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Category: Customer Experience Management

Who Owns a New Idea?

I’ve had an experience lately that I expect a lot of us Strategic Account Managers have: a promising new idea has emerged from discussions with a customer about business needs and future plans. There is a high likelihood that we’ll work together to develop this idea, but the idea has some legs and could have some potential uses for other companies. Do we have the right to take the idea to other customers and when? Of course, all of this can and will be sorted out as discussions continue (with the help of legal teams, no doubt). 

A possible solution is to make the implementation of the new idea for each customer somehow unique, therefore there’s no (or less) infringement on initial intellectual property. This possibility reminded me of a session I attended recently at the Strategic Account Management Association’s University event where they offer extensive workshops and training for more effectively managing strategic accounts. The title of the session was How to Co-Create with Your Customers, and it was led by Francis Gouillart. Mr. Gouillart is a university professor and founder of Experience Co-Creation Partnership (http://eccpartnership.com). 

The session was fascinating, and the ultimate message (at least from my perspective) was that you can significantly advance your value to your customer by co-creating a new way of working with them which addresses a business issue or challenge they have. Co-creation is unique for each customer, so there may not be any idea ownership issues. Something to think about…what’s been your answer to who owns a new idea?

Sonya McAllister
Principal/SVP

Strategic Benchmarking

Dilbert strip
 
We’ve had a number of posts on how to obtain benchmark scores (see here, here and here). This post won’t address these issues, but will instead focus on the point so perfectly encapsulated in this Dilbert comic strip. As you can tell from my last blog, I’ve been browsing Dilbert comics lately. (I’d love to tackle Calvin and Hobbes next, but I’m not ready for the deep philosophical stuff right now).

Comparing your customer perceptions to the perceptions of other companies is commonly referred to as "benchmarking" in customer survey research and customer experience management (CEM). In a broader sense, however, benchmarking is understood to be the process of identifying and adapting practices and processes from other organizations that will lead to better performance.

Instead of just focusing on catching up in those areas where scores of your customers lag farthest behind the scores of other companies, we need to be strategically focused on how our companies need to differentiate themselves. Customer perceptions can then be used to validate progress on key initiatives and even to help identify companies outside our industries we can learn from. This approach helps us avoid wasting effort on improving performance in areas that have no impact on customer behavior.

At the end of the day, we do NOT want customers to say, "You are better than your competitor at this, but your competitor is better at the things that matter to me." We want them to say, "Since you are better than everyone at this, I will enhance my business with you." That’s the result of true strategic benchmarking.

Troy Powell, Ph.D.
Vice President
Walker Information
 

Leslie Pagel

One overlooked benefit of creating customer loyalty

It doesn’t take much to convince business leaders that building customer loyalty is a logical customer retention strategy. Intuitively, it just makes sense.

In fact, customer retention is just one of many different reasons why a company would want to partner with a business consulting firm, like Walker, to develop strategies for building customer loyalty. But, one often overlooked reason is loyal customers will stick with you during tough times.

We have all worked for a company that has encountered significant change and times of change create uncertainty amongst employees and customers. Whether the change is a significant product upgrade, an overhaul of an order management or billing system, or the integration of a new call center, all have implications on the customer experience and customer loyalty.

Companies that have a strong and loyal customer base will come out ahead during times of change. The graph on the left is data for a company that is in the process of implementing a significant change that directly impacts the customer.

The horizontal axis represents the customer experience of the change, with responses ranging from "excellent" to "poor." The vertical axis represents the percent of customers who are "extremely" or "very likely" to search for alternative products. The two lines represent loyal customers and disloyal customers.

The key take-away – The difference between the slope of the two lines is extreme. Notice the dramatic slope for the disloyal group compared to the subtle slope for the loyal customers. When loyal customers encounter a bad experience they will stick with you. Whereas, disloyal customers will not tolerate a bad experience.

There are many benefits of having a loyal customer base. Which ones do you think get overlooked?

Note: This post was originally published in Customer Connection on 9/2/2009.

Collaboration 2.0

Collaboration and Web 2.0 are two hot topics on the conference scene. Sure, there are others – like innovation and co-creation – but collaboration and 2.0 are everywhere. In just the last few weeks, they’ve been at the SAMA conference in Hollywood, FL; EMC World in Orlando; MRIA in Montreal; and Walker’s own Spring Forum in Dana Point, CA.

Strategic account management is all about collaboration: getting a group of people together to interact and exchange knowledge as they work to achieve a shared goal or resolve a business issue. But are we always as collaborative as we could be, or should be? Do we overlook people who could add to the process and lead to a better solution? Think about the issues you are working on today… now think beyond your ‘core’ group both internally and at your client’s company – who else could you get involved?

Now, think even more broadly. The 2.0 world is expanding the everyday reach of business. You probably already have a network of expertise at your fingertips in tools like LinkedIn, twitter, and blogs. Use it! It’s a great source for brainstorming, subject-specific expertise and real-life examples. And best of all, it is fast.

At this level, collaboration can even be used for something as simple as finding the right word:

 Twitter collaboration

BROWSERS  –> BARGAINERS  –>  BUYERS
elapsed time?  42 minutes

I don’t know how @erichollebone is going to use this description of the purchase cycle, but there are at least four other people who have ideas of how it might be applied. I hope you are getting some ideas of your own ~ it’s been great collaborating with you!

Jennifer Batley
VP, Strategic Accounts