Friday, October 31, 2008

Customer Advocacy through Compelling Customer Experience

What percentage of value-add activity are you achieving in your customer facing operations?
If less than 80%, then it is time for action

How many of your front-line staff can answer the question “how have I added value to customer experience today?”If less than 90%, then there is too much wasted effort and higher than necessary costs

Do your customer facing people and systems consistently help & drive enhanced customer experience?
If you are not very sure then there is a compelling case for a “voice of the customer” review of your systems and processes

Are your customer-facing staff systems and product experts or customer problem solvers?
If just experts then they – and therefore your organisation – will benefit from being problem solvers

How do you spot and remove barriers to rich customer experience and people motivation? Find out about “voice of the customer” at

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making banking customers' experience compelling whilst cutting costs

"Your call is important to our bank; we’ll be with you as soon as the meantime here is some mind numbing music"

Ten years ago or so banks like many other major businesses recognised the opportunity to cut costs by directing more customers away from higher cost, face-to-face channels to call centres. They wanted to maximise the use of centralised customer contact centres to deliver a more efficient, consistent and auditable service. However, in the pursuit of cost reduction these organisations lost sight of the most important factor: the customer experience.

No business can afford to provide excellent customer service at any cost. But equally, no business can afford to ignore the importance of customer satisfaction.

Call centre cost reduction strategies like off-shoring or technology outsourcing have failed because they focus almost exclusively on improving the bottom line. They have not properly considered the implications for enterprise processes and management approaches and, more importantly, have not focused on the customer. So, anticipated financial and operational benefits have not been fully realised and customers remain largely dissatisfied i.e. a vicious circle.

Customer dissatisfaction has led to many institutions reversing their earlier decisions to offshore call centre operations. In their adverts many banks now make a point of having UK based call centres.

But cost savings and service improvements do not have to be mutually exclusive. If the customer experience is placed at the heart of a business transformation programme, opportunities can arise to improve both customer service levels and cut waste.

The Art of Possible:
There are three layers of corporate process that fundamentally drive performance excellence in a contact centre. They are contact centre strategy, operational planning and tactical execution. The strategic thinking, business analysis, detailed planning and communication that occur at each of these layers must be highly integrated from both the bottom up and the top down.

Only then will banks be able to determine where they are going – and have confidence in the belief that they are really going to be able to get there.

Saving costs and improving customer experience need not be mutually exclusive.

At Charteris we have customer centric contact centre expertise with experience gained in some of the country’s largest and most successful contact centres.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 7 - Creating Agility......The end goal

Putting it altogether; the IT, the business organisation and a service oriented architecture, will provide a retailer with:
  • an IT architecture that allows change, rather then dictating what changes can be made.
  • a business that is geared to meet the needs of the channels and ultimately its customers
  • a multi-channel platform that will last, adapt and perform
In summary, multi-channel retailers require agility and in delivering these key assets, a retailer can acquire the lasting agility that will differentiate them in the marketplace. Agility can be measured in many ways but there are some simple measures to consider in assessing just how agile a retailer really is. For instance, how long would it take to do the following:
  • introduce a new range or products across one or more channels?
  • open a new channel (such as a concession or mobile commerce platform)?
  • react to a competitors promotion?
  • introduce regional pricing and promotions?
  • introduce differential pricing across channels?
  • start marketing internationally
If the answer to any of these is “longer than my competitors”, then there is room for improvement. Taking the customer centric approach will shortcut many of the hurdles in assessing what needs to be done and partnering with Charteris is a firm step towards creating agility.

The Charteris Approach
At Charteris we define Customer Centricity as “the alignment of organisational structure, processes and technology to deliver products and services to internal and external customers in the most agile way.” Applying this to multi-channel retailing is what we do best and have wide experience in making this not just a theoretical exercise, but making it real.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mobile Banking and Payments Innovations

The Demise of Cheques?

When did you last write a cheque? The average person in the UK now receives less than seven cheques per year. In 1990, 11 million cheques were issued per day, in 2008 the daily volume is approximately 4million cheques and APACS estimates that in eight years time there will be only 2.5 million cheques per day.

Non-paper based payments like direct debits, direct credits and cards have reduced the need for cheques. Insurance claims are now settled via direct bank transfers or pre-paid cards for the smaller amounts. You can now draw larger amounts over the counter at your bank branch using your chip and pin card as your proof of ID. So, why are there still 4 million or so cheques issued a day?

