Two major business challenges are proving to be quite difficult for businesses: 1) Achieving profitable growth and 2) Transforming the customer experience (CX) in ways that improve business performance. That said, our research is showing dozens of companies having success in both areas by adopting a different mindset and approach, based on these principles:
1. Mindset: “We co-create experiences with our customers.” Versus, “We create the customer experience for our customers.” This mind shift is helping to solve a variety of major growth challenges…
2. Growth: Stop going around the block to get next door. Challenge the notion that improving business performance means you have to “go around the block” first—by pursuing a major reorganization, culture change, broad CX transformation, rehabilitating detractors, etc. Many companies skip all that and go directly “next door” (tackle major growth challenges). Examples: disrupting an industry (Salesforce), restoring customer retention rates (SAS, Finestra): moving from transactional vendor to trusted advisor (HP Enterprise); dramatically improving website engagement with buyers (Amazon, Intercom).
3. Cultivating “customer co-creators”: play to your strengths. Stop obsessing over detractors in your Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, for example—that’s a classic case of fixing weakness—and leverage your promoters. Create an “AIC Bank” that cultivates customer co-creators who provide three types of skills: Advocacy (genuine, not fake); Influence (organic, not paid); Contributions (knowledge, time, skills, resources). Put a dynamic executive in charge, who focuses AIC customers squarely on the firm’s major growth challenges—rather than scatter them into disjointed reference, advisory board and community programs bogged down in tactical demands.
You want a unified “bank” of these customers to have them “at the ready.“ Companies can often establish one faster than they think. SAP executive Colleen Kaiser, for example, expanded its advocacy customers within days by simply inviting promoters from NPS surveys to participate (most of whom had never been invited!).
4. Which growth challenges? Cross the “Empathy and Trust chasm.” Most organic growth challenges are, at their root, caused by a deficit of empathy and trust (E&T). The cause is systemic: internal employees will never develop E&T with customers as efficiently as your AIC customers can: after all, they’re peers of your other customers and prospects. So map the E&T chasm, and determine which gaps are stifling growth the most. Those are growth challenges AIC customers can crush.
5. Employees? Their work is changing significantly, for the better. It’s certainly true that some employees have significant empathy and trust with customers. But developing such employees is expensive—and in any case, most employees never get there. But with AIC Customers filling more E&T gaps, employees can focus on bringing their specialized expertise to the table. For example, marketing and sales are morphing away from selling and toward gaining expertise in bringing customers and their stories into the buyers journey. Product developers are learning how to engage customers to bring empathy into the design and engineering process—a key element of design thinking—and that’s a change that product developers themselves are asking for. This moves beyond introducing the voice of the customer into total customer experience operations toward co-creating with the whole customer!
6. Customer Success Managers (CSMs) will evolve into paid professional consultants. In many firms, CSMs are spending too much time cleaning up messes (many of which are caused by the empathy and trust chasm). As companies address these with more empathetic and “trustable” co-creation approaches, the CSM position will evolve into one that addresses the customer’s larger objective (or “whole problem”).
This is helping correct a massive missed opportunity in the technology industry: companies are developing technologies that solve complex problems, without understanding—or addressing—the larger customer objective. A classic example is the RFID industry , which developed ingenious technology (barcode chips) to reduce inventory theft—a huge need. But RFID providers focused only on their technology, which only solved part of the customer’s problem.The whole solution required additional steps like training employees and locating products in the right place—a substantial additional consulting or partnering opportunity that RFID makers ignored. Those companies that exploit it can build consulting businesses with valuations that will rival those of software—a major step forward in the business viability of the subscription business model.