What is a 'customer strategy'?
‘Customer strategy’ is one of those terms that, to many strategists, means nothing at all. They will undoubtedly be extremely familiar and confident with defining a ‘business strategy’, ‘growth strategy’, ‘marketing strategy’, ‘digital strategy’, ‘people strategy’…, but the word ‘customer’ in front of their key competency will often throw them into uncertainty. What exactly is a ‘customer strategy’, and how is that different from any other form of strategy, which normally should be built around the customer anyway?
Well, that is exactly the issue!
Many strategies are NOT built around the customer, but around key financial or operational drivers. We are all too familiar with sales strategies which only try to push as many products and services to customers as possible, optimising revenue often irrespective of the audience true needs; or with cost efficiency strategies which take the short-term approach to remove operational costs through automation, digitalisation and headcount downsizing, often irrespective of the impact on the customer journey.
Also, many organisations do not have fully defined ‘brand strategies’, which means that the essential link between the brand positioning and the reality of the organisational capabilities is missing. This is where many companies can invest millions in elaborated marketing strategies and integrated communications platforms, boldly announcing to the world how wonderful they are and how uniquely they will solve their customers’ ultimate problems or meet their highest needs… only to then forget or overlook a small detail: their ability (or lack thereof) of actually delivering those solutions and meeting those needs in such a fantastic way! A small detail which may impact the overall credibility and trustworthiness of the product or service proposition in question, if not of the brand itself! And that’s where the marketing funnel transforms itself into a leaking colander! All those marketing millions spent to attract customers, wasted into suboptimal experiences which do not deliver those brand promises. You can read more about this in my 'Escaping the deserted island of strategy' blog.
A great customer experience does not happen by chance or miracle. It is not enough to communicate something, internally or externally, for it to manifest itself in reality… unless you have Harry Potter’s magic wand… “Expecto Great Experience”!
The missing link
This is where the Customer Strategy provides the essential link, bridging the gap between strategy and reality. Its main objectives are to define the experience principles required to deliver the brand strategy, and design the experience required to deliver its promises – in line with the financial and operational objectives of the overall business strategy. This clear ‘design’ will also enable a consistent delivery of the customer experience across all touchpoints and the overall alignment of the organisation behind it, through clearly designed customer journeys.
In all my business CX roles, the ‘customer strategy’ was always one of my first areas of focus, also because it was a key step in securing the engagement of the Executive Board. Once the execs were comfortable with the strategic direction and its requirements, not only it became easier to obtain the support and investment required to deliver their components, but also this drove clarity of focus and cross-functional alignment and accountability.
... unless you have a magic wand
Sounds easy. But unfortunately, the Customer Strategy is not a magic wand, and it requires some ‘muggle style’ hands-on work and specific skills. Recent studies have concluded that as many as 9 in 10 executives confess that their CX initiatives failed to create the desired competitive differentiation, and only 2 in 10 confirm they achieved the desired business benefits from their CX investments. My experience tells me that very often this is due to a combination of poor strategy and bad execution. And let’s be honest, a poor strategy or no strategy at all makes it more difficult to deliver transformational activities successfully, which elevates the absence of clear strategic direction into the main pitfall.
You need to clearly define your strategic customer objectives and design the target experience, to then transform and align the organisation behind it.
The Customer Strategy & Design Thinking course can help you with this, as it aims to strengthens your skills and knowledge in this space, providing a set of tested tools and best-in-class examples that you can then use back in the office to define an effective, successful and differentiated Customer Strategy. The course also covers how to deliver the customer strategy and, most importantly, how to embed its principles in the DNA of the whole organisation to facilitate a sustainable and value-creating business and cultural transformation.
Special attention is also placed on explaining and practicing Design Thinking methodologies, which represent a key and effective tool to create design-led customer propositions and experiences - as I outlined in my blog 'Once upon a time, design for kids'.
The Customer Strategy & Design Thinking course is built on my personal business experience across sectors, and enriched by a number of academic and consultancy frameworks and inputs, as well as several best in class or bad examples to bring things to life. Through a combination of theory, case studies and practical exercises, this highly interactive and grounded course can boost your skills and career.
This CX Masterclass is delivered in collaboration with CXM.