The main culprits include person to person and person to small business payments. This is because as yet there is no infrastructure in place in the UK to provide an electronic payments system for these payment types.

Now with the new UK Faster Payment Service - you can get the latest updates here – ramping up, the industry has taken the first step towards the eventual elimination of cheques. All that is required next is for your banks to enable you to download from their mobile banking site a mobile payment application that becomes a function of your mobile banking service.
OK, there is more to the technology jigsaw puzzle than my “all you need” but it is not rocket science either. A main component will be a bank and mobile operator agnostic database that securely stores you m- credentials and keeps these up to date. There are also a few governance, security, privacy and exception management considerations to iron out.

But m-payments will be a compelling win-win proposition for payers, for beneficiaries and great for the banks’ relationship with their customers. It has the potential for the banks to innovate new customer centric experiences for all of their customers.

Who needs cheques now? Imagine.... you can pay “Joe the plumber” for fixing your pipes by pressing a few buttons on your mobile and by the time he finishes saying thank you he gets confirmation of settlement from his bank on his mobile..same mobile also tells him that he should now transfer some money to his personal account to avoid going into the red.

The British a nation of shopkeepers? More like a nation of bankers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 6 - The Customer Centric Approach

In gearing any part of an organisation to deliver a service, whether it be technology, system, process or people related, an understanding of the customer is vital. For example, a retailer who also provides white label channels has not only the end consumer to consider, but also the partner organisations to whom they provide white label solutions. Similarly, merchandisers, graphic designers and cataloguers servicing more than one channel can consider each channel as a customer. When an organisation starts to think along theses lines, about who their customer really is, then the implementation of a service led philosophy becomes an easier task. Underpinning this approach is taking a considered view of the customer in order to understand their motivations, behaviour, likes and dislikes.

Taking a customer centric approach enables each area to focus on delivering exactly what the customer wants. Critically analysing processes, systems and related functional areas and determining their effectiveness in delivering customer service is at the heart of the customer centric approach. Breaking down each element and step of a process and stripping out those that do not add value to the customer can create efficiencies and benefits across the organisation. In doing this, the multi-channel retailer can create a framework of services that is ultimately geared towards the customer rather than the requirements or functions of a particular channel or technology.

Can banks cut more costs without risking customer service ?

Cost reduction through improving operational efficiency has been a consistent goal of financial services organisations. Techniques such as Lean have been adopted with significant success in many organisations.

However, recent research indicates that the pure application of such techniques, which were originally designed for the manufacturing sector, can be detrimental to customer experience when applied to service organisations.

In essence, process optimisation motivated primarily by a desire for cost reduction can lead to decisions which are detrimental to customer service.

Meanwhile , the behaviour of the financial services consumer continues to evolve; more sophisticated, more demanding and more likely to complain or transfer their business if their expectations are not met. Simultaneously, financial services organisations are recognising the true lifetime value of customer retention; looking to cross-sell and up-sell to their existing customer base.

In this context, what financial services organisations need is the confidence that their business critical process change programmes will enhance customer experience not acting to its detriment.

The key to drive business change successfully is direct and continuous engagement of the customer within the change process. Customers are the ultimate arbiters of the success of change initiatives – their “voice” can not only be a compelling reason for change but, properly engaged, an extremely effective shaper of that change.

Chaos reigns in the world of spreadsheets

Thanks to its relative ease of use, flexibility and low unit cost Excel has matured to become the most pervasive business tool for risk modelling, financial analysis and reporting applications. But Excel’s perceived ease of use and flexibility have become both its strengths and its weakness.

In many instances though Excel models operate outside normal governance and control mechanism, giving rise to increased risk of failures in such critical areas as valuations, assessments, premiums, trading and financial reporting.

At the other end of the scale, many enterprise risk and financial modelling services are hard coded into line of business or specialist applications. The process for defining and changing these services is complex, time consuming and expensive. Typically it impacts a range of systems and requires lengthy interactions between subject matter experts (e.g. risk analysts, financial analysts, researchers and statisticians) and IT development teams.

