Customer Experience Management

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Customer ExperienceYou can either create great customer experiences and leverage the benefits thereof, or you can watch poor customer experiences erode your revenue, profits and ultimately your brand equity. I was recently asked the following question: “What is the difference between CRM and CEM, or is there any difference between the two?” In a previous post I addressed the practice of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in fairly great detail. As most of you know I am a huge fan of well conceived CRM initiatives. That said, I have rarely witnessed CRM implemented to its full potential. Most companies can claim an element of success in some aspect of CRM proficiency such as sales force automation, database marketing, development of a knowledgebase, etc., but the reality is that most companies absolutely miss the boat in harnessing the true power of CRM which is improving the customer experience. In today’s post I’ll address a key metric that all companies should be focused on – Customer Experience Management (CEM)… 

Before I go any further let’s get the semantical arguments out of the way…Some will claim that a well conceived CRM initiative includes CEM as a subset. Others will claim that CEM is a stand alone practice differing measurably from CRM, and I actually believe that CEM should drive CRM functions such that CRM is actually a subset of CEM. I believe it is the experience (or promise thereof) that creates and sustains a relationship. The initial concept behind CRM was to integrate experience with management, which was a great idea, but in all practicality, rarely exists in most companies. Oddly enough, I have found that most business people use CRM and CEM inconsistently or worse yet interchangeably…a very big and very costly mistake.

Now that you’re totally confused, let me see if I can clear things up a bit…My belief is that experience has been unknowingly, but nonetheless systematically bled out of CRM over the years by operationally focused “bean counter” types who tend to focus on measuring incomplete and certainly less meaningful data points to begin with (see previous post entitled “Measuring Success“). The focus of these short-sighted bean counters incorrectly place cost savings ahead of the customer experience. In short, most CRM practitioners have traditionally assumed an internal (inside-out), operationally centric approach to customer management and strategy. CRM purists (those who really get it) or CEM practitioners differentiate themselves by assuming an external (outside-in) approach that focuses on customer centricity.

While many companies tout their CRM initiatives, and pride themselves as being customer centric, the reality is their efforts are woefully inadequate. This is because most CRM platforms measure customer interactions solely upon product purchase history and preferences. As should be obvious, this set of metrics is biased not only to product centric data, but also toward historical data, and does not take into account experience or forward looking trends & preferences. CEM focused platforms measure experience data not just product data and focus much of the efforting on forward looking analytics. Misguided CRM practitioners focus on selling more product while true customer centrists who display a bias toward CEM focus on closing the gap between a company’s brand promise and the delivered customer experience.

Just as a mountain climber can choose different routes to the summit, companies can likewise choose different approaches and focus points in how they manage the customer relationship and experience. However as the mountaineer’s choice can influence time, degree of difficulty and the eventual success or failure of the climb, so will a company’s choice between a historical product based platform (CRM) vs. a forward looking experience based platform influence their degree of success or failure.

Oh, and by the way…if you’re a CEO you better have a very clear understanding of what your customers are experiencing at every level of interaction across your enterprise. Great CEOs personally experience their business as a consistent consumer of its services. Richard Branson is a frequent passenger on Virgin flights. Howard Schultz is known to show-up at various Starbucks locations and stand in line to order a coffee to measure the quality of his experience.  Jeff Bezos spends great amounts of time on the Amazon.com website attempting to improve the customer experience, and the list could go on…

In closing, let me leave you with this final example; think of the best restaurant you’ve ever experienced…Chances are it was a restaurant where the owner was present and highly involved in every aspect of the dining experience. Every thing from the first impression when entering the establishment, to the quality of service, to the detail of the ambiance and atmosphere provided, and finally to the presentation and taste of the meal was excellent. This was no accident…it took hard work, careful planning, and extreme attention to detail with a focus on execution…This example is exactly how a great customer experience is created.

Business Model Architecture

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Business Model Architecture
I never cease to be amazed at how many times I receive a “deer in the headlights” stare when I mention the topic of business model architecture to even the savviest of senior executives. While most C-level execs have a general idea of what I’m referring to, it is also quite clear that most can’t even begin to define it, much less articulate the specific constructs of a sound business model. In today’s post I’ll attempt to define what a business model is, and what it is not…

If I decide to peel back the layers, and dig a bit deeper in my attempts at having execs define a business model, what I typically find is that they will confuse business logic and business rules as being a business model when they are simply components thereof. Also, a common response is to confuse a sales engine, fulfillment process, operational process, technology platform, or any number of other areas as business models, where this is not the case. Furthermore, a business plan, strategic plan, marketing plan, capital formation plan, exit plan, etc., are also not business models. My observations over the years simply lead me to draw no other conclusion than there exists a fundamental misunderstanding about what a business model is, about the value they afford, and about the absolute need to have one.

