Does your business really need a Customer Strategy?
We have business, product, marketing and service strategies to define how an organisation will deliver value to customers. So, why is it necessary to also have a Customer or CX Strategy?
Shouldn’t a well designed business strategy have everything necessary to define how any organisation will deliver value to customers, as well as other stakeholders (ie. Employees, investors, suppliers, regulators, communities)?
Equally, if CX management is primarily about ensuring that all other strategies and activities, within the organisation (eg. financial, distribution, sales and marketing, and customer service), are aligned, to ensure delivery of the right customer outcomes, then there isn’t much of a need for a Customer or CX Strategy either. Correct?
In an ideal world — yes.
However, in reality, a number of problems exist…
- Business strategies don’t always explain clearly how value will be delivered, in a way that is aligned to customer outcomes.
- There’s often dissonance between expected and actual delivery, when scrutinised from a customer perspective. We’re all too familiar with the reported gap that exists between business expectation and customer reality.
- Functional strategies, across the business, don’t always link back to a singular set of desired customer outcomes.
A good Customer/CX Strategy adds value.
Developing a Customer/CX Strategy can bridge business strategy gaps and set the expectations for how an organisation will meet its customer goals.
It can play across three primary roles:
- Acting as an important vehicle to check and validate that a broader business strategy and plan can achieve what it aims to achieve, when it comes to delivery of value to customers.
- Providing the next (middle) layer of detail as to how the business will deliver its customer objectives.
- Setting the principles and rules to drive increased customer focus, across the organisation, which can be threaded through all other strategic plans.
Whether you call it a Customer Strategy or CX Strategy, doesn’t really matter, what matters is that it considers all key aspects of your customer value proposition.
But, from now on, for simplicity, let’s call it ‘Customer Strategy’.
What it should include…
First of all, here’s a Customer Strategy 101 point.
A Customer Strategy needs to articulate the distinctive value and experience that your organisation will deliver to customers over a 3 to 5 year period.
If, your strategic scope is the customer support layer, or customer insight and culture, and not also how your core product and pricing strategy will contribute to customer outcomes, then I would argue it ceases to be a Customer or CX Strategy. It would instead look more like a Customer Services or Customer Insight Strategy.
Secondly, a Customer Strategy is not separate from the business strategy — it is an illustration of your business strategy, but focused and reframed around the customer stakeholder group, with added detail on the key strategies that enable the business to deliver against its customer objectives.
Therefore, a good Customer Strategy should cover the following:
- Who your customers and users are.
- How the business will bring value to those customers.
- How customers will bring value back to the business.
- How the business will maintain its visibility of customer needs and behaviours.
- How the business will maintain its focus on delivering for those customer needs.
- How performance of activities will be overseen, tracked and measured.
Plus… a Customer Strategy can’t be defined unilaterally — developing one is a collaborative exercise
Even though a Customer Strategy will normally be sponsored by the CEO, with the CCO, CMO or Head of CX responsible for developing, managing and overseeing it, its successful execution will be down to many stakeholders across the business.
Therefore, unless the Customer Strategy is considered as a joint ‘agreement’, that’s fully aligned with all other functional strategies across the business, the chances of it being successfully developed and executed are thin.
Introducing the Customer Strategy Canvas…
You may be familiar with the Business Model Canvas, which is a really useful tool for Business Model design, collaboration and workshopping. So, I’ve taken the principle and applied it to a Customer Strategy setting.
(BTW — If you’d like a PDF of the canvas, message me and I’ll send through).
How the Customer Strategy Canvas works…
‘Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values’
This layer covers the high-level purpose, vision, mission and values of the organisation. It’s an important locking point for all business strategy. It’s also useful to see if any dissonance or gaps exist in goals between business goals and the Customer Strategy.
(Middle Layer — Righthand section)
This section deals with the business and customer context — the foundational reality upon which your Customer Strategy is built.
- Business Context — This should describe the business model, how the business aims to deliver against its growth objectives, where its financial priorities lie and how it applies its business model to deliver customer value. It should also include any key challenges that exist within the model when delivering value to customers. An example here could be lead times in your supply chain which result in a long order to delivery process.
- Customer Context — This should describe who your primary customers groups are. This could be prospects or existing customers, and derived from personas or customer segments. Don’t forget many businesses have different customer groups. Those who are paying for the product may be different from those using it. Your approach to these different groups may therefore need to be distinct from each other. This section should also describe the needs, motivations and jobs to be done amongst these groups. Altogether you should have a clear strategic view of what the priorities are for your customers, when it comes to using your products and services.
‘Proposition and Experience’
(Middle Layer — Centre section)
This section covers the Customer Value Proposition and Concept of Experience (Customer Journey).
- Customer Value Proposition — This should describe the aspects of your offering that deliver value to your customers, what makes your offering attractive and how you set yourselves apart from the competition.
- Business Value Proposition — This includes how the business will derive value from the Customer Strategy (return on investment), where applicable, what investments in capabilities and experiences are needed, and benefit to other stakeholders (eg. investors, regulators, community, employees).
- Concept of Experience — This block focuses on how your value proposition, is strategically brought to life in the key customer journeys. Undoubtedly given how much information this could contain, it would also be something more fully represented in other documents or templates.
(Middle Layer — Lefthand section)
This section focuses on how the ‘Value Chain’ (see Porter’s Value Chain) of your organisation will be utilised to deliver the key components of your Customer Value Proposition and Concept of Experience.
- Customer Products and Services — This should describe what the key products and services for your customers are and how they will be utilised to deliver value to customers and the business. It should also include customer facing capability gaps where investments are needed in order to deliver required experience.
- Supporting Capabilities — This should include the capabilities that are needed to enable and support your Customer Products and Services, including the technologies, data and supply chain management requirements.
- People and Culture — This should cover the resources and organisational requirements that enable your realisation of the Customer Strategy, including your approach to embedding a culture where customer needs, expectations and impacts are considered in all key decisions.
‘Insight, Performance and Governance’
This section deals with some of the key elements that underpin the way a Customer Strategy is implemented, managed and measured across the organisation.
- Insight — How an understanding of customer needs and motivations will captured, analysed, distributed and maintained ie. Voice of the Customer (VoC), Voice of the Employee (VoE) and Voice of the Operation (VoO) approaches. How customer value will be aligned and tied back to business value, and how the business will keep track of it’s performance against customer measures.
- Performance, OKRs and Incentives — The metrics that will be used to target, benchmark, monitor and manage performance in line with what customers value. Also how incentives are used within the business to drive the right behaviours.
- Governance — How oversight of the Customer Strategy will be managed and momentum maintained. How activities will be monitored, assessed and prioritised to ensure that they remain on track against goals.
Finally, your Customer Strategy is not meant to be a detailed plan, it should act as an input or blueprint into your planning process across the organisation, which will of course include further detail on your financial, operating and delivery plans.
I hope you find it useful. I’d love to hear what you think.
Also, if you have a product or service challenge, where you think an experience review may be necessary, and the canvas could be of help — do get in touch.