Often this results in:
  • Poor time to market for new deals,
  • higher than necessary development costs
  • Less than optimum productivity
In my view the effective solution is effective spreadsheet management requires a risk framework encompassing
  • spreadsheet lifecycle and content management and version control
  • quality assurance, security and access control
  • regulatory and corporate compliant business processes
  • access to information required for reporting

..... will continue

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 5 - Business Architecture.....The afterthought

Structuring the operational model around the new architectures and solutions is often left as a last minute consideration in delivering any new system. Organisational structure and associated processes are vital in order to deliver the most customer focussed experience and service possible. Every aspect of the operational model needs to be visited and assessed to determine the value it actually delivers to the customer and ensure that the priority and focus is aligned to this strategy.

This is where the thinking around the use of SOA needs to break out of the IT box and permeate through the business functions and respective processes. This is where the hard questions can often be found and where the structure of business functions needs to be most challenged. However, the balance of dividing business functions amongst the selected channels as opposed to maintaining a centralised operational model is a real tightrope and one that can only be managed on a case by case basis.

Creating a business architecture by applying SOA principles is not an exact science in some respects is still in its infancy. Even considering the business and operational model as an “Architecture” is a step too far for some organisations. But, those that have embraced this philosophy have broken out of the traditional business models and created cross functional working units geared to providing services to their customers, whether internal or external. This approach not only is geared towards a value added customer experience but leverages the experience and expertise of the people within an organisation.

5 Key Issues Facing Retailers Trying To Become Multi-Channel

I'd argue that the underlying success factor in multi-channel retail from an external perspective is a seamless customer experience, and from an internal perspective is a single customer view - different sides of the same coin. Most of the challenges to any retailer appear to stem from attempting to achieve this.

The two key areas of impact here are technological and organizational dependent on retailer age and size. The older the organization, the more likely they are to have legacy systems, and the larger they are, they more likely they are to face resistance to change. Multi-channel may therefore require integration of disparate technologies, while also needing a complete review of structure, skills, staff incentivisation, and a host of other business and marketing processes.

The 5 main issues faced by large retailers entering the multi-channel space are as follows:

  1. Evaluating cost of investment in development of cost effective, secure, scalable environments and systems integration against probable short term impact on bottom line
  2. Pricing across different channels - Store channels have higher cost structures than web channels for example, and price competition is higher on web, but consumers can be put off by different pricing for the same product
  3. Channel synchronisation i.e. ensuring brand, customer experience and customer information consistency across channels while avoiding the 3E trap i.e. trying to provide ‘everything to everyone everywhere’
  4. Problems in merging and standardising customer data i.e. unifying different systems which may have very different data models
  5. Difficulties in reducing or abolishing organisational boundaries to cope with new channels

In summary, customers for whom a multi-channel approach will yield the most benefits are often those for whom achieving it the most problematic – they have the largest customer bases, most complex lines, and longest histories of systems development, with many business critical systems that supply old CRM processes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 4 - I thought SOA was just an IT thing!

From an IT perspective, the use of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) is a logical fit to fulfil the multi-channel solution where core capabilities such as product, delivery, payment etc. are developed in such a way that they are created as services allowing for re-use across the enterprise. However, if the IT department is the only place where the SOA principles are adopted, then there can be no real alignment between IT and the business. Therefore, it is essential that the SOA blueprint is adopted throughout the enterprise rather than remain solely as just another IT acronym. In order to achieve this, the entire organisation must adopt SOA principles and the blueprint for this ideally is owned by the business. If the IT department alone is trusted in implementing the SOA architecture (as is so often the case), then the chances of the remaining parts of the organisation fostering the principles of SOA (and hence the benefits) are somewhat slim.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 3 - Surely, IT has all the answers!

So, the decision has been made to create a new architecture and it’s all hand on deck. Constructing the great new systems and solutions to support the multi-channel ambition is one thing, but there are many other considerations which are just as important. IT is undoubtedly the key enabler in this relentless march towards customer satisfaction, but it is truly only one part of the jigsaw. The creation of a technical architecture that is aligned to the operating goals is vital; less so is the selection of the exact technology as there are various products and technologies that can be blended together to form an effective solution. In addressing the architecture issue, the creation of a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is widely recognised as the best practice approach and one that dovetails into a customer focussed strategy.

