Finally a business transformation book that matters!

Enterprise Architecture As Strategy

Reading business books can at times lead to frustration and disappointment. You often buy a bestseller that fails to hit the spot or a tome that goes off in multiple tangents and loses its meaning. Very rarely do you come across a book that really gets you thinking differently about the business world around you.

A recent visit to a high street bookstore led to me buying one of the most heavy yet rewarding business books I’ve ever read. It made me sit up and think about the clients I work with and even why I’ve faced some particular challenges during my career in several customer experience roles.

The book is titled ‘Enterprise Architecture as Strategy – Creating a Foundation for Business Execution.’ I admit that the title doesn’t exactly jump off the shelf in the way ‘Black Swan’ does but its content will blow you away. The book concentrates the bulk of its effort in explaining why putting IT strategically at the centre of your business can help it transform and meet the challenges of the future. However, the book’s focus on the different types of business operating models is probably the most interesting for those working in customer experience.

The book describes the four major types of operating model. These are: coordination, unification, diversification and replication. The different types each have their own unique characteristics, whether it’s having a shared centralised IT capability or a devolved company structure where each market or operating company and division acts independently and without central control and governance. I could spend days talking about the ins and outs of each model. The crucial point is that you need to change your behaviour and working practices depending on the type of operating model you’re working in.

For most people reading this book they’ll immediately reocgnise the type of business they work in. Whether it’s a centralised (unification) or a devolved (replication) business, readers will appreciate how the type of model will and should influence the strategy, approach and tactics they deploy to make change a reality.

For those of us in customer experience it may give you the support you need in trying to deliver a complex programme of work over a complex organisation.

Trust me. Read it. Be prepared to start re-drawing your plans and engaging with people in a very different way.

Top tips on setting up a Steering Committee

Steering Committee

You don’t need to have a prince2 qualification or have had to endure five days of intensive MSP training to get a strong steering committee in place. By following our tips below you’ll be able to put together a strong committee that can help get your project or programme delivered successfully.

But before we start let’s just remind ourselves what a steering committee is and what its purpose is.

A steering committee is a body of people brought together to help support the set-up, implementation and transition of a project or programme. This group is normally made up of senior decision-makers and experts who can help review, critique and validate decisions made by those working in an everyday capacity on the project. It’s their job to approve the ideas and decisions made lower down the chain. The benefit of this group is that they should, in an ideal world, be independent and objective in their views. A strong steering committee with a robust frame of reference can really help ensure a project or programme is deployed on time, on budget and having met its original objectives.

Our top tips:

  • Get the right people on board: pick or influence so that the right people are chosen for the role. If you’re deploying a complex IT system there’s no point having a steering committee with no technical representatives. Whilst you may not be responsible for designing the membership of the committee you should certainly make your feelings known.
  • Meet up regularly: it sounds obvious but this is something that I’ve seen slip many times. Put some time in the diary at a frequency and length that you feel is appropriate. Avoid changing the dates and times and do your best to encourage 100% attendance. This is obviously difficult in complex and busy businesses but try to point out the potential problems that might arise if people aren’t able to give time to the project or programme. Avoid as best you can the moving of meetings within diaries. Just like a TV programme that suffers too many scheduling changes people eventually become bored and switch off.
  • Be clear on expectations: when setting up the committee spell out the types of activities it will be tasked with. Make clear to those involved the type of behaviours you want to see, whether it’s feedback, critique or formal approvals and sign-offs.
  • Prepare for every meeting: don’t circulate content for consideration or review on the day of the meeting. Remember that steering committee members will be very busy and will already have several other pieces of work under their stewardship. Provide ‘pre-read’ material and make sure attendees have had enough time to take everything onboard.
  • Set out clear objectives and remit: these can include approving budgets, removing barriers, signing off artwork. There are hundreds of options here but do your best to be clear on what the steering committee is there for.
  • Have attendees with a role: make sure you have a chair and deputy chair. This will help guide meetings and keep the agenda on track. Having a deputy also helps if for whatever reason the chairperson cannot attend the meeting.
  • Be prepared for the virtual world: learn to become your own techie. Few meetings these days have 100% face to face attendance. Work to ensure that your meetings can happen in a virtual space whether it’s using a traditional bridge, telepresence, Skype, Google Hangout. If you have content to share get yourself a WebEx such as Adobe Connect.
  • Be comfortable with politics: you can’t avoid it so don’t try. Put awkwardness aside and embrace office politics. Remember that the steering committee will be full of political creatures and the purpose of the group will often be to make political decisions. If you’re the programme or project manager then apply political intelligence combined with due diligence. You want your project or programme to be successful soplan ahead for the political angle you’re going to take. But remember, your loyalty should always be to the business and the greater strategic good. By behaving diligently you’ll secure the correct outcomes from the steering committee

Good luck.

