CustomerThink Retreat 2007: Advisors Chart the Future


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On June 5-6 at the Seascape Resort in Aptos, California, 16 of CustomerThink’s global Advisors gathered for our annual Retreat. Each year we get together to discuss the top industry issues, how we can collaborate with each other and how to add value to this wonderful community.

This year, Doug Leather came all the way from South Africa, a very long journey! Sampson Lee gets honorable mention with his flight from China. Attending from Europe were Silvana Buljan (Spain), Jay Curry (Netherlands), Graham Hill (Germany) and David Rance (U.K.).

Jim Barnes made the trek from Newfoundland, Canada. Attending from around the United States were Cathy Burrows (North Carolina), Naras Eechambadi (North Carolina), Paul Greenberg (Virginia), John Holland (Massachusetts), Dick Lee (Minnesota) and Jodie Monger (Virginia). Howard Schneider, Jim Sterne, and Barry Trailer all came from various parts of California, as did myself and our managing editor Gwynne Young.

First off, I want to thank our advisors for participating! It was a significant investment of their time, and I sincerely appreciate it. We had a fun time together catching up, and a very productive meeting.

What is a Customer-Centric Business?

This year we used small work groups to delve into what “customer-centric business” means to top management and to specific functional areas of an organization, such as marketing, sales, customer service, and to customer advocates.

Each group drafted a definition, along with key activities and metrics. The key word is “drafted.” You’ll be able to review, critique and improve what the advisors developed. For starters, chime in with your thoughts on What is a Customer-Centric Business, from the CEO’s perspective.

In the coming weeks, we’ll post each of the group’s definition drafts, as discussion starters in our Forum. You can help us shape them into material we can post as a reference on the site.

Using Personas to Develop CustomerThink Requirements

With our new site design and technology platform that we implemented in January, the possibilities are endless for new features to add to the site. But where to begin?

One challenge is that we don’t have one community, we have at least six if you look at the key job functions that we use to categorize content.

For example, CEO requirements are probably different from someone in IT. Marketing, sales and customer service executive may share a common interest in customer-centric business (let’s hope), but have very different objectives when they visit this site.

At least, that was my theory!

To explore this, we split into work groups to create personas—fictitious characters representing different user types that visit Jim Sterne give us a brief tutorial on how to create personas, then each group went to work.

Personas included professional and personal characteristics, objectives for visiting CustomerThink, and key information and other services that would help that persona achieve his/her goals when visiting the site.

The process helped crystallize in my mind that we really need to enable everyone to create a more personalized experience on CustomerThink. Still, there were a few common requirements that popped out of this work.

Tops on the list was the ability to easily form and join peer networking groups, for both online and offline interactions. For example, let’s say you wanted to interact in an online group focused on a hot topic like Web 2.0 or Customer Experience Management. Or organize local meetings of customer-centric marketers.

Another common objective: finding help! For example, by searching a solutions directory of vendors and service providers, posting an RFP, or posting a job opening.

Some personas also wanted quick online assessment tools to benchmark organizational effectiveness in marketing, sales or customer service. Others thought we should provide more case studies and best practices tips.

We’re going to sort through these in the coming weeks, and prioritize via a member survey. But I’d appreciate your comments now. Personas are a great planning aid, but it’s no substitute for hearing from real people—you!

What new information or services would you like to see? Our Advisors are working hard to make this a better community. Please add your thoughts and help us develop CustomerThink into the world’s best community for customer-centric business leaders! Add your comments below.

Role of Gurus in a Web 2.0 World

We originally launched this site (as as a place for people to get answers from industry gurus. But times have changed and increasingly Google, Wikipedia and other online resources are the first place people go to learn about a topic.

At our Retreat we had a spirited discussion about what this means for our Advisors, and indeed, for our site. Personally, as I told the group, I believe the bar has been raised on what it means to be a guru.

  • First of all, in online communities, gurus aren’t usually appointed, they earn their way into a position of trust, respect and recognition. How? By interacting and contributing.
  • Second, instead of gurus being just a source of answers, they should provide more of the leadership of the community, to facilitate community members getting the answers amongst themselves.
  • Third, and of course still very important, gurus must actively contribute via articles, blogs and discussion. In the future, I think it’s going to be tough to be considered a “guru” without blogging.

What do you think the role of gurus should be on our site? And how should they be appointed?

Well, that’s it for my Retreat recap. Thanks again to a great group of Advisors supporting CustomerThink.


  1. I love consulting because I get to spend my working hours in the company of wildly intelligent people. The hard part about being a thought leader is that you end up doing lots of work and don’t get a lot of time to think. Well, Bob – you gave us that time, and brought together all those wildly intelligent people to do it with! I can’t tell you how much we all appreciate you giving us food for thought, food for the body and for the spirit. This is a truly wonderful group of Gurus and you are the Master. I learned so much – I always do. Many, many thanks.


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