Strategy: Ask new questions to get new answers – Parts 4 and 5: CX industry and external trends

This time the situation analysis process moves on to relevant trends in your industry and in the external environment. Accurate observations about these areas can give you a competitive advantage, even if you have little influence over the trends. Remember: to get new answers, you have to ask new questions.

This is the fourth in a series of articles about what I consider to be the most important aspect of strategy development: an accurate analysis of the current situation and what should be done to improve it. The first article was about customers and is here. The second was about partners and is here. The third was about competitors and is here.

Industry and external trends

These areas require a different approach to others in that it may be harder to find objective data. Please don’t ‘trust your gut’. Whether it be for climate change or business strategy, science will give far superior insights to those your stomach and intestines may provide. These are areas where having someone on your team who has a formal business school education may help. I remember learning something I found surprising in one of my INSEAD courses, for example: American companies that decide to expand into Europe by placing their European HQ in London tend to be far less successful than those that are forced to make language adjustments by placing their HQ somewhere in continental Europe. So, if you are competing in a relatively new industry where everyone seems to be expanding from the USA to Europe, let or even encourage your competitors to go to London while you move to Brussels or Geneva, for example.

Questions about industry trends

Here are some questions that should be relevant for most industries. I have concentrated on things that affect customers only. You may like to add questions about industry trends that affect employees, for example trends like outsourcing and offshoring. There may be some overlap between these questions and those about competitors.

  • What are the most important customer experience trends in your industry? What ways of listening to customers are most popular? What new improvement processes and technologies are emerging?
  • What is the impact of social media on customer perception of your products and services? Do you know what is being said about you on social media, and does it matter?
  • Which measurement systems best predict revenue and market share?
  • How do the latest developments compare with what you are currently using?
  • What customer experience competitive benchmark data is available and relevant to your industry?

Questions about external trends

These questions are about the environment in which your company, your competitors and your customers live. It includes government regulation and general concerns and hopes of the people in countries where you operate. These questions come from an exercise that was specifically about customer experience strategy. You should edit and adjust for your needs.

  • How does government regulation affect the way you want to go about measuring and improving customer experience?
  • What current and emerging rules about data privacy affect your current and potential survey processes?
  • How are you required to maintain customer survey opt-out lists?
  • Do you know what surveys are being run in your company and whether they respect relevant laws?
  • Are you allowed to transmit customer lists to subcontractors such as survey providers?
  • Do some governments and countries where you operate have an unusually high focus on the environment, gender equality, fighting corruption or other formal initiatives that you may find useful in building your brand image?

Government regulation trends are quite hard to predict in our increasingly polarized world. Trends can take opposite directions when a different political party comes into power. I worked for a company whose factories were confiscated in one country that had a military takeover, which is an extreme example. And I have to say that the Wrangler HQ reaction to François Mitterrand’s socialist / communist coalition government in France was… well… interesting, to say the least.

The answers lead to insights

If you have asked new questions, the result will be new answers. When most companies work on a new strategy they don’t cover these two areas at all. Cover them well and you will win.


We have now covered five of the six dimensions of a situation analysis. Next time we will talk about your internal realities and how to put it all together.


As is often the case, the above is a substantial rewrite of part of a chapter in one of our books; in this case Customer Experience Strategy – Design and ImplementationAll of our books are available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon stores worldwide.