Saving Customers’ Time: Master Customer Scenario® Design

How National Semiconductor, Tesco, and Use Customer Scenarios to Improve Customer Experience

June 7, 2001

When you design your business processes from the customer’s point of view, you create happy and loyal customers. Our Customer Scenario® Design methodology helps you determine what customers want from you and how to deliver it. This report tells you how to start on your own Customer Scenario Design projects as well as providing the real-life success stories of National Semiconductor, Tesco PLC, and

(This report is an adapted version of "Get Inside the Lives of Your Customers, " by Patricia B. Seybold, Harvard Business Review, May 2001.)


Customer Scenario®Design is a core building block of the® Consulting methodology. This report provides examples of three companies that have used a customer scenario approach to their designs of their key e-business offerings. These best practices are provided to illustrate the concept of customer scenario design as it is currently being practiced by e-business visionaries and leaders.

This report also offers an overview of Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping process as used in Consulting engagements. And we explain how customer scenarios differ from e-marketing campaigns and from most current Web site design techniques.

What frustrates customers the most? When you waste their time! Although most businesses are becoming conscious of the need to value their customers' time, they're not yet fanatically focused on it. Yet, in today's customer-driven economy, your customers' time is the scarcest resource. There are business leaders who understand this fundamental truth and those who are still in denial. And in between are those who acknowledge it-perhaps even realize its importance to their business-but who have yet to act on it in a meaningful way. The dot-com era provided a fertile laboratory in which companies learned to create customer-friendly business processes starting on the Web and driving through their (and their partners') systems. Today, every business is struggling to become more customer-focused and more customer-friendly, both on and off the Web. Most companies are making huge investments in customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Yet these investments will be worthless if there are no customer relationships to manage. And if you don't value customers' time, they'll be gone, and you'll be history!


So how do you develop an appropriate sensitivity to customers' time? The easiest way I know of is to walk in your customers' shoes and follow your customers' clicks. Do that well enough, and you'll learn where your customers' time is especially valued and where you're wasting it. In other words, follow a customer scenario.

A customer scenario is that set of tasks that a customer wants or is willing to do to achieve a desired outcome. It starts with the customer's need, includes (but is not limited to) interactions with your business, and ends when the customer has accomplished her objective.

For consumers, common scenarios include paying the household bills, replacing an appliance, buying a car, and getting a mortgage.

Business-oriented customer scenarios include taking a business trip, buying a new phone system for the business, procuring the parts for a new product the company is about to manufacture, and designing the electrical system for a new building.

You might have noticed that, a few paragraphs back, I referred to what a customer wants or is willing to do. A homebuyer seeking a mortgage doesn't want to fill out reams of paperwork, take time off from work to review options with a mortgage originator, and then sit around waiting for a decision. But there are realities to consider, and so the buyer is willing (albeit grudgingly) to do these things. Analyzing the scenario of "getting a mortgage" would allow you to see the distinction between what he wants and what he's willing to do and give you the data you need to plan or design your work processes accordingly. It will also allow you to see that for the customer, the scenario may not end with your generation of the letter approving the mortgage. It might end at the closing or when the customer moves into his new house. For some customers (I know one), it might not end until he has paid off the house and no longer has to deal with mortgage companies!

Clearly, even the most basic customer scenarios can get pretty complicated. But the companies that excel in understanding and focusing on customer scenarios are also the companies that excel in providing a great customer experience. They know what tasks customers are trying to perform, what steps they need to take, and how to move them quickly and painlessly through each of the required steps.

They also-not coincidentally-monitor how easily customers move through the steps and how quickly and efficiently the customer-critical tasks are executed. Indeed, the real masters at this game are beginning to monitor key customer scenarios in near-real time. They actually walk around with pagers on, being alerted any time customers aren't satisfied with the quality of execution on particular tasks. They use monitoring services and software to track the end-to-end performance of key customer scenarios from different points around the globe.

What Customer Scenarios Are Not

Once you understand that a customer scenario is directed toward fulfilling a customer's need, you also understand that reviewing one is not the same as reviewing a business process. Quite frankly, customers don't care about your internal operations, time-to-market, or costs-to-serve. The good news, however, is that when you respond to what customers do care about...(more)


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