The key benefits of SOA in a multi-channel strategy are one of re-use and the ability to initiate changes (to business or channel specific rules and functionality) without having a knock-on effect to all parts of the organisation. As discussed in my posts on the practicalities of multi-channel retailing, re-using components such as inventory, delivery and payment across the channels as services increases the efficiency and realises cost savings across the channels. However, the full benefits can only be full realised by creating a business logic layer across these services where specific attributes cater for the requirements of each channel. This is where such elements as price, promotions and catalogue are controlled and provide the channels with independence despite sharing a common data set.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meeting Performance Challenges In Local Government

Here are the 5 key performance issues facing Local and Regional Government right now:

  1. There is no common understanding of hundreds of performance indicators (PIs)
  2. Accessing the data necessary to derive each PI is difficult
  3. The quality of data is poor
  4. The cost of reporting is high
  5. Use of performance reporting is poor

Andrew Rogoyski, Head of Public Sector at Charteris, explores these further and covers the ways the LRG's might look to address them in his paper on "Performance Management for Local and Regional Government Organisations in England" below.

Monday, October 13, 2008

8 Steps To Customer Centricity

(Excerpt taken from Stephen Hewett's paper "The right way to do the right thing for the customer")

Here's our 8 step plan for maximising Customer Centricity within your organisation:

  1. Identify who your primary and secondary customers are.
  2. Identify the products and services they consume and through which channels (web, call centre, bricks and mortar and so on).
  3. Work out where the crucial ‘points of addition’ occur in adding value to those products and services.
  4. Make sure that the business areas involved in these points of addition understand how they each add value to these products and services.
  5. Align the organisational structure to support these points of addition.
  6. Minimise the activities that don’t add value to what the customer is getting from the organisation.
  7. Ensure that the correct measurements maintain and improve the processes.
  8. Support where appropriate with technology solutions.


(Download the full whitepaper “The right way to do the right thing for the customer”)

If you want to know more, do feel free to get in touch as we have developed some helpful frameworks for the end to end delivery of customer centricity.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Changing To A Customer-Centric Culture

(Excerpt taken from Stephen Hewett's paper "The right way to do the right thing for the customer")

Successful organisations, whether in the private or public sector, all have one thing in common. They have all found a way, or ways, of consistently winning from customers a level of loyalty and willingness to buy again that in effect amounts to a reliable mandate from customers who are attracted to what the business has to offer.

The business, of course, will want those customers to keep being attracted by what is on offer, and for the number of customers who are attracted to increase. Essentially, Customer Centricity is a way of disciplining - in the most positive sense - the entire organisation to ensure that it is as good at looking after its customers and winning and maintaining new customer mandates and new levels of loyalty from customers as it possibly can be.

So what does it really mean in practice? How do you actually ‘do’ Customer Centricity at your organisation?

The key is to achieve agility in how the organisation is run and how every element in the chain links together. Make sure everyone knows who their own key internal and external customers are, and what products and services each of them needs (and are prepared to pay for, in the case of external customers). Take steps to assess whether your customer chain is delivering products and services most effectively at the lowest cost.

Be ready to start making your organisation customer centric from first principles - possibly taking advice on how best to do this - and be adamant that you won’t paper over the cracks in those parts of your organisation that aren’t agile and flexible enough to demonstrate very clearly the role they play in the chain.

Above all, be honest. Prepare yourself for long-term incremental change. Build a group of stakeholders from all levels who understand the concept of Customer Centricity, what it requires and who can preach it to others.

Ultimately you will need to drive the Customer Centricity concept and principles throughout all aspects of the business including strategic vision, people, process, organisational structure, information and technology.

Yes, change is hard, but you can grow Customer Centricity within your organisation on a department by department basis: you don’t need to do it all at once. And when you are ready to implement the technology, you’ll find there is plenty of great technology out there - systems for Workflow management, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), databases management, Business Intelligence tools and so on - that will enable you to create your new-look organisation without delay.

Remember that deep down in your organisation the chain that will delight your customers - and your shareholders - very possibly already exists, obscured by internally focused organisation design, poor process, inappropriately deployed technology and lack of vision.

Liberate it, and enjoy the brightest tomorrow you can imagine.


(Download the full whitepaper “The right way to do the right thing for the customer”)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Listening to customers in a multi channel world

Understanding customer’s in-store and online shopping preferences

Whilst researching key customer needs and trends in the multi channel world, I came across this white paper published by Sterling commerce. They have produced a report full of compelling analysis and with very insightful statistics that is and will continue to affect Multi Channel retail.