NPS: The curse of the number

NPS Image

Don’t get me wrong, I love Net Promoter Score (NPS). I love its simplicity and accessibility. I love the way that CEOs and front line teams can understand how it works without the need for a degree in statistical mathematics or data analytics. However, there is a big problem with NPS and it normally comes after any successful programme implementation. The ‘curse of the number’ is a good way of summing up the problem.

Too many companies are spending too much time focusing on the numbers (results) and not enough time on actually making improvements. We all know what it’s like when NPS results are about to be released. The business become tense whilst segment heads and product leads start to manage communications around the possible ‘number’. Having worries about a number drop or optimism about a number rise are understandable but too many companies are trapped in a cycle of quarterly or bi-annual panic.

So how do you get away from a culture of number watching? Below are some tips:

  1. Don’t forget the cultural aspect – make sure that when you’re implementing an NPS programme culture is given just as much attention and priority as sampling strategy or reporting hierarchies. Ignoring culture will lead to an atmosphere of number watching where employees risk concentrating on reporting and public relations rather than on improvement planning.
  2. Communicate, communicate & communicate – have a marketing and advertising strategy up your sleeve to support your NPS implementation work. Create some bold messages that get across the dangers of fixating about the number. Highlight some  positive messages looking at how NPS can drive improvement planning by putting the customer at the heart of decision making. A great friend of mine once said ‘a rising tide raises all boats.’ In other words if everyone works together then NPS will go up. One strong message is to remind people that NPS that goes up is good and down is bad. Try to move people away from actual numbers and the dreaded decimal point.
  3. Put benchmarking on the back burner – if you’re thinking about benchmarking be wary of rushing into it. Think carefully about why you want to benchmark and whether it’s really going to help with planning. Benchmarking can be tricky, especially if you’re unable to compare against a competitive set with enough robust evidence. Benchmarking is helpful for future planning but a side effect is that employees will become fixed on number watching.
  4. Discourage market and segment comparisons – it’s tempting to compare Spain to Italy when the results come in. Both markets are in Southern Europe, both suffering a sovereign debt crisis ad both may have a similar business model. However, it’s likely that that’s where the similarities end. Market comparisons are unhelpful and in some circumstances dangerous. Markets are unique and should be treated as such. EMEA and APAC might be a business territory but it shouldn’t supplant a market-by-market focus. Getting into market comparisons will only harden people’s desire to obsess with NPS numbers.
  5. Avoid rash target setting – once NPS is up and running you’ll be under pressure to put targets in place. Targets are a necessary evil in life. They guide behaviour and can help provide a focus and goal for employees. However, it’s important to allow any NPS regime to stabilise before rushing into target design. You might want to start small and with a conservative zeal in designing targets that are achievable in the real world. Targets that are a stretch may be more suitable at a later date. Just be conscious of the side effects of targeting. It can lead to employees concentrating on the wrong things just to achieve a target number. Whilst the destination my be reached the methods of getting there might be damaging.
  6. Think carefully about linking NPS and remuneration – a tricky topic for most clients but think carefully before doing this. Once a number is linked to pay then the culture changes. My preference is not to go down this route. I’ve had enough service calls with someone whispering a plea down the phone for a good SMS follow up score that it’s plain to see the damage this can do and how much it hardens number watching

These are just some of the tips I’ve got to share. If you have  any more then join the debate!

Net Promoter, NPS and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc. and Fred Reicheld

Need some new ideas? Head to San Francisco


A week in San Francisco is enough to get your creative juices flowing. You can’t help but leave the city with a head full of new ideas and possible ventures. As you walk past Twitter, Airbnb and Zynga you begin to sense how much of the city is being taken over by technology start-ups. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to sleep (Airbnb) or something to eat (Amazon Fresh) the city is crammed full of disruptive future thinking companies.

Amazon Fresh San Francisco

One of my favourite start-ups is TaskRabbit where you can request and pay for someone to complete a task or chore for you whether it’s picking up the shopping or running an errand.

