Monthly Archives: March 2010

Why do only 2% of companies understand that migrating from inside-out (company-centric) to Outside-In (customer-centric) requires major, even radical, organizational change?

Okay, I pulled 2% out of the sky. But at least I was generous!

Company after company tries to “get closer to customers” by taking incremental routes. And company after company fails to accomplish much permanent change (and often not much temporary change).

But is business paying attention to these bad outcomes? Nope. In fact, reminds me of a true, “you betcha” Minnesota story. A flock of domestic turkeys (who can drown in a rainstorm) were standing in a feedlot when a downpour started. The leader marched right up a running auger to hide, only to become cornmeal additive. Then, the rest of the flock followed.

 Found any feathers in your cornbread lately?

 Seriously, what’s up? Lack of education? Wishful thinking? A “we can beat the odds” mentality? Not really wanting to become customer-centric but wanting to claim it? Other?

 I’m polling for answers on Linkedin, but I’ll share my best hunch. None of the above. Instead of these possibilities, I sense that most C-level execs think of “process” as a means to save money. They’re unaware of the consequences of either good or bad process on revenue. So they fail to associate “process” with “customer.”

Perhaps the only remedy is an increasing number of smart execs and companies creating new, customer-centric strategies then successfully reedesigning process to align with strategies and execute them. That’s the formula for improving customer experience and delivering new value to customers. And that could raise the question from not as smart execs, “What are they doing that we’re not?”

Whose Customers Complain the Most? The Better Business Bureau dishes on the worst offenders.

The North American BBB has released its 2009 compilation of which industries drew the most complaints and how well they resolved them. Of course, “resolved” is a relative term for BBB complaints. It can mean “customer gave up,” but the majority of resolutions indicate at least partial satisfaction of customer claims. While you have to discount some high “resolution” numbers, you can reasonably use them to differentiate addressing complaints among industries.

Here’s the list – from “least worst” (10) to “worst.” The number sequence represents: # of complaints / % “resolved”

 10. Retail furniture: 12,313 / 76%

Having worked with clients in this sector, my educated guess is that going out of business without returning deposits triggered lots of these.

9.  Auto repair:  12,410 / 65%

Hey, these blokes finish lower than used car dealer. Again, based on with a client providing technical back-up not knowing what they’re going and ginning up problems Click & Clack have never heard of are the primary culprits.

 8.  Wireline telcos:  13,166 / 96%

They answer to state regulators, so they can’t afford to just stick it to customers outside of what they’re allowed to do.

 7.  Used auto dealers:  13,235 / 69%

Most (but not all) new car dealerships have cleaned up their act here, so likely a high % of “used only” sellers.

6.  Collection agencies:  15,628 / 85%

There is no more predatory and less ethical industry out there, but state regulators are final;ly clamping down.

 5.  Internet merchants:  21,154 / 69%

I cannot believe the ads some consumers take seriously. Want to inherit a fortune from a dying Nigerian? Hong Kong’s really getting in the act now, too. Most legitimate web merchants are actually very responsible, but far from all are legit. A little trick. If you don’t see an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the ad, get the hell out of there.

 4.  New car dealers:  26,019 / 83%

Thank you, Toyota. A number of dealer networks have really cleaned up their act. But obviously lots haven’t.

 3.  Banks:  29,824 / 95%

BBB acknowledges the “resolution” rate is inflated, probably because the FDIC satisfied lots of claims. If left to the banks own devices, and especially to credit card departments, the 95% would probably drop lots.

 2.  Cable & Satellite Television:  32,158 / 98%

Comcast for one is trying to straighten up a little, but basically we’re talking about two packs of liars caught in a life or death competitive struggle. A whole lotta these folks would qualify as politicians. But, they’re regulated, at least in part, which forces lots of make-goods.

1.  Cellular providers:  36,086 / 95%

Verizon wireless is a pretty straight shooter, but watching AT&T defend its “Swiss cheese” coverage and lack of bandwidth to handle iPhones tells us just how low the industry can go. Sprint used to a service nightmare. Now they’re just a bad dream. Viral attacks have hit some so hard that all of them tend to roll over and make good rather than risk bad PR. Yeah, angry customers!