So, since we’ve discussed what a business model is not, let’s now address what it is…A business model is a completely integrated system that aligns core logic, business rules, value propositions, talent and resources, and operational processes in order to catalyze growth in assets (financial and non-financial), competencies, and constituencies, toward the creation of value. Business models must be designed with great care at the outset, but they must also be fluid in order to react to changing market conditions and avoid becoming stagnant. A specific example of this would be that while a company’s business plan may not change for a number of years, the company’s business model consistently evolve, or may even need to be reengineered to insure the execution of its business plan.

Put rather simplistically, a business model is the system that defines what creates value, generates growth, and increases revenue and profit within your organization. The primary advantage that a business model has over any number of other strategic frameworks lies in the fluidity of its inherently dynamic nature. Rather than binding the enterprise to a rigid set of static operating principles and procedures, the elasticity and flexibility of a well defined business model allows the organization to influence necessary inflection points and key business drivers in a real-time manner.

The bottom line in regard to today’s thoughts on business modeling can be summed up in the following three points: 1.) if you cannot define your business model, then you likely don’t have one. 2.) if you don’t have one, create one, and; 3.) if you have one and it isn’t working, you have a flawed business model in need of immediate reengineering.

Play To Win

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Playing to Win
Today’s message is not likely to please the politically correct, nor will it mollycoddle the timid. I’m not going to address competing or playing nicely, rather I’m going to deal very bluntly with the topic of winning. Want to succeed? It’s easier than you might think…just don’t quit. Strip away the excuses, rationalizations, and justifications, and the only thing standing between you and the attainment of your objectives is what you see staring back at you when you look in the mirror each morning. In today’s post I’ll examine the benefits of playing to win…

How quickly time passes…in only a matter of a few weeks we’ll close out the first 3 months of 2010. So I have a few questions for you: Are you on pace to meet your objectives? Will you be carrying positive momentum into Q2, or will you be playing catch-up from the get go? If you think Q1 passed quickly, it won’t be long before you’re feeling the same way about Q2. Did you just show up the last few months, or did you play to win?

I’m a big fan of the Die Hard movies, and the one thing you have to admire about the main character, detective John McClain (played by Bruce Willis), is that regardless of the obstacles he encounters, he just won’t quit. Granted, the aforementioned example of determination against all odds comes from a fictional character, but the fact of the matter is that successful people play to win. They don’t indulge themselves in half-hearted attempts destined for failure, rather they choose to focus all their efforts and energies on accomplishing their mission. 

My first football coach used to say: “Don’t even bother showing up if you’re not going to play to win…” Mind you I tend to be a bit competitive, but even so, that phrase has stuck with me my entire life. I don’t often bother with taking on an endeavor unless I plan to accomplish the task at hand, and that means not quitting until I meet the objective. It is that “refuse to lose” and “never say die” attitude that I picked-up on the playing field, and had further reinforced during my time in the military that provides me with a competitive advantage.

I have found that dedication, determination, attention to detail, commitment, and focus are the traits that have been most valuable to me throughout the years, and are therefore the strengths that I tend to play to. The good news is this…if you examine the aforementioned traits you’ll quickly see that I possess no special skill, and I have no secret tricks up my sleeve. Rather the things that have allowed me to serve my clients well, are things that anyone can harness and leverage if they possess one thing…the desire to do so.

I could certainly paint a more complex picture of what it takes to be successful by citing esoteric management theories, but the truth of the matter is that I just don’t quit until I get the job done. I don’t spend my time complaining about the challenges and obstacles, rather I spend my time solving problems and creating solutions. If my objective is to get to the other side of the wall, I don’t really care if I go over the wall, under the wall, around the wall or through the wall…I just care that I get to the other side. While I might spend a bit of time evaluating the most efficient strategy for getting to the other side of said wall, it will ultimately be my focus on the tactical execution of conquering the challenge that will determine my success. A bias toward action is always a better path than falling prey to analysis paralysis.

I once played an entire half of a football game with a broken ankle, early on in my first entrepreneurial venture I found myself at a critical nexus and chose to liquidate personal assets to meet payroll, I’ve gone as many as 4 days in a row without sleeping to stay the course and solve a critical issue, I’ve led teams to achieve things that others said couldn’t be accomplished, I’ve kept my family a priority being happily married for more than 25 years and having raised two wonderful children, and the list could go on…My point in describing these actions is not to pat myself on the back for anyone could have done these things, but the reality is that most people don’t. They choose to accept defeat…they don’t play to win…They aren’t willing to do what it takes to be successful…They quit. 

Quitting is a temptation that all of us are consistently confronted with. The reason that so many people become a casualty of giving up, is because they can. Put simply, quitting is one of the easiest things to do in life. If you take your eye off the ball, even if only momentarily, that’s all it takes for most people to throw in the towel is a tinge of anger, humiliation, panic, rejection, stress, frustration, hurt, pain, jealousy, sorrow or anguish. Look back on your live, or the lives of others, and you’ll find numerous instances of people who took the easy way out and just quit.

Upon further examination, you’ll also find that the people who have succeeded in life are those people who displayed the grit and fortitude to stay the course. They are the ones who possess the desire and will to overcome whatever challenges and barriers that happen to be placed in their path.