Task Rabbit San Francisco

I also spent a number of mornings crossing the city using Lyft, a service whereby you can request a taxi and pay for it using your card stored on your mobile device. The great thing about Lyft was the social aspect of the service. As a passenger you can rate and review your driver and they can do the same for you. This will hopefully mean that service experiences with Lyft are customer-centric right from the outset.

Lyft San Francisco

On another morning I decided to walk down Post and Hyde and through the Tenderloin to work. On doing so I was nearly taken out by a speeding Amazon Fresh van on its way towards more salubrious parts of the city, no doubt with a fresh consignment of wheatgrass. The Amazon van was my first experience of how businesses such as Amazon are beginning to move into new sectors and verticals as they build upon their strength in fulfillment and delivery.

Companies such as Amazon are now well established and can no longer be put into the category of start-up. However, they continue to re-invent themselves: ebay has just recently launched a 1 hour phone to door home delivery business whilst Google is trialing 15 minute express delivery.

Ebay Now San Francisco

If you want to get your creative juices flowing then a week wandering around San Francisco is a good a start as any.

Acquiring customers, creating fans

Metro Bank Image

The word of customer experience is abuzz with the word ‘fan’ as brands and organisations aim to transform their customers into engaged advocates.

This notion of becoming a ‘fan’ with which the marketing world is obsessed is inherited Facebook. The social media giant has now moved onto ‘likes’ as being the global and universal term, which members use to describe something they like, whether a friend’s photo or a car manufacturer.

But what is a fan? How do you define one?

Think about music or sports fans – it’s pretty much the same:

  • An engaged individual who identifies themselves with the brand and who is happy to admit to a relationship of sorts
  • An individual who is prepared to defend an organisation against attack from critics and those not in the fan base
  • An individual who will want extra privileges from a brand for giving them more or time
  • An individual who is unlikely to leave you or move on
  • An individual who will forgive mistakes and errors
  • An individual who wants to know as much as possible, wants to be kept informed and in the loop
  • An individual who wants to interact and engage with other fans

Fans are pretty similar to the traditional customer in several important ways:

  • They are engaged to varying degrees. Some will be more obsessed than others
  • They may move on over time. They may lose interest or outgrow you
  • It’s still easy to leave and walk away
  • They might find someone or something better
  • They may like you but not admit it to others

Organisations will define their ‘fans’ differently but the important element is to acknowledge that a definition is needed. You will need to segment fans and measure their growth over time. Strategies will still need to be developed to both acquire and retain fans.

How can you create and keep fans?

Strong experience proposition – alongside a great product what is your experience proposition? What makes dealing with you better than anyone else? Defining and delivering a strong experience is the only way to build a base of evangelical fans. Apple has both a great product and customer experience.

Emotional heart – build branded properties which have an emotional connection with customers. This isn’t about badging a sporting event or sponsoring a national sports team. Think about the customer outcomes i.e. why is the customer dealing with you? What opportunities are there for developing an emotional package of activity?

Open house – get customers involved in decision making. Remember Walkers Crisps and ‘do us a flavour campaign’? Ask customers to get involved in product development, advertising and manufacturing.

Let go – whilst you may have brand values and brand guidelines the customer couldn’t care less. Let the guidelines go. Let customers create and share their own branded experiences. If you’re that worried about branding, build tools to empower and enable customer’s artistic licence.

Listen for any grievances or complaints and react fast to mitigate and turn around.

Collect customer data and enable interaction across the customer family. Help customers link up and engage with one another. You should only be a facilitator.

O2 have successfully built emotional properties such as priority ticketing to reward customers and create fans.

I’m already a fan of Metro Bank.

Customer Journey Mapping: Part I – the basics

Journey Photo


Customer journey mapping is now synonymous with customer and user experience projects. Designing one can help employees understand the end-to-end journey for the customer and improve understanding of how various functions are involved in delivering the experience. Building a journey map can also be fraught with political and logistical problems. You’re likely to meet people who don’t understand the benefits or who believe a narrative map rather than a visual one will suffice. You may even have to encourage colleagues to move beyond internal process mapping.

Below are a few pointers on how to scope and design a customer journey map which can help visualise the optimum experience you want to deliver to your customers:

1)      Words first. Map out the customer journey using single words/statements first. These might be as simple as ‘find & learn’ or ‘get help.’ The typical journey at a high level won’t be that long and will likely cover eight or so steps. Be sure to agree the taxonomy of the wording to ensure that everyone across the organisation understands and uses the same terminology in the future.