 Two lessons here: 1.) If a company screws you, consider going to the BBB. No half-way sane (and legitimate) company wants to be on the black list; 2.) All those BBB window stickers you see at used car dealers and repair shops come from auto-supply distributors.

Naked Process: Are you ready to “bare it” to customers (and across silos)?

Companies are accustomed and even comfortable keeping internal process opaque to customers―and often to co-workers as well. “Lack of cost-effective technology” has served as a convenient excuse for shutting out customers and blocking communication across silo boundaries – although we know “technology” is just an excuse.

All that’s about to change. A new technology named CBPA (communication-based process automation) is about to tear away the fig-leaf excuses. CBPA will track typically opaque internal processes including: mortgage and loan processing; insurance claim processing; technology support beyond one-call resolution; special orders; back orders; custom fabrication; incident research; and a host of other high-frequency events – each of which generates high volumes of expensive-to-handle customer calls and e-mail, not to mention endless internal e-mail and even face-to-face conversations.

Because it’s all IP-based and outside corporate firewalls, companies will now be able to let customers access CBPA for self-service – and let internal folks track progress across silo walls as well. Gazillions of dollars could be saved, IF individual companies are ready to “bare their process.”

Several industries have already developed vertical fixes resembling CBPA. You no longer have to call Fed-X or UPS to track a package, just hit the web. Likewise for medical test results. But business-at-large continues to spend gazillions of dollars on people and communication infrastructure to handle customers’ “Where is it?” questions and similar internal queries.

Because it’s IP-based, companies will now be able to let customers access work-in-process data themselves – and let internal folks track progress across silo walls as well. Gazillions of dollars could be saved, IF individual companies are ready to “bare their process.”

I’m excited about this because it’s classic Outside-In. Think of a solution to customers aren’t yet asking for; create customer delight; and grab a lead on competitors. But I’ll admit, it’s also Outside-In because implementing this solution will require organizational redesign, staff redeployment and shedding the traditional “protect ourselves from customers” perspective. Well-led, forward-thinking companies can effect these changes. But many others can’t and will suffer customer consequences as a result.

To be fully transparent myself, I got so excited by CBPA’s potential that I’ve partnered with the software developer’s largest partner to launch a process/technology partnership we’re calling “Enterprise Collaboration.” And I’m presenting a free Avtex-sponsored webinar on March 23rd from 10:00 to 11:00 Central Time (that’s GMT minus 6 hours). You can register @

Every Marketer on Earth Claims to be Customer-Centric: But How Many Really Are?

In his great new Book, “Reorganize for Resilience,” Harvard B-School Professor Ranjay Gulati describes how and why companies should be moving from inside-out to Outside-In (he uses Outside-In as a surrogate term for customer-centricity). From his organizational dynamics perspective, he describes four “stages” of this transition. But most marketers aren’t trying to reach the end stage or even the third, but instead are content with stages one or two. Why?

[I’m excerpting from Gulani’s descriptions]

Stage one: Thoroughly inside-out: “(Companies) view the world entirely through the lens of their own goods and services.”

Stage two: Think they’re customer-centric but remain company-centric: “Though they (companies) understand customer needs, they still focus on their products, viewing the customer through the lens of the company’s offerings, focusing on customers’ experience with their purchase while ignoring the larger problems customers may be trying to solve.”

Stage three: Think they’re customer-centric and they are, but not all the way: “They focus first on the problems their customers are trying to solve, only then turn to their products, configuring their offerings to address those problems.”

Stage four: Outside-In (customer-centric) to the core: “A level four firm is more attached to producing solutions to those problems than it is to the products and services it offers. This intellectual, structural and emotional transition means it is no longer concerned whether the inputs it uses to solve customers’ problems are its own or assembled through a network of partners.”

What stage does your marketing support?