Sterling Commerce conducted an online survey of 5,000 consumers to understand consumer preferences and attitudes when shopping online and in traditional retail channels. With some surprising results, the responses provide tremendous insight into the consumer’s expectations for selling and fulfilment.

Some highlights

1. Three statistics customers rated the most important when shopping across channels.

  • 1. 72% of customers wanted notification of filling/shipping delays
  • 2. 69% of customers wanted the store to locate an out-of–stock product at a different location.
  • 3. 68% of customers wanted notification throughout ordering/shipping process
2. Three statistics customers said would affect their willingness to shop at a retail store

  • 1. 74% of customers said no pricing on the item or shelf
  • 2. 72% of customers said sale items out of stock
  • 3. 65% of customers said unhelpful sales associates

3. 57% of consumers stating that it is important for them to be able to monitor the status of their order via the Web, free phone number, or through customer service in a store, regardless of whether that order was placed online, through the catalogue, or as a special order in a store.

4. Consumers are becoming more familiar with the experience of a single retailer offering products across multiple channels. They expect the communication and service options related to these products to be seamlessly merged. Retailers who do not provide a single face to their consumers with cross-channel execution will begin losing customers to retailers that do.

Retailers who create a customer centric seamless experience for their customers can expect increased customer loyalty, increased same-store sales, and improved margins.

Check it out, it's free: Sterling Commerce.

Why Organisations Become Less Customer Centric Over Time

(Excerpt taken from Stephen Hewett's paper "The right way to do the right thing for the customer")

In short because they
  1. Lose focus,
  2. Lose stamina,
  3. Get complacent and
  4. Get lazy.
When organisations first start trading they usually (and certainly should) have a clear idea what they are in business to do, who does what, and why. Every person involved in a start-up will most likely know how they add value to the finished product or service and whom they need to work with internally to make sure the best service or product is delivered to their new customers. They will know this because looking after the customer is so completely why they set up the business in the first place.

But then, if the new business succeeds, it will grow. To start with, as it grows, the founders and the new staff may be able to keep alive the flame that embodies the spirit of why they are in business. But sooner or later, somewhere along the line, the flame will diminish or even go out completely, as the clarity of why you are in business fades. Once that clarity starts to fade, Customer Centricity fades with it.

Why does this happen?

To speak generally, one has to say that as organisations grow in size a curious effect almost invariably occurs. Staff members start to look inward, worry about their own internal departmental issues and become more and more remote from the actual agenda of the customer.

Internal management processes arise that have little or nothing at all to do with adding value to the external customer. It’s common for whole new business areas and departments to be created to deal with and manage these internal issues. .

The trouble is, too many large organisations forget that people don’t just work for money, but satisfaction too; and they don’t ensure that their staff are encouraged and empowered to look after customers properly. This is particularly so for staff working in internal departments that don’t have a direct interface to customers, though it often applies to customer-facing departments, too. When people in those internal departments perceive that the organisation doesn’t empower them to take steps to understand their role in looking after customers, they forget they are part of a ‘chain’ of organisational resources aligned to allow the organisation to do its very best for its customers and consequently start to drift and lose focus at a motivational level.

In practice, within a large organisation it is almost inevitable that most of its departments will not be customer-facing. And here the very size of a large organisation can conspire against it being successful. The organisation needs to be certain, at all times, of what every individual person and every department is doing that adds value to the paying customer by providing top-quality products and services to customers directly or by doing things that directly facilitate the provision to customers.

After all, if any one individual or department is not involved in the chain, it needs to be asked what exactly they are doing in the organisation at all.


(Download the full whitepaper “The right way to do the right thing for the customer”)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Practicalities of Multichannel Retailing -Part 5 - Delivery and Payment

Providing the entire range of products in the catalogue, in as accessible format as possible, strengthens the offering of a retailer no end. Providing a fully joined up view on delivery options including premium and store pick-up is a challenge in its own right as it dictates that stock management and whereabouts are completely accurate all of the time. Co-ordination of different delivery methods amongst numerous partners need to be effectively managed so that data feeds and access to order tracking is fully transparent for not only the customer, but also the customer service agents.