2)      Storyboard. Write the journey as a story or scenario from the customer perspective. You can use this written narrative later in helping a designer bring the story to life using small animations and visuals.

3)      Channels and touchpoints. Map out and label the times where the customer interacts with your business. Include the types of channels used. Retail or online, for instance.

4)      Driver definition. Outline the experience drivers that really make a difference for the customer throughout their journey. Think about what makes the experience memorable for them. You’ll already have research that tells you what works best for your customers. An idea we will explore in a later post examines how you might want to define the drivers based on financial impact for the business. You should end up with a wobbly line across your journey which shows the areas you intend to provide ‘bells and whistles’ and those areas where you intend to deliver a basic but effective experience.

5)      Stress Points. Look at your existing customer feedback and research. Print off your complaint codes and examine why customers aren’t happy with the experience at times. It might be simple things like not getting a bill on time or receiving an incorrect invoice. If you place these on the map against each touchpoint the map becomes a way of identifying potential problems and mitigating them.

6)      Get emotional. Think about the expectations and emotions you want the customer to experience. Think about outlining these on the map. In a later blog post we’ll look at defining customer outcomes and principles as a way of doing this.

7)      Language. Make sure the journey map is written from the customer perspective with the language they would use themselves and avoids complex terminology. This you can reserve for your internal process maps

8)      Throw a wobbler. The journey for most of your customers is unlikely to be linear no matter how hard you try. Think about defining a journey where a customer might have to go back a step or two. Think about flexibility. How are you going to manage that experience?

9)      Heroes. Build a set of ‘hero journeys’ which cover the main customer segments you have. Have a mixture of easy and complex journeys

The main thing to remember is that customer journey mapping doesn’t sit well with every colleague you’ll meet. Mapping is often something that works for some but not for others. Persevere and you’ll have some great maps which can really help visualise the change you want to deliver.

Visit the download page for a set of journey map examples from across the internet.

In the next blog we’ll look at defining outcomes and principles for the journeys together with how you build maps which include employee experience.

Failure to engage with finance and commercial will doom any CE initiative

euro notes

Linking customer experience to financial return is imperative for CE professionals. The majority of CE programmes run into trouble when those sponsoring or driving them cannot demonstrate tangible links between CE improvements and financial results. They often fail to isolate and showcase the impact of CE investment which could help secure future funding.

Their biggest mistake is to fail in engaging colleagues from finance and commercial. Many fear that they will be overwhelmed by data or risk turning into bean counters. However, The benefits of starting a CE programme with finance at its heart could not be clearer. Building a case for CE improvement based on potential financial reward will help to win over even the harshest of critics. Below are a few quick pointers which can help get CE on a strong financial footing right from the start:

1)      Speak to finance and commercial first. Take with you a list of data you require and you’ll be amazed at how open and receptive they’ll be to helping you. They’ll even help point out important elements you might have forgotten. Whilst most large companies have regimented data collection a good finance and commercial team will help you get answers to your questions even if it means they have to take an ad hoc approach

2)      Share the interesting data you’ve found. When you’ve managed to assess the value of a detractor or promoter be sure to shout about it

3)      Understand the internal culture to financial data and reporting. You might find colleagues have not managed to link a reduction in churn to a total financial figure. This is often a cultural problem where colleagues fear getting stuck into data full stop. Understanding what’s causing a 2% reduction in churn is important but turning that 2% into a tangible financial figure will be worth far more

4)      Begin to talk about financial models and in particular econometric modelling. The latter is rare in most organisations but demonstrating a vision where the organisation is able to isolate the impact of CE investment will help win over sceptics

5)      Remember fiscal responsibility and balance. Take for example the building of a maturity model. Whilst it’s important to measure the maturity of certain capabilities it’s even more important to understand which will require the biggest investment and, even more importantly, where the biggest rewards lie

6)      Talk the language of finance and commercial. Understand the terminology and the data currently making the rounds throughout the organisation. Understand how financial data is collected, what it means and how it’s changed over time. Understand what EBIDTA, ARPU and CLV mean.

7)      Read the business pages. It’s amazing the details you can pick up in City AM or the financial times. Get a digital daily dose of business news from Quartz.

8)      Be prepared to make difficult choices. It might be that you need to start prioritising CE investment based on business opportunities. For those following the mantra of ‘making customers happier’ this might be a hard pill for them to swallow

CE improvement can fail for a multitude of reasons but concentrating on finance and commercial should not be one of them.