Secret to Successful Customer Engagements

Beware of These Four Things that Will Doom Your Customer-Centric Initiatives

September 27, 2013

There are four pitfalls you are likely to encounter when you involve customers in co-designing your products, services, business model, and/or customer-impacting business processes. By knowing what these critical path issues are, you can plan ahead to avoid and/or to mitigate them. For each showstopper, there are three to five criteria you’ll need to meet to successfully to sail through it without adverse effects. These are the 4 moments of truth and the 16 success metrics you’ll need for your customer innovation engagements to result in viable products and services.

NETTING IT OUT

We’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the past 30 years and tens of thousands of their customers. Some of these engagements resulted in fantastic customer-centric results. Some were duds.

What are the characteristics of a customer engagement that “goes south?” How can you avoid falling into the trap of getting customers engaged and then failing to deliver anything that actually helps them? Is fear of failure what keeps many firms from engaging with customers early? Is that why so many companies come up with their own business and product strategies, develop products and services, and then ask customers what they think at the tail end of the process, instead of the beginning? Yes.

But if you understand where customer-centric projects usually fail, you can a) plan ahead to avoid these issues and b) be ready to mitigate them when they do crop up. The four typical showstoppers for customer co-design projects are:

  1. We can’t get the resources we need
  2. We can’t get timely access to the right customers
  3. We can’t get enthusiastic commitment from key stakeholders
  4. We can’t implement what customers really want

Here are some ways you can avoid, or at least mitigate, those likely showstoppers.

The Four Showstoppers for Customer-Centric Projects

 The Four Showstoppers for Customer-Centric Projects

© 2013 Patricia Seybold Group, Inc.

1. These are the four things that usually go wrong in a project in which you’ve decided to engage customers to help you design and deliver what matters most to them. If you know what the likely showstoppers are, you should be able to plan ways to mitigate them.

WHEN SHOULD YOU EMBED CUSTOMER CO-DESIGN IN YOUR PROJECTS?

What Kinds of Projects?

  • Customer-Impacting Business Processes. Whenever you, your team, or your firm is embarking on the design or evolution of any business process that will impact customers, you need to have customers involved from the outset.
  • Customer-Impacting Technology. Why would you implement a major CRM system or ERP system without engaging customers to specify what information should be readily available to them as well as to your staff? If you’re developing a mobile app or rolling out a new and improved website, you ideally want to have customers involved every step of the way. The sooner they’re engaged, the shorter your time-to-launch and the less rework you’ll need to do.
  • New or Improved Products or Services. Sometimes there are things you just know need to be fixed, based on customer feedback. The temptation is to just get on with it. Fix the things that are annoying customers and then solicit their input for the next version of the product. But if you operate that way, you’ll find yourselves putting off engaging with customers until you’ve already designed and committed the next version or the new product. Then customer feedback can only be factored into the following release. It saves a lot of time if you can open your kimono and invite the customers who gave you feedback to help you in your re-design processes. They will be more patient than you would expect, and they’ll bring up things that will be hugely important to the success of your product—subtle things you never would have spotted.
  • New or Improved Business Models. We’re often afraid to engage with customers to discuss business models and pricing because we know we can’t lower our prices or change our distribution channels and still run a viable business. Our salespeople are terrified that we’ll give away the store resulting in reduced commissions. You would be surprised at how much value you can gain by working together with customers to design business models that work better for them. When asked to consult on business models, customers will find innovative win/win solutions that you would never think of. Often it’s not price that’s the biggest stumbling block. It is other things—like timing of new releases, ease of upgrades, loss of transparency when dealing through channel partners, compatibility issues, service options. Our advice is to co-design your new business models with customers in an incubator that protects your core business from cannibalization until you’ve really got a new model you can migrate to.
  • Branded Customer Experiences. Whether you’re launching a new product, new in-store experience, new user interface, new service delivery—whatever it is, don’t just rely on marketing/branding and user experience experts. Make sure that your target customers are at the core of this design activity from the beginning. You’ll all have a lot of fun, and your experience design will take into account much more of your target customers’ typical context than you can glean from observation and market research.
  • Customer Ecosystems. We believe that the most viable business models for our current economy are networks of businesses, government entities, and NGOs that are aligned around customers’ successful outcomes and critical success metrics. We call these customer ecosystems. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that it’s not possible to design a viable customer ecosystem without customers engaged every step of the way.

At What Stages of the Projects?

From the beginning, of course! The sooner you can inject actual end-customers into the team working on a customer-impacting project, the better off you’ll be in terms of….(more)

 

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