Bob Thompson’s Guide to Being Top Performing + Customer-Centric

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In his new book, Hooked on Customers, Bob Thompson offers many practical pointers on what it takes to be exceptionally customer-centric, and why it matters. He shows why the best strategies are value creating, by design, for customers; and why the best firms are the best at execution when it comes to such strategies. “Success is largely a function of execution.”

Effective execution requires learning; which requires metrics that show how customer experiences are impacting business results. You can’t fix execution mistakes that you can’t see.

More often than not, management approaches [and the metrics managers rely upon to manage] fail to have a systemic view of what’s working and what isn’t. Being customer-focused requires being good at several things all at once. In many firms, it’s hard to do. There’s a focus on improving one part of a system without understanding how it relates to others. Being customer focused requires more than just analyses of individual parts of a system; it requires proactive management of how the system as a whole performs. Customer-centric firms conquer this “upgrade the parts” thinking.

He makes the case for using ‘voice of customer command centers’. He notes that it takes a combination of leadership, collaboration, and technology to truly understand and improve customer experiences. This triumvirate provokes the learning needed to be customer centric. And being customer centric doesn’t just mean screwing up less often; not screwing up is hardly a memorable customer experience. Memorable customer experiences are rarely technology-created. Technology is still a poor substitute for human interaction.

Customer-centric firms empower their front-line employees; they give employees the authority, insights, and motivation needed to delight customers. They give their employees more authority and support to create value for customers. And then they back their employees up.

Really liked Bob’s metaphor of technology as “key grip” in enabling valuable customer experiences. “In filmmaking, a “key grip” is the person who manages lighting and camera movement. You don’t see the key grip or the workers (grips), but if they didn’t do their job well your experience would suffer”. Customer centric firms use high tech to be high touch. They ‘get’ that their customers deserve to be served as people, not bar-codes.

How mature is your customer-focus? Roughly 70% of firms are fairly new to the idea of being customer-centric. They’re either targeted on customers or responsive to customers. The remainder are either engaged with customers, or inspired by customers. In how they behave and execute. In how they measure their operational performance. Such firms are abnormal. They’re exceptionally high performing because their customer experiences are better.*

Looking to differentiate your firm from the crowd? Be customer-centric. Read Bob’s practical tips on how to be so.

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The proof of higher business performance from better customer experiences? Consider a portfolio of firms that rated high on customer satisfaction[the ACSI fund]. Investing in such firms from April 2000 to April 2012 yielded a gain of 390% compared with a 7% loss for the S&P 500.

3 COMMENTS

  1. John – I don’t fully agree that memorable customer experiences are rarely technology created. I agree that they don’t necessarily HAVE TO be technology created, but today, it’s hard to imagine a positive customer experience in which technology didn’t play a role – often a significant one. I suppose the answer, in part, depends on how one defines ‘technology created.’ Which requires defining ‘technology’ and ‘create.’ Arrrgggggh. My headache just returned.

    The greater point, though, is how difficult it is today to partition the important roles of the human touch in business transactions and technology. In most instances, one could probably not work well without the other.

  2. Andy, I’ve researched this many times over the past 7 years. When asked to recall a memorable experience, about 70% of the time people talk about interactions with people.

    Technology is most commonly used to automate routine interactions. Like using the ATM or web self service. Hardly memorable these days, except when it fails.

    Put another way, for routine interactions, customers will blame a company when tech fails but won’t give any credit when it works.

    But that doesn’t mean tech isn’t involved behind the scenes. Sometimes employees shine because they are using tools that help provide a better experience. The employee gets credit for the delight, not the tech.

    And tech can be memorable, when it’s used in a new or different way than the norm. At least until it becomes routine. I still think it’s cool that I can order an ebook on Amazon and get in in a few seconds. Or that I can use WiFi on a plane.

    More on this in my article Solving the Digital Experience Conundrum: Three Roles for Technology in Customer Delight.

  3. Andy, thxs for your comment. Bob, agree with your perspective.

    IMO, there’s a huge need for more ‘key grip’ technologies in complex situations where the adept behavior of empowered employees is the key determinant of the value of the customer experience. B2B sales is a perfect example. In such situations, the technology has two key ‘behind the scenes’ roles to play:

    1/ help front-line employees have the contexts and info to make seemingly smart choices that should create a quality customer experience; AND

    2/ give employees and their managers feedback, with analytics, on the success with which they’ve done so. If the attempt, this time, to create a valuable customer experience failed, employees need to know it. They deserve the chance to learn from their failures and thereby improve their odds of success with their next interaction.

    What I like about the ‘key grip’ concept is that it’s a perfect fir in situations [like filmmaking and B2B sales] where success occurs from a lot of behind the scenes teamwork. Trust this adds some value. – John

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