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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

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn

Tags:

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. 

Conclusion

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)

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn

Tags:

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

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.

Summary

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

Tags:

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

Tags:

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

Tags:

Categories: Customer Effort | 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

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn

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