My message to you as we enter Q2 is simply this: Play to win…Don’t compromise your values, define your vision, refine your mission, architect your strategy, identify your objectives, set your goals, implement your tactics and engage in willful, purposeful action. Stay focused and do not quit until you’ve met your objectives…

In Support of Strategy

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

In Support of Strategy
What’s with all the “strategy bashing” of late? How could sound strategic planning possibly be a bad thing? Things have spun so far out of control that I recently had a CEO ask: “Is strategy still relevant in today’s business world, and if so, what role does strategy play in the overall make-up of a CEO’s duties and responsibilities? Let me begin by stating that strategy has never been more relevant than it is today. With all of the current emphasis on tactical execution I guess I understand how a question like this could be posed, but wow, what a sad commentary on the state of executive leadership when a CEO asks whether or not strategy is relevant. In today’s post I’ll examine the role of strategy in business, as well as the CEO’s responsibilities therein…

Let me be as blunt as I can – The issue should not be strategy vs tactics, but strategy and tactics. While separate functions and disciplines, one cannot prosper without the other. Strategy is what provides the tactical road-map, and it is tactical execution that validates and delivers strategy. The noise attempting to lift one up above the other is simply more unneeded rhetoric. The best strategy cannot succeed without tactical execution, and tactical execution is much easier to achieve with the clarity provided by a sound strategy.

With all of today’s emphasis on pleasing investors by meeting short-term financial expectations, it is not at all uncommon for many executives to press for better execution when what they really need is a better strategy. Conversely, other executives change strategic direction when what they should do is demand better execution. The truth of the matter is that a sound strategic plan can be executed with a high probability of success, whereas a flawed strategy is almost impossible to execute profitably.

The emphasis for CEOs needs to be on creating long-term sustainable value for shareholders without sacrificing short-term tactical interests. While in most cases a sound strategy will allow a CEO to have his/her cake and eat it too, if you must sacrifice one over the other, you would be well served to place long-term interests above short-term objectives. History has shown us on many occasions that it is quite possible to win the battle and lose the war. CEOs must learn to fight the battles that need to be won, and not just the ones that are easy to win.

Please read the following statements very carefully…The CEO is often times the chief architect of corporate strategy, and has the ultimate responsibility for assuring the delivery of a strategy, which is consistent with the corporate values and vision. One of the primary duties of the CEO is to communicate, evangelize, and lead the company in the implementation of the corporate strategy. Absent an over abundance of blind luck, a company’s strategic planning process will be critical in the eventual success or failure of the enterprise. CEOs must view themselves as being completely accountable and responsible for the corporate strategy, regardless of whether they were the original architect.

While executives must learn to view strategy and execution as being inextricably linked, they also must come to understand that strategy should always drive tactics. The tendency for some CEOs to let tactics determine the strategy is the classic example of reactive vs. proactive leadership. It also represents a great illustration of letting the tail wag the dog. A lack of strategic focus in dictating tactical initiatives is a ready-fire-aim approach to leadership and will result in higher costs, a perpetual state of chaos, and places a higher emphasis on activity vs. productivity.

There is so much focus on execution these days that it is not uncommon for me to receive a few e-mails each week with headlines that read: “Screw Strategy” or “Tactics before Strategy.” While I’m all for exploiting trends, and I appreciate a good marketing hook as much as the next person, these e-mails from so-called business experts can be both misleading and dangerous to those readers who don’t possess the savvy to understand that they are just being pitched on a product and not being given sound counsel.

As much as some of my direct marketing friends wish it weren’t so, there are certain inevitable truths that do exist in business. Listen, I have no problem with creating velocity and leverage, but as fluid as business is today, most of the “short-cuts to success” being marketed today constitute form over substance. You see business is much like an algebraic formula, in that while there are certainly formulaic short-cuts that can be taken to solve an equation more quickly, the one thing that will provide an incorrect solution 11 times out of 10 is when the order of operation is skewed.

The following visual is one I developed more than 20 years ago, and the interesting thing is that it’s applicationally as sound today as it was back in 1988. The orange horizontal line that cuts the image in half is what I refer to as the leadership line. When working above the leadership line you are working “on the business in a true leadership capacity, and when working below the line you are working “in” the business in more of a management capacity.  While all good leaders spend time on both sides of the line, the most effective leaders spend as much time working above the line as possible. Follow this methodology and the ambiguity surrounding the “why” and “where” to spend your time will start to clear itself up. 

Leading Above The Line

For those of you familiar with my work, you’ll see that I have consistently espoused that a bias toward action and tactical precision are essential to achieving sustainable success. However, I am also clear in my belief that misguided and ill-timed/advised tactics can also create huge problems for any business. The bottom line is that strategy matters, and that as a CEO, strategy is your responsibility. The challenges associated with leading corporate strategy initiatives are not easy, but neither is the burden of leadership. If you’re not up to task at hand you don’t deserve the title of CEO…it is harsh but true.