Combine “Manage My Stuff” with Benchmarking & Peer Community?


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Customers Want to Manage Their Stuff.

There are many areas of our personal and business lives in which we value e-tools (mobile and/or online apps) that make it easy for us to keep track of things, get relevant updates, categorize and classify, organize and allocate, save money, and improve our effectiveness and our bottom lines. Examples include managing your money, your health, your fitness, your vehicle(s), your capital equipment and software configurations, and your relationship with just about any supplier whose products and services you use regularly.

BofA-Single-View-of-Accounts Recently, we’ve been conducting a series of B2C and B2C customer experience audits on how easy it is to “Manage my Stuff.” Starting in July 2011, Ronni Marshak has audited and reviewed the branded “manage my stuff” experiences at Amazon (B2C), Staples (B2B), and, this week, Bank of America (B2C).

Customers Want to See Where They Stand & Compare Notes with Others. At the same time that we’ve been doing online customer experience audits, we’ve been observing, interviewing, and facilitating group meetings with many of our clients’ B2B customers. Here’s an interesting pattern we’ve observed across industries: customers want to manage their stuff, benchmark their performance to others in the same situation, troubleshoot problems, and get and offer advice.

Your customers definitely want self-service tools that enable them to “manage their stuff” on your portals or web sites. They also want to be notified or alerted when certain events occur. The kinds of notifications people want differ greatly by role (managing operations, budgeting, strategic planning, etc. ) and by personality (proactive vs. reactive; want to see anomalies only, or see the status of only specific things, and so on). We’ve discovered that customers also value the sharing of best practices, collaborative problem-solving, and root cause analysis in and around their stuff!

The Emergence of Data-Driven Peer Communities. It appears that many customers want to combine online community with their peers (people in the same situation/and roles) based on the data and analysis they’re seeing about their assets and their situation. The good news is that there’s huge value to both the customers and the suppliers who offer this sort of data-driven analysis and best practices sharing. It’s really valuable for a supplier to know exactly what their customers have and what they are doing with what they have. It’s really valuable for customers to see how well they’re doing compared to others who share similar profiles and contexts. And it’s valuable for customers to be able to improve or enhance their performance by learning from others.

Why Segregate Customers’ Transactional Data from Peer Benchmarking and Best Practices Sharing? What’s interesting about this pattern is that very few customer self-service sites actually work the way in which customers seem to want to interact with their assets. Usually, we provide a “place” where our customers can self-serve and manage their relationships with us and with their/ our products and services. Then we offer another “place” where customers can interact with one another, troubleshoot and diagnose problems, and explore and learn new things from one another. Yet many of the discussions that customers want to have with one another are data-driven. “This is the configuration I have and this is the symptom I’m seeing; has anyone else had the same issue?” Or, “Wow, I just saved a ton of money by doing X with Y!”

As I read through Ronni Marshak’s Customer Experience Audit to see how well Bank of America helps consumers manage their money, I remembered an online community site——that does many of the same things. It lets you aggregate your spending and income from a variety of sources, helps you see where your money is going, and helps you create a budget based on your spending patterns and goals. But the key difference with is that it’s an online community site, so you can compare your spending with others in your same income bracket and demographic, and you can seek and offer advice. Here are some examples of recent questions asked and answered:

I have the ability to pay off all of my credit card debt this week. What’s better for FICO – paying it all off, or leaving a small balance?

Is there any reason to have a brick-and-mortar bank account, instead of an online bank & a credit union?

Pay off the car or invest in the market?

I’m not promoting as something you should use. I’m not convinced that it’s a good idea to aggregate all of your financial information in one place in the cloud. But I am interested in the fact that it’s a good example of the kind of information sharing and discussions that customers seem to want to do and have around “their stuff.”

Mint is just one of a number of online financial aggregation sites. It became quite popular a few years ago and was acquired by Intuit in the Fall of 2009. Now has supplanted Intuit’s online version of Quicken (Intuit’s popular personal financial management program). Quicken customers are quick to point out that Mint doesn’t offer many of the features they’ve come to expect from Quicken—such as the ability to manage the finances for multiple members of a household. customers also complain that the updates from their various third-party accounts aren’t always timely. But it is a free service. I anticipate that Intuit will offer a premium version of that does a better job of meshing with Quicken’s more powerful and fully featured offline capabilities, while preserving the ability for customers to benchmark themselves against their peers, to problem-solve, and to share best practices.

Suggestion: Combine Your “Manage My Stuff” Tools with Data-Driven Benchmarking and Peer Collaboration for a State of the Art Customer Experience

So here’s our advice: don’t build a standalone self-service portal, web site, or mobile phone app. Design an integrated set of tools that let’s customers organize and manage their information, assets, and relationship in the ways that work for them. Make sure that your site includes a rich and evolving ontology for how your customers classify and organize the products and services you offer and the ways they use them. This ontology/customer-driven classification scheme will evolve over time. It will form the basis of the benchmarking and comparisons customers will find useful and valuable. You’ll gain amazing insights into how customers think about and use your products and services. You’ll both gain huge value out of seeing the best practices and usage patterns that emerge.

How Well Does Bank of America Help Me Manage My Money Online?
Customer Experience Audit of BoA’s Capabilities to Help Customers with Financial Best Practices
By Ronni T. Marshak, Executive VP and Senior Consultant, August 18, 2011

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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