Now the customer is only interested in how they are going to get their hands on the merchandise but ensuring that they are not disappointed or misled is paramount in providing a great customer experience. This is an area where taking a customer centric standpoint is vital and in combination with a service led approach can reap enormous benefit. The result of these approaches should be the provision of choice to the customer in how to receive their goods in a timely, and convenient fashion. No one solution fits all but by centrally co-ordinating the delivery options as a repeatable service amongst the various channels will provide the required choice. This means that all channels can obtain the same delivery services whilst the management of them is centralised – not only efficiency “win” but also a customer “win”.

Payment is often viewed as just a step in the process and the eventual “closure of the sale”. In many ways, it gets overlooked with respect to the customer experience and it must be appreciated that this is the most painful part of the entire customer journey through any channel. To put it bluntly, consumers hate parting with their hard earned cash. Therefore, spending some time in making this as smooth as possible is certainly not wasted. If a retailer offers interest free credit of other financing initiatives, then it is imperative that these are not merely restricted to customers walking through a bricks and mortar outlet. Providing the ability to split purchases across more that one payment card for a single transaction (so long as there are strict fraud and security checks around the process) could be the difference between a sale and a lost customer. Such options do need careful assessment but exhibit a far more customer focussed approach.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Practicalities of Multichannel Retailing - Part 4 - Order History and Returns

The “single view of the customer” is the panacea in all multi-channel retailing strategies and enabling the customer to access their purchase history irrespective of channel has many benefits. However, the need for a single customer identifier is paramount in effectively delivering this and where the ubiquitous loyalty card holds the trump card. However, without such a device, it is still possible to draw together the interactions with a customer through other associations such as addresses (whether e-mail or physical) or phone numbers although care must be taken in reconciling this with privacy laws. In keeping though with the single view of the customer, it is the online view where the visibility of orders is paramount and providing suitable data links for delivery tracking and statuses enriches this view for both customers and cal centre staff alike.

Allowing the customer to seamlessly switch their buying decisions across channels must be suitably supported by dealing with returns and exchanges equally through any channel. This has limitations in customer acceptance and usually places extra demands on the more physically accessible channels. However, in order for the customer to recognise the retailer uniformly across channels, the processes need to be in place to deal with products not normally stocked at the point of return. This in turn aids and abets the strategy of placing the customer at the heart of the multi channel landscape.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 2 - The single view of the customer

Customer Service is the lynchpin behind a multi-channel strategy but it is so often cast as the fall guy in attempting to cobble together a solution from legacy systems. The “poor relations” in the call centre have been seen as the last resort to support the inadequacies of IT solutions in reconciling customer orders, refunds and returns. This behaviour towards a retailer’s customers is the antitheses of a truly customer centric approach and one to be avoided at all costs. Empowerment of the customer service agent by a robust CRM system is paramount in delivering quality customer service and can save both time and money if implemented correctly. More importantly, it can be the last resort in retaining a disaffected customer when systems or processes do break down. Providing transparent visibility across all channels, coupled with empowerment to view and alter order details is the very minimum functions that need to be provided.

But it really does matter!
It is having the single view of the customer, stored in a single data store that unlocks the true potential of multi-channel retailing in providing marketers with the data that enables customer behaviour to be analysed and utilised in driving forward the customer plan. Presenting the right offer at the right time can only be consistently achieved by getting a grip on the customer’s behaviour and developing this capability. Architecting the CRM strategy to achieve this must take into account not only the qualitative data about customer numbers and orders, but also combining this with less qualitative data such as web statistics and responses to marketing campaigns and Customer Service centre contact. Identifying the trends in this data empowers marketers to create campaigns targeted at specific audiences as well as allowing merchandisers to select appropriate products in the right channels.

Customer Centricity vs. CRM

(Excerpt taken from Stephen Hewett's paper "The right way to do the right thing for the customer")

The essential mindset behind Customer Centricity isn’t new. Visit the open market at Marrakech in Morocco - or any other busy marketplace in the world, for that matter - and you’ll see the concept of Customer Centricity at work, at least at the most successful stalls. It has, in effect, been around since the very dawn of business. Our modern economy is more sophisticated than the market at Marrakech, though the need for making customers feel special is no less paramount.

Businesses often like to relate new strategic concepts to old ones, and so Customer Centricity is increasingly regarded as both a descendant and replacement for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which many regard as a failed concept.

