstrating a willingness to engage in customer programs. The company further targets customers on the basis of how much of what they spend is potentially attainable by Oracle. Finally, Oracle also looks at systematically increasing engagement with customers who represent the strongest brands in the world. Underpinning all of Oracle’s customer engagement efforts is the conviction that increasing the percentage of the customer’s spend with Oracle is more profitable than acquiring new customers.

*This post is excerpted from The Bingham Advisory: The Customer Engagement Trajectory, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

 

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