Customer Management Trends and what is important in 2014


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It’s that time of the year again when we take out the crystal ball to help us understand the evolving customer management transformation journey. I’ve put together a combination of strategic imperatives and my observations and insights that relate to each of the imperatives

Enlightened leadership will remain a rare trait – yet without it, forget customer-centric transformation:

By and large the executive team will continue to respond rationally to a world which they understand and recognise but which no longer exists (Ben Obeng) and most organisations will continue along the journey of mediocrity, incrementalism and better sameness. Enlightened leaders, on the other hand, will focus on finding new ways to create, to deliver and to capture value through the lens of the customer, rather than through the lens of the current business model, and will deliver a unique and distinctive customer experience through empowered employees who ascribe to a culture, rather than a rule book.

Living Company Values really matters:

Having a non-negotiable set of values that is strictly adhered to and carries much greater weight than individual performance, is the secret sauce. Businesses that abdicate the customer experience (albeit with good intentions) introduce randomness and inconsistency. Not the way to get people to sit up, take notice and talk about you. Values will, in general, remain nothing other than a ‘words’ which are not part of organisational DNA.

Clarity as to what you stand for, AND what you stand against:

Have a good story about what your brand, product and/or service experience stands for and what that means. Equally important, have a story that also creates clarity about what your brand, product and/or service experience stand against. Metro Bank, a UK high street bank launched in July 2010, exists to provide excellent customer service. They stand against ‘stupid bank rules.’ – this means that they design every procedure around what works for customers, rather than what suits them.

It’s all about Systems Thinking:

Most organisations won’t ‘get this.’ Customer management is systemic in nature – the enterprise needs to be viewed as a whole, comprised of many parts or functions, yet at the same time it is more than the sum of the individual parts – each part (or function) affects the behaviour of the whole. No part (or function) has an independent effect on the overall enterprise and the overall enterprise has properties which none of the parts have. Going to market with a customer-centric business model requires an understanding of the ‘interaction’ of the functions and the resultant capability of the entire enterprise.

It’s about Insight:

Whether small data or big data, it’s about generating as much relevant insight as possible. Multiple sources of information gathering in structured and unstructured format, in real time across multiple platforms, text analytics and the technology infrastructure support deeper insights that together, enable more effective planning.

Strategy must include, and focus on, ALL drivers of customer value:

Think REAP. There are only 4 drivers that you can use to increase the profitability of customer based activities. Retain more customers for longer, focussing on the best customers. Manage, and decrease (in some deserving cases, increase based upon predictive value models) customer related costs – Efficiency. Acquire a better mix of customers and develop (Penetrate) both the direct and indirect financial value of all customers (up-sell; cross-sell, advocacy, word of mouth).

Most businesses won’t optimise their balance across these drivers

Talent: It’s all about people:

When hiring look for candidates with a questioning disposition (constantly challenging), a connecting disposition (people connecting/colliding to solve challenges), expression of vulnerability (building trust based relationships) and a strong narrative (key driver of success.) Hire people who don’t need support and then support them as much as you can (Google). Consider the impact on the business model of millenials moving into management at a very early age – e.g. Google & Facebook.

Understand the customer journey in detail and be clear as to where you will create your ‘high contrast’ signature experience:

You can’t be the best at absolutely everything so be absolutely clear as to what you want to become known for. At which moments of truth or touchpoint do you want to be 10x better than your nearest competitor? Focus your attention at delivering profound excellence in a specific area and spend less time and money developing a ‘little bit’ of excellence across all touchpoints. Customers don’t notice and don’t care much for incrementalism.

Measures – stop fooling yourself that a measure like CSAT or NPS can drive your customer-management strategy:

Many organisations will fail in this regard. As with any good dashboard, a set of measures are required. You’re fooling yourself if you think ‘a single question’ is sufficient. A blend of measures, leading and lagging, is required. Really important is to have a measure of internal customer management capability that recognises the ‘system.’ Also important is to measure customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction (you can’t be customer-centric if you’re not employee-centric), NPS and customer effort. Understand the interdependencies across these measures; absolutely critical for strategic refinement.


What? You’ve got to be joking! We have processes to adhere to and internal SLA’s.

Time is one of the most precious resources of any enterprise and of clients/consumers. Strategic agility is the ability to capitalise on opportunities and dodge threats with speed and with assurance. Without agility you lose the capability to ‘leap-frog’ competition and react nimbly to changing market dynamics and customer needs.

Content is king:

Today’s customer is content thirsty, yet also very discerning of what they view, read and share. Great content is the keystone of digital success, yet sustainable content generation is most often not given the prioritisation it needs

Innovation comes from anywhere. Encourage & Harness it:

This is one of the nine core principles of innovation at Google. It calls for the development of an Innovation Culture. Innovation can come from the top down as well as bottom up, and in the places you least expect. For example, a medical doctor on Google’s staff argued persuasively that Google had a moral obligation to extend help to those typing searches under the phrase “how to commit suicide.” He ignited the charge to adjust the search engine’s response so that the top of the screen reveals the toll free phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The call volume went up by nine percent soon thereafter. The same change has been adopted in many other countries.


This requires an ‘outside-in’ mind-set supported by client/customer collaboration and co-creation. The idea is not to wait for what you perceive to be perfection because, through the customer lens, it’s unlikely to be. Rather, iterate your experience amongst a ‘test segment’ of client or customer. Be prepared to fail fast or scale quickly, depending on the outcome.

Your thoughts?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Doug Leather
Doug is a leading expert in Customer Management working globally with large blue-chip organisations. He is best described as a Customer Management Evangelist/Activist as a result of his broad multi-industry and multi-country insights into customer management capability understanding, best practice application, customer experience, business models and business performance improvement. He is a Wharton Business School Alumnus.


  1. Thanks Doug – a good and varied list there!

    On the insight note, I think a lot of businesses are struggling with the challenge of actually seeing value from the much-promoted Big Data trend. You mentioned structured and unstructured data yielding insight – and its important that on both, but particularly the latter, that a few points of easily-achievable value are found, such that it can be proved.

    I would approach this by deriving customer insight from the unstructured data that is the log of interactions with…. your content! You have a list of customers (identified or anonymous) and the pages they have viewed. Right now it might possibly be used for a recency/frequency/dwell-time analysis. So why not turn that unstructured data into a simple interest profile for every customer, based on what they have read? That can be used for modelling segments (B2C), or for providing context on a lead (B2B), or much more…


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