Why Do We Give Customer-Centric Planning Such Short Shrift?


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A year or so ago, a prospective financial services client from California contacted my company regarding development of what management called “customer-centric process.” As we explored what executives meant by “customer-centric,” we soon realized that what they were really after was relationship-building gimmicks—the stuff that abjectly fails to build customer relationships. We tried to divert the company into our customer-centric planning process, so the executives could see the world through customer eyes—and learn what building stronger customer relationships would take. No dice. Management had no time for planning. So we passed on this “opportunity.”

More recently, we worked with a Texas-based, North American unit of a global company. Great people. Great attitude toward customers. All hands on deck whenever a customer has a problem. And often horrible customer service as a result of “all hands on deck” because almost everything employees do service-wise is ad hoc and after the fact. Because these well-meaning folks see the world through their eyes, they mistakenly believe that their good intent and “energy” applied to fixing problems constitutes good customer service.

They could not even consider “wasting” valuable management time on customer-centric planning.

Unfortunately, they could not even consider “wasting” valuable management time on customer-centric planning—which is rooted in seeing their relationships through customer eyes. Consequently, they have no vision of what customers consider quality service. Which I can safely predict, based on long experience, is accuracy, consistency and process structure that prevents problems from occurring in the first place. Not “we’ll jump right on it.”

We tried to help. But with even senior management manning the “Band-Aid line,” we couldn’t get them to take the time required to plan to conduct business the customer way.

No time left for planning

If you sense a theme developing here, you’re right. Lack of time to commit to customer-centric planning, especially senior management time, is endemic. Accordingly, many CRM implementations go forward either without the customer-centric strategies that multiple research studies have shown to be the leading contributor to CRM success (and by a wide margin); or with middle management-developed strategies that lack senior management support, when most of us know that implementing CRM without strong management support leads to lots of dead ends—and often the big Dead End.

Bottom line, lack of quality, meaningful customer-centric planning, adversely affects the bottom line of CRM-implementing (or implemented) companies—to the tune of billions and billions of whatever currency you use (OK, billions of yen don’t mean much, but you get the idea).

With all the money at stake, why do we let this happen?

For two very valid reasons, I regret to say.

First, senior managers who have engaged in customer-centric planning have almost surely been disappointed with the outcomes. Why? Because commonly-used planning techniques haven’t kept pace with the migration to a more customer-centric environment. They all assume a “command and control” marketplace where getting customers to do companies bidding is the order of the day. And when companies try to use these dated planning techniques to produce customer-centric strategies, we get a great rendition of the definition of insanity attributed to Freud, Einstein and Benjamin Franklin: Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Use product-centric planning approaches, and you get product-centric outcomes. Simplement.

What’s so different about customer-centric planning methods as opposed to traditional approaches? Here’s just the top line.

Figure 1

Trying to get customer-centric outcomes from a traditional market planning technique is like trying to sink lag bolts with a tape measure.

So that’s one obstacle we have to overcome.

The other is even more straightforward. The marketing planning “process,” as traditionally practiced, is hardly a process at all. Any decent process engineer who analyzes it would upchuck. It’s a series of barely connected activities conducted in nearly random sequence with everyone having to be involved in everything—and it takes frigging forever. Hey, like most senior managers, you have legitimate work to do. You don’t have time to diddle around during presentation after presentation of endless PowerPoint decks; followed by display after display of Excel spreadsheets—all of them looking like the creators vomited data over the page (or slide; you can cross PowerPoint with Excel with deadly results).

So that’s the second obstacle we have to overcome.

Now what?

Well, at High-Yield Methods, we grafted a new vine onto a proven root (as commonly done in wine vineyards). The root is a time-tested and battle-tested customer-centric planning methodology that’s been continually evolving since I built a graduate business course in “micromarketing” around it in the late 1980s. (I couldn’t even name the course what it was back then; the administration would have killed it.) Then we grafted onto the root an entirely new planning workflow and information flow that reduced senior management involvement time down to—are you ready? Two days. Yup, Forty-eight hours. Next, we tested it in live situations. And not only did it work, but also we discovered that the planning outcomes improved over what we customarily experienced with full cycle-time planning. So we gave it a name: “Hyper-Planning.”

Two birds killed with one stone.

Here’s what Hyper-Planning looks like from 20,000 feet.

Figure 2

With proper preparation and facilitation, you’re out in two days—with quality, customer-centric outcomes.

And the best news of all? Hyper-Planning is a razor blade into which you can insert your own planning methodology “blade,” provided that:

  1. Your methodology sees the marketplace through customer eyes, not your eyes.

  2. Your methodology is designed around carefully sequenced discussion topics, which give you the structure needed to avoid free-form (and time-consuming) bouncing from topic to topic.

  3. You’re willing to plan to determine goals, rather than planning to meet predetermined goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about the HYM’s customer-centric planning approach that we insert into the Hyper-Planning framework, visit www.h-ym.com and click on Alignment Tools, then Hyper-Planning.

And good luck out there.


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