conversation about maximising value from customer insight

Redesigning Customer Experiences from the Outside In

Outside InThis book has a dull cover and lacks any colour graphics within its pages. So, if you spot it, you might not be enthused. However, persistence is rewarded, as there is much customer experience and customer insight leaders can learn from this book.

Written by a couple of leaders at Forrester Research, it provides the reader with an overview of everything to consider in order to improve customer experiences. As anyone who has worked in this area will know, that’s a tall order.

Peppers & Rodgers “Managing Customer Relationships” is usefully comprehensive but at 481 pages not a quick read. So, to provide this overview in only 224 pages is an achievement for Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine.

As I worked my way through this book, two things became the major benefits. The first is a set of frameworks to act as guides or checklists for action needed in different areas. First up is their definition of a Customer Experience Ecosystem Map, a useful term for ensuring you consider not just processes but also people, perspectives, culture, etc. Another is the structure of identifying six essential customer experience disciplines each with their own required practices (strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance and culture). This risks “motherhood and apple pie”, but provides some sensible customer insight advice especially on measurement.

The other major benefit of this book is a large number of  case studies contained within it, as examples of frameworks being put into practice. Given my background and clients within the Insurance industry, it was good to see 5 of these alongside the many other sectors covered. Their analysis of the threats to Allstate in the US and opportunities for Progressive is interesting and backed up by Customer Experience Index scores to date. Aviva’s focus on mapping customer journeys in China is also interesting, with the chance in emerging markets to start with customer experience strategy at an earlier stage.

Given I will be speaking at a conference in London next month, on the role of Customer Insight leaders in more senior positions than ever before, their chapter on ‘The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer’ is also interesting. Their research in US echoes my own experience in the UK, that CCOs (or CKOs – as I am more interested in customer insight leaders) are disproportionately common within Financial Services firms. Their findings about a bias toward COOs for B2B businesses also makes commercial sense.

I hope that review was useful, I share such a book because I believe the only point of generating customer insights is to act on them. This can sometimes be to deliver shorter term commercial returns, but longer term the real prize is for customer insight to be guiding the transformative work outlined in this book. Delivering and then sustaining significantly improved customer experiences,

This book is a relatively easy read, although at times resembling someone who talks too quickly at you. The volume of human interest stories included helps, as does the use of short chapters. Bite sized chunks for reading each day, is one way to look at them. I hope you find it useful.

Please do share your experience if you’ve read this work or alternatives.

How are you navigating the leadership pipeline?

Leadership PipelineIt’s unusual for me to recommend a book that I don’t consider that well written, but Leadership Pipeline is such a book. The reason for my recommendation is this book effectively covers a key challenge for leaders & organisations. It also introduces a really useful model and set of tools.

My criticism is only the writing style. Perhaps I’ve spent too many years enjoying well crafted prose in fiction but I find the style used throughout this book to be a little wooden or clunky, certainly not a joy to read.

However, I would encourage you to persist as the rewards are worth it. (more…)

Book Review: Time to Think by Nancy Kline

Time to ThinkDo you have time to think in your leadership role?

I first read this book over a decade ago, but it made such an impact that I have kept coming back to it over the years.

It is not specifically about customer insight, although it’s implications for how to create a ‘thinking environment’ should be of interest to researchers and those designing customer experiences. However, for me the biggest lessons from this book are for leaders (including customer insight leaders).

As you read through the initial chapters on the ten components of a thinking environment, it’s easy to be struck with how different these are to the typical corporate working environment. Giving colleagues time to think for themselves, use of appropriate incisive questioning to help them problem solve and giving regular appreciation can all feel very alien from being ‘part of the machine’. (more…)

Are your customers thinking fast and slow? Irrational advice

Thinking Fast and SlowIt hardly feels like I need to write a review on this book, as I often hear to recommended at conferences. However, chatting to a few peers in customer insight leadership roles, I realise that many of you have still not read this classic or have stalled part way through reading. So, I hope this helps motivate you.

The first point to admit is this is not as easy a read on Behavioural Economics (BE) as more approachable writing styles like “Nudge” by Richard Thaler. You do get used to the style through the book but there are a couple of things that make it harder for the business reader, the depth of theory that is covered and the amount of case studies (which provider an insiders view of challenging accepted wisdom within academia). I also found that after having read ‘Nudge’ I was initially a little frustrated that this book is not structured around a simple list of biases. It appears to be deliberate as Daniel Kahneman wants you to understand the principles not just pick up some buzzwords.

That said, this is well worth reading. From the initial explanation of System 1 and System 2, through the evidence provided on multiple biases, to how poorly basic statistics and logic are applied in our decision making; this book has much to share. The deliberately more narrative style of the book also does reward the persistent reader, as you begin to see how models and principles interact and build on each other (like loss aversion and framing).

The other advice I would give if that this is a good guide to the pitfalls to beware of when making decisions or seeking to influence key decisions in your company. In that regard it goes much wider than just a textbook on Behavioural Economics. For instance the evidence Daniel shows of a failure to regress to the mean in forecasting is often beyond the scope of popular BE but very relevant.

I would recommend any Customer Insight leader to read this work. This is particularly important for those working within Financial Services, where your regulator requires consideration of how consumers really make decisions and where your research team can help your analysts with interpretation.