Whether or not you yourself agree that CRM was a failure, the CRM approach of regarding customer service as something you can instil merely by installing a (very expensive) piece of software usually fails to work unless your business is highly customer centric already.

The problem with CRM systems is that they tend to paper over an organisation’s deficiencies in the area of customer service. The effect is less ROI on the CRM system than might otherwise have been the case, while the underlying problems go unresolved.

Customer Centricity, however, does not come packaged in a box. It isn’t something you can just pay someone to install and then go back to going about your business pretty well as you did before. Instead, Customer Centricity is an entire strategy for running your organisation so that you focus every aspect of what you do around the needs of your customers.

Customer Centricity can be defined as the alignment of organisational structure, processes and technology to deliver products and value-added services to internal and external customers in the most agile way.

Perhaps the most important point to make about Customer Centricity is that technology is just one part of the story, and to become customer centric an organisation really does need to look hard at crucial factors such as its culture, processes and ways of doing things before it brings in any facilitation technology. Becoming customer centric then, is not just an item on the agenda of a Board meeting, it is THE agenda.

It is also, in case you might have forgotten, why you’re in business in the first place.

(Download the full whitepaper “The right way to do the right thing for the customer”)

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Practicalities of Multi-Channel Retail - Part 3 - Inventory (Stock)

Visibility of stock within distribution centres and fulfilment partners, as well as stock held locally in bricks and mortar stores, provides the customer with clearly defined options on where they can source the items they are looking for in either their preferred or alternative channel. Having the ability to directly purchase through a transactional website/telephone ordering system, or reserve stock at a local branch guarantees the customer is satisfied without them reverting to a competitor. This approach of guiding the customer to alternative channels in order to provide timely fulfilment is one of the key factors identified in retaining customer loyalty. There is not necessarily a right or wrong method for managing stock levels across channels, whether it is a federated or singular view within channels. But the most important feature of this is the speed in which stock can be made available between channels so that demand can be satisfied without the need for drawn out processes in transferring stock, whether it is physical stock, or merely logical partitioning in a warehouse.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Practicalities of Multi-Channel Retail - Part 2 - The Product Catalogue

By having a single product cataloguing system, each channel can select specific products or categories of products from the centralised repository that best suit their requirements. This alone though does not necessarily meet the differing requirements of the channels in terms of presenting the customer with a meaningful navigational structure. Therefore, this catalogue requires the flexibility to have multiple mappings that allow merchandisers to quickly link products and form cross-sell and up-sell relationships as well as providing guided navigation through relevant taxonomies and facets (product attributes). This is a sound approach for the base level product data but does not necessarily provide the required flexibility for differing pricing and promotion models across channel. To satisfy this, an abstracted pricing and promotional model is called allowing the creation of independent pricing structures and channel specific promotions. This facility is absolutely vital should a retailer decide to provide any sort of white label model.

The Secret Of Creating A Successful Business

(Excerpt taken from Stephen Hewett's paper "The right way to do the right thing for the customer")

Did you know that in most organisations, between 50% and 70% of internal effort expended doesn’t actually add any value to what the organisation is achieving for its customers? These research findings seem - and are - alarming. But when you consider what people say about the calibre of customer service they receive from many organisations, perhaps the findings are not especially surprising.

The question is... what can be done to improve the situation?

The secret of business success unfortunately is just that - a secret, and trying to learn from the successes of other people and businesses is rarely the answer. Having the 20/20 vision of hindsight is a completely different thing from knowing it. Fortunately, though, there are some extremely useful strategies that can take you far along the Yellow Brick Road to your own personal pot of business gold. The best ones offer you powerful new ways of getting real clarity on the ideas, approaches and tactics that can lead to success beyond even your most optimistic expectations.

One of the most useful, interesting, empowering and transforming strategies in the business world today is Customer Centricity.

Customer Centricity brings you back to basics. It brings you back into intimate contact with the reasons why you decided to set up a business - or work in a particular industry - in the first place. Indeed, one of the insights so often liberated by the new types of thinking inspired by Customer Centricity is that it’s too easy, in the hubbub of corporate and professional life, to forget those reasons. This forgetfulness can apply to anyone at an organisation. Senior executives, and even Board members, are far from being immune to it.

Yet Customer Centricity, properly deployed, is much more than a mere antidote to this forgetfulness. At its best, Customer Centricity can transform an organisation into being everything it can be, but which it can so easily fail to be.

