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Getting the Balance Right – Your Business and Your Customers

by Hank Barnes  |  November 11, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

My post last week on Strategy, Selling and Segmentation generated some interesting internal dialogue.  To a large degree, it was, in the words of Tiffani Bova, helping us remember “the things we think we think.”   That is, it reminded many of us of some things that we take for granted in our thought processes and decision making.

At the same time, it also was a reminder that, as a business, we need to strike a balance between doing what is best for our business and doing what customers want.   Yes, customers are more empowered than ever, but that you as a business should cater to their every whim.   There are still some business fundamentals.  When I hear things like “The Internet means every business is a Global Business”, I cringe.  Just because you CAN sell to anybody (or that anybody can buy from you), does not mean you should.

As Frank Cespedes book (referenced in the last post) reminds us, there is an opportunity cost for anything we do—it is not just the cost of doing it that has to be considered but also the things we can’t do because we spent our resources on that thing.     If we sell to an international customer, what is the cost of support?  What changes do we need in other business processes?   All of a sudden that “easy” sale can turn pretty costly.  You always have to assess the overall impact on your business.

That being said, with, as my colleague Jake Sorofman wrote, Customer Experience emerging as the new battlefield, organizations must learn how to balance customer experience and business value.   With that in mind, I remembered a blog post I wrote while I was at Adobe (that old post can still be found here on the CustomerThink web site).  In it, I talked about an approach to assessing CX efforts in the context of business value.  Graphically, the approach looked like this:


The idea being that you should assess projects from both the value to the customer and the business ROI.  Projects that are low on either dimension typically don’t make sense to do in the customer experience era.  Generating a lot of business ROI at the expense of CX is not a viable long term strategy.  Similarly, focusing on customer value without helping the business does not make sense.

The best projects are ones that deliver high customer and business value.   But what about the next ones?  This approach advocates evaluating the next level of projects with a slant toward greater customer value.  Why?  Because most of our businesses need to OVERCORRECT to learn to be customer centric.   An old friend, Sue Aldrich–an analyst with The Patricia Seybold Group, illustrated this with a great analogy.

Fold a piece of paper in half.  Now try to flatten it.

To do it, you OVERCORRECT, folding it the other way.

That is what businesses need to do to learn to be customer-centric.

Ultimately, it is a balancing act, but make sure you are getting that balance right.   Everything you do should produce value for your business and for customers.  The customer may always be right, but what they are right about may not be best for your business.  If that is the case, you should not feel it is something you must do.    It won’t always make for easy decisions, but if you develop balanced strategies it will be easier to deliver balanced execution.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: business-value  customer-experience  cx  strategy  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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