Hello world – You need a strategy
Welcome to the customerstrategy.net blog. You can look forward to weekly updates on subjects that have to do with business strategy, customer experience, and that great zone where the two subjects meet. While it would be lovely to believe that all companies are growing and have unlimited investment funds, that is not the case in the real world. In this universe, businesses have to make choices about where to invest for growth, and how to cut costs without making customers want to leave. To set the tone, let me talk about the nature of strategy.
Why bother with strategy?
The reason you need a strategy is simple: you do not have unlimited resources and never will. The word comes from the Greek Strategos and means “Generalship”. Its origin is in how to deploy your scarce troops, equipment and diplomatic resources to win battles and wars. It is all about defeating the enemy. No general ever won a battle by saying, “I don’t care where the enemy is, or what they are doing. I am going to line up my army three deep all across this open battlefield. I don’t care what weapons my army has nor how they compare to those of the enemy. I don’t care about the weather today or tomorrow. I don’t care what my allies are doing. I have given my troops their top 20 priorities. We will just walk slowly forwards and I am sure we will win.” Sounds ridiculous? It should. Unfortunately, this is what most companies’ customer experience strategies look like.
Your enemies are outside your company
In business, your enemies are your competitors. The purpose of any business strategy should be to do things differently or better than your competitors so you can win. The strategy should be articulated in terms of three to five priorities or initiatives that are easy to remember and make the biggest difference. The number of priorities is important. Despite ancient psychological research that suggests the number is seven, I find that teams in modern businesses cannot spontaneously remember more than five priorities. Think about this in terms of being able to list your priorities on the fingers of one hand.
Typical corporate challenge: timing
Like marketing, customer experience improvements have their effect in the mid-term. Major changes in strategy tend to take 18 to 24 months to have a demonstrable effect. This is a long time for companies that measure their progress primarily based on their quarterly financial results. Bridging this gap and maintaining sponsorship for the work will be a major blog focus. Maintaining sponsorship is largely about communication, and I will often suggest how behavioral economics theory can help.
I intend to provoke
I tend to express even subtle concepts in a black-and-white way, which can seem provocative. So let me start to provoke you a little. When you see lists like “The 15 keys to customer experience” or “The 30 things you need to do to keep customers loyal,” the authors don’t know what they are talking about. Perhaps I should tone that down and simply say that the authors have not yet put enough thought into what they are writing. If they had, the blog posts or articles would have titles like “The three keys to customer experience” or “The five things you need to do to keep customers loyal.” No person or organization can work on 15 things at the same time. Some must be more important than the others.
Always based on science
Opinions I express will always be fact-based. Well, almost always. As you will see in forthcoming blog posts, there is no scientific evidence to support many of the things that are generally believed in customer experience communities. There is no evidence that you must “delight the customer at every interaction” and I will offer evidence that suggests or even proves that you should not. There is little evidence that employee happiness makes any difference to customers, as will be conclusively proven in a blog post I will have ready in late January.
All this does not make me right
While I may have opinions and the science to back most of them up, that does not necessarily make me right. Your feedback is welcome on all posts, and I have no plans to moderate or censor any of it, within legal, ethical and moral limits.
I hope the blog and resulting discussions will be fun and educational. My brother will help with his own brand of illustrations and humor. Sign up for our newsletter if you want to know when we post something new. Happy New Blog and Happy New Year!
January 4, 2017 @ 6:07 pm
Fantastic article! I look forward to your upcoming book and future blogs on Customer Experience from a practical point of view.
January 5, 2017 @ 1:49 am
Great introduction blog Maurice I will enjoy reading more. Good luck with the book launch too.
January 5, 2017 @ 6:44 am
Great start Maurice! Will certainly stay connected and get educated as well!
My personal take while talking about Strategy and Priority, based on what I have witnessed over the last three decades is:
1. Organizations often get confused between tactical initiatives and strategic direction
2. Even 5 priorities is just too much to handle. I will go with 3!
Luc Vanden Plas
January 5, 2017 @ 12:41 pm
Excellent thinking and ‘Strategy’ Maurice 🙂
I still am pre-reading the book but will get to you soon.
Looking forward to more of this stuff !
Vivian Dahl Nielsen
January 5, 2017 @ 1:06 pm
Happy New Year and good luck with your blog. Interesting to follow – and be provoked 🙂
January 5, 2017 @ 1:14 pm
Great summary on the importance of having a strategy, I really like the comparison with the army, so straight forward! Looking to read more on your blog. Best regards, Magali
Dr. James Borderick
January 6, 2017 @ 10:34 am
A very well written and informative blog Maurice, and it is fantastic to see a centralised area for Customer Experience blogs. I especially like the point around competitive intelligence. After all it’s the entire landscape that the battles are fought, if I may extend the metaphor. After reading this post it seems logical that everyone should read “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. There are definitely business applications of this literature.
I look forward to seeing more content,
January 9, 2017 @ 11:43 am
All the best for 2017.
As always good to hear / read your thoughts and I am looking forward to more “provocation”.
Good to see former & current colleagues contributing too.
January 9, 2017 @ 7:54 pm
Congratulations on launching your new blog Maurice. It’s great to once again have the opportunity to discuss customer experience with you. For those of you who have yet to talk with Maurice, you’re in for a treat as he brings tangible real world experience to the topic of customer experience. Provocative? You bet, though never mean, always focused on further developing the understanding of this discipline we call customer experience. Your comment “The purpose of any business strategy should be to do things differently or better than your competitors so you can win” really hit home, Maurice.
January 9, 2017 @ 11:23 pm
It would not be Maurice if he would not provoke a bit as well. and yes, i can see his vast experience in corporate world as a benefit to share what does not work, often equally important to share just great ideas or recipes.
Keep going Maurice.
January 12, 2017 @ 11:15 am
Congratuations, Maurice! Great to see that you are launching a blog (and book) to share your own expertise and passion for strategy – as well as to stimulate some debate! Your view on the capacity for organisations to focus on a small number of strategic priorities at any one time resonates fully. In my experience, good strategy is about generating choices and it starts with clarity of purpose as well as true alignment and sponsorship from all key stakeholders. Good luck and I look forward to future content, Nick
Addie van Rooij
January 12, 2017 @ 12:15 pm
Great start. I will frequently look into this blog for advise and see if we can use the customer experience wisdom with internal customers as well,
January 15, 2017 @ 4:26 pm
Maurice, congratulations for launching this new blog, I definitely look forward to following you and the community here. You touched already on a lot of key points in this intro and – like you told me one day: the most strategic decision is not to define what you will do but what you will not do or stop doing…
January 17, 2017 @ 10:38 am
Thanks for all the kind comments people. Your suggestions continue to be most welcome.
January 17, 2017 @ 9:02 pm
Great start Maurice. No doubt that you know what you are talking about and that you can provide valuable services to companies who want to focus on customers.
I can attest that during my career I had the opportunity to work for and with you multiples times. And each time enjoyed it.
All the best
January 18, 2017 @ 9:40 am
Great viewpoints Maurice, knowing you and your work history it all comes of deep knowledge and experience. Interested to hear more.