I was recently with a business strategist from a Fortune 500 company who stated there were ultimately three reasons corporate strategies fail. Even though he was speaking of overarching corporate strategies, the three reasons align with what I have seen related to customer strategies:
You measure the wrong things – Good strategy is the result of careful, intelligent analysis; however, the old maxim “garbage in, garbage out” applies here. In customer strategy consulting, this can be the result of jumping on the bandwagon of the latest killer metric without a full analysis of whether or not the metric actually applies to your industry. One way to avoid this shortcoming would be to conduct a pre-program strategic assessment – this step will allow you to learn not only the key customer touchpoints, but also identify the critical needs of key stakeholders in the process. It will also help you make certain you are profiling the customers the right way and focusing on the most critical.
- You make the wrong decisions – Even if you measure the right data, there is no guarantee you will make the right decisions. Some of this is related to the data itself – in customer strategy consulting, using statistical methods that allow us to determine which areas of focus will have the greatest impact on customer loyalty will provide some insulation against focusing on the wrong areas. There is, however, another source of potential error – and that is the direction of where the market in total is heading. Every decision is framed not only by the data you observe, but also by your outlook on the competitive environment in general. To ensure you get it right, there are three recommendations I would make:
- Include competitive assessments in your loyalty measurement program – Having an idea on your position relative to the competition can help fine-tune your analysis. You can read more about benchmarking options in this series.
- Commit to ongoing measurement – This does not necessarily mean an ongoing data collection effort; rather, it is about knowing when to re-assess the customer landscape to ensure you are accounting for all the relevant issues. Most clients do this every 18 to 24 months at a minimum.
- Build macro and micro-level strategic plans – The overall strategy that emerges from the statistical analysis is best used in the context of focal areas that have the greatest impact on the greatest number of customers; however, building more micro-level, customer-based action plans will ensure you are accounting for the individual differences that exist among customers.
- You do not take action – This is the one we tend to see the most. I once worked with a person who was prone to saying “strategy is cheap; execution is hard.” When I first heard him say this, I thought he was saying that strategy was simple; I now realize what he meant was that even though strategy can be hard, it is infinitely more difficult to execute on a plan of attack you know is correct. The phenomenon of acting in ways that are not in your best interest is less about intelligence and more about discipline. I tend to use diet and exercise as an example – I know I should exercise more and eat less, but it is far easier to do the opposite. We at Walker have designed a framework to help navigate the key disciplinary elements needed to take action – namely, organization, process, communication, and motivation.
Certainly there are many reasons strategies can fail; however, I suspect that most of the reasons would fit into this framework. Being mindful of the potential pitfalls that may exist can help you be more proactive in building a plan that will maximize your probability of success.
Mark A. Ratekin
Sr. Vice President, Consulting Services