Customer Strategy

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There are strategies for sales, communication, marketing, media, online, business, mobile, retail… almost anything, with the exception of those the strategies in the end are for; the customers.

A couple of years ago we were working on a project for a company and the brief was to write the strategy for their webpage. We quickly discovered that the rest of the company navigated based on a customer decision journey; with purchase, cultivation, loyalty and retirement as the four main categories. But even if the rest of the company was aligned, we had been asked to build a destination that paid no attention to the fact that the customers where on a journey. That they had different types of motivation or needs. We were supposed to design a platform to handle all kinds of customers ignoring or independent of their state.

The problem we found is that companies are making strategies to organize the organization of organizations, not to reach their goal; which is to create customers.

The strategic establishment has to answer a couple of key questions:

Customers are at different stages with different needs – how do we tailor our service to the customer’s different situations? Solutions designed to serve platforms become to broad, aren’t able to motivate and convert badly. Online banking is an example; every button or action is presented as equally important, customers have no visual hints or prioritization. It is only the lack of options to online banks that that in the end force people to have to engage with and learn these interfaces. It doesn’t look better for mobile banks – from a customer service perspective banking has designed itself into becoming wide open for new ideas.

Are current strategies building silos? Different areas within businesses are concentrating on different targets and methods – and not necessarily the same customers. We have, as we see quite often, a gap between different tasks in organizations: Some are hired to recruit curious prospects, others are responsible for converting them to sales – the problem is that they will not take responsibility for the quality of each others products – and customers are falling like flies in the middle. Strategies that don’t have a common vantage point would not create a unified organization.

Are strategies increasing the distance to customers? We build strategies from the inside out, not from the customers in. We concentrate on solving the challenges of the organization and the platforms while customers are reverted to extras. A lot of companies don’t even know who their customers are, but refer to them as abstract demographics – as if age or education are the most decisive abilities of a car buyer or a person peckish for chocolate.

Is the current mindset opposing new solutions? There is a striking difference between how we are thinking and talking about online platforms compared to offline channels? Online still seems alienated. There is a lot of uncertainty around it and companies often use experts talking about users, not customers, in attempts to increase sales and conversion rates. As long as strategies are dividing the company by applying different mindsets and language to solve the same challenges for the same people it will be hard to find new and better solutions horizontally – something many depend on as customers are not discriminating based on platform.

Are we forgetting our customers? Customers become a resource on par with partners or IT. We’re not placing ourselves in their shoes and forget why they exist. We start identifying ourselves as industries and questions like which job is the customers are hiring us to do gets raised more and more rarely.

A strategic platform built from the customer up won’t solve all our problems. But, it can make sure that companies unite around one common understanding of the world and one unifying language to describe it. Which will prove helpful to collaboration, marginal improvement and innovation. It will help firms do what they were designed to – solve the jobs of their customers.

Image via flickr

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