Customer strategy: Crawl, walk, run

Customer Strategy

It’s early 2017 now. Hopefully you have eyes on a customer strategy for this year. If not — or if you’re in the earlier planning stages of it — let me run through an approach I use with a lot of clients (and have used in my own work in companies). Like much of what I do and speak about, it’s rooted in the five-competency framework. I’ll show you the five-competency maturity map in a second, but you can also think of this customer strategy as “crawl, walk, run.” You won’t necessarily be making the big money at the “crawl” stage — few do — but “crawl” is necessary before you can run, which is where the revenue growth starts to be seen. If you try to skip over “crawl,” i.e. the fundamental aspects of a customer strategy, then when you try to run, you’ll just hit the pavement really hard. Each step leads to the next step, and the ultimate steps lead to the CAGR and customer-driven growth engine you want (and your bosses want from you).

Customer strategy: The five-competency maturity map

Here’s a post about this idea, and here’s the visual:

Jeanne Bliss Customer Strategy

The five steps are:

  • Commit
  • Unite and build
  • Embed
  • Mature
  • Elevate

We’ll run through these now as relates to your customer strategy.

Customer strategy: Commit

This is still in the “crawl” stages. It’s about gaining leadership clarity and commitment to what you’re going to do. They all (your colleagues) need to understand specifically what is ahead. That means strategy, but also day-to-day tasks, their commitment, what it means for their decision-making, and how behaviors might be adjusted. For some seasoned executives who think more about product, price, and process, this customer focus is scary. They may push back. This is one of the big challenges of the work we all do.

I’m blessed to be up to 34 episodes on my podcast, and honestly every guest I’ve had — all 34 — have talked about the essential nature of the commit stage. If you don’t have the buy-in, your customer strategy is dead from the jump.

Customer strategy: Unite and build

You can learn more about this in Chief Customer Officer 2.0but there’s a key point I want to highlight here. People do want to please their boss and look good. This is a common psychological factor of work that we can’t avoid. Oftentimes, in trying to do that, CCOs will wait until all the systems and silos are perfect before beginning the work of building out a customer-driven growth engine. This is a mistake. The systems will almost never be perfect, for one thing. The key is to begin. Customer asset metrics almost always begin with at least partial manual manipulation of the data. Also: do not focus on more than 3-5 priorities at a time. It will overwhelm you.

Customer strategy: Embed

Now we’re entering the “walk” stage. Leadership and employee teams should understand what the mission around the customer is. The key ideas — the customer strategy — should be getting embedded in product decisions, service levels, and annual planning.

Customer strategy: Mature

This is where you begin to “run.” It’s about more resources, differentiation, improving services, tweaking touch points, and getting to a one-company focus on driving growth through customers as opposed to physical assets or some other long-held play. This absolutely needs to be understood and too often is not: the companies making the most money these days are the most customer-focused ones. It’s nearly impossible to rake in the cash if you lack a customer strategy. Sadly, there are still many companies — too many to count — who essentially view customers as “wallets with fingers.” That customer strategy gets you disrupted. A crawl, walk, run approach gets you a bigger bonus. Which would you prefer?

Customer strategy: Elevate

This is about moving beyond disjointed experiences to differentiated, personalized customer-first interaction nearly 100 percent of the time. Many companies never get here, but it’s the goal.

If you’d like to discuss customer strategy some more, feel free to reach out.

 

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