Manage My Stuff and Coordinate Around Our Stuff

What Tools and Information Do Customers Need and Value for Personal and Professional Use?

October 20, 2011

Customers want help keeping track of things. They want to see how well they’re doing. Customers know that if you can help them manage and improve their use of your products and services (and those from other competing or complementary suppliers), it’s a win/win. They keep doing business with you. You learn an incredible amount about what they’re doing and what they care about. The ability to help customers “Manage their Stuff” is a key differentiator in both the B2C and B2B worlds.


There’s a recurring customer requirement in just about every phase of consumer and business life. Customers want help organizing and managing all the things they buy, own, do, and coordinate around.

We refer to this as the “manage my stuff” customer scenario pattern. Companies that do a good job of “managing my stuff” are much more likely to win and retain customers’ hearts and minds.

Managing my stuff is a key, but subtle requirement that is at the core of the next generation of win/win business models: customer-centric ecosystems.

Manage My Stuff
(Click on image to enlarge.)

© 2011 Patricia Seybold Group Inc.

Illustration 1. A set of typical “manage my stuff” post-its from a section of a Customer Scenario. We see these types of requests recurring over and over again in customer co-design sessions for business people and consumers in a wide variety of industries.


Provide Tools to Help Customers “Manage Their Stuff”

In all the customer co-design workshops we lead, in a wide variety of industries, both business-to-consumer and business-to-business, we keep seeing the same requirements to help customers manage their stuff. It doesn’t really matter where in the customer/product lifecycle these scenarios fall—whether it’s a “select and buy” scenario, or “diagnose and fix,” “replenish/renew,” or “replace/upgrade.” The “manage my stuff” requirements don’t seem to change much whether it’s an outcome-based scenario (launch a new product successfully, lose weight before my reunion, have a successful business trip and/or family vacation, pass the bar exam and set up my practice) or an event-based scenario (plan and execute a great wedding or business conference). Within many of these customer scenarios, there’s usually a section of the Customer Scenario Map in which the customers cluster all of their “I wants” about how they want to manage and organize everything they’ll need and how they’d like to be able to do that. (See Illustration 1.)

It’s More Than a Customer Portal. At first blush, it seems as if what customers are asking for is a “customer portal”—an online place they can go to manage their relationship with your firm. But if you really watch and listen, you realize that they want a lot more than “account management” or “manage my preferences in how you interact with me.” What they’re describing are the ways in which they’d ideally like to manage the activities, projects, transactions, assets, resources, and relationships they need to complete these different scenarios.

Not Exactly Project Management. It’s both more and less than project management. Customers may not want or need a full-blown project management capability to plan a business trip. They probably already have a project management process and system they use to manage major business projects. What they want from a trusted supplier are “just enough” tools to manage and organize so they can get on with their day reassured that they don’t have to remember anything.

Make It Easy for Customers to Organize and Keep Track of Different Kinds of Things

What customers are demonstrating is that they want good ways to manage and organize any stuff they have, or own, or do, that may relate to your business. Usually, they want you to provide the tools they need to manage their transactions, their assets, their projects, their resources, or anything they’re trying to accomplish, using the products or services that you provide.

Incredibly Valuable Quid Pro Quo. Customers expect these tools to be free of charge. If the tools are elaborate and really useful, customers may be willing to pay for them. However, most customers implicitly recognize the quid pro quo: You give me the tools/space I need to manage my stuff and get things done, and I’ll let you watch what I do and learn about my behaviors, patterns, and preferences. The value exchange is: “If I entrust you with ‘my stuff,’ and you help me manage it, you can a) learn a lot about what I’m trying to accomplish and how I do things, and b) make it less likely that I’ll defect.”

Here are some of the kinds of “stuff” that customers we’ve worked with want help managing:

  • Help me manage my transactions. If I have bought products from you, I want to be able to view and manage my past, present and future transactions 1 . I also want to be able to control the types and the frequency of the offers you make to me.
  • Help me manage my assets. We may own the products we’ve bought from you (equipment, software, cars, appliances, music, books, photos, videos), but we’d like you to help us maintain them, keep them safe, and keep them in good working order. Or we might have bought our products elsewhere, but we’ve entrusted them to you for safekeeping and value-added services (music CDs we want to have in digital form, computers and networks we’ve bought from others but we want you to integrate and maintain). If our assets are financial ones, we expect you, as the custodian(s) of those financial assets, to make it really easy for us to manage our cash flow, to budget and to track both our spending and our investments to see if they’re on track. 2
  • Help me manage my projects. We often have projects to do that are tightly linked to products we own or to companies that provide services to us. For example...


1) To see how well helps consumers manage transactions and interactions, and how well Staples helps small business personnel manage their transactions and interactions, see our Customer Experience Audits and "How Well Does Staples Help a Small Company "Manage My Stuff? Customer Experience Audit of Staple’s Capabilities to Let Small B2B Customers Manage Their Relationship Download Article Email," by Ronni Marshak, July 21, 2011.

2) To see how well Bank of America helps consumers manage their assets, see our Customer Experience Audit, "How Well Does Bank of America Help Me Manage My Money Online? Customer Experience Audit of BoA's Capabilities to Help Customers with Financial Best Practices, by Ronni T. Marshak, August 18, 2011.

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