The role of Customer Centricity in business today is still evolving. All the same, we do need a working definition, and an informal definition might be the process of ensuring that every individual and department within an organisation is taking every step feasible to add value to what the organisation does for its customers.

It is useful to work towards a more formal definition, which includes details of the actual processes whereby Customer Centricity can be achieved. But this is more useful if we first set Customer Centricity in context as a business strategy today.


(Download the full whitepaper “The right way to do the right thing for the customer”)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Practicalities of Multi-Channel Retail - Part 1 - A few fundamentals

The Practicalities of Multi-Channel

The “multi-channelness” of a retailer is only really determined by the ultimate ambition of the organisation coupled with the appetite for some serious change. Those early trail blazers that managed a seemingly coherent multi-channel offering often got there by smashing various legacy systems together by brute force in the pursuit of an integrated solution. Often, this meant some behind the scenes issues in customer service, delivery and order processing that failed to provide a single view of the history of an individual customer over multiple channels. The impact of this ultimately hit the customer at some point in preventing them from switching channels for returns, combining deliveries or tracking the statuses of orders. Ultimately, these legacy “smash-ups” present longevity issues by their very nature in that they are difficult to maintain, extend and above all, have problems scaling as demand for their services grow.

These issues are only resolved by initiating substantial change in the backbone of a retailer’s information system so that there is one source of the truth for critical product and process data such as:

  • Catalogue
  • Inventory (stock)
  • Orders and Order History
  • Returns
  • Customer
  • Delivery
  • Payment

Providing this coherent and centrally managed view on both data and processes gears the organisation for efficiency. Consistent product information and management forms one part of Catalogue management but there is also a distinct need to better manage the whole product lifecycle from birth to grave with particular reference to performance across channels. This can only be achieved by having a single strategy in information systems, product induction, categorisation and reporting. As an end goal, this is a tough challenge to resolve as any major change in catalogue management is often unpalatable with the more established areas or channels. Legacy systems in these areas rule the roost and require substantial re-engineering to accommodate the demands of the newer routes to market. However, those retailers who endeavour to undertake this challenge and implement a successful solution can reap the benefits.

Responding to Changing Trends in Consumer Behaviour

We are currently living through a new revolution – one that is driven by user-generated information as you can see by the plethora of Web 2.0 sites up in the following image. We’re talking about people engaging with each other’s content and improving the quality of collective knowledge about everything.

Social Media Sites

Informational and interactional connectivity is resulting in exponential increases in the speed at which ideas and behaviours are spreading, particularly through an age demographic, which is no longer confined to the 16 to 25's. Month on month we see the age demographics of social interaction expand as ecommerce takes hold and social networks increase their reach. Facebook’s user-base for example has already shifted from people in their 20’s up to 35 year olds as defacto within the last year alone, with parents and grandparents also now creating profiles. The tipping points for each age group and regional audience are being reached ever more quickly and the web is no longer just about the Millennial and Gen X demographics, but extends well into the Baby Boomers and beyond.

The overall size of penetration is soaring too. Universal McCann research shows that the UK alone has 17m active internet users, 1m of which have shared an opinion within their trusted networks about one or more of your products and brands. Trusted opinions are shown to be the top influence in consumers decision making process. Do you know what they’re saying about you? If you think this doesn’t apply to you, just go onto Google and type in your company’s name and complaints and reviews.

People of all ages are collaborating to avoid being exploited by corporations; socialising to ensure they get the best deals; and looking for brand and personal associations that provide the most social kudos.

Where brands get it right, the pay-offs are massive.

Addressing this revolution in social consumer behaviour is about developing 2-way engagement, primarily by maximising the reach of your engagement channels, by which I mean any channels through which you can interact with your customers in real time... A good example being your web presence.

The need for maximising the impact of your digital channel is reinforced by the fact that since competition in the digital space is non-local, rapidly expanding, and thus much greater than in the physical space; firms that are not part of the social conversation will struggle to compete as more people go online to beat the impact of the credit crunch.

The same applies for firms that are not leveraging their digital channels to learn how to improve their cross-channel experiences. Getting real-time feedback on how shoppers' expectations measure up against experience, through participating in social online conversation is one of the most valuable insights any company can get.

In short... by leveraging social media and the web!