Think Like a Customer

Think Like a Customer!

The Customer’s Version of the Story

Understanding business contact-by-contact, customer-by-customer

Figure 3.1

Remember, the customer process is the most important process in every business. The most important!

Need, Shop, Buy

When you think like a customer, you get a simple picture of your business. Or more accurately, you get a simple picture of how customers describe your business in their context and from memory. Describing a business from the customer’s perspective exposes where and how customers navigate their purchase decisions, their decision paths, and the options they select and deselect in each contact.

We will use these three simple customer process steps in buying a lawn mower to illustrate how the CxC Matrix works: Need, Shop, Buy. Replace “lawn mower” with “main frame computer” or “insurance” if you want to simulate a business-to-business transaction. The design accommodates nearly any product or service.

In the Customer’s words:

I received an email from my local hardware store that had a picture of a lawn mower similar to the one I had bought three years ago.

I clicked on the picture and saw a good price, with a trade-in for my current lawn mower. So, I drove over to the hardware store and bought the new mower.

They delivered it and picked up the old one the same day.

Figure 3.2

The simple need, shop, buy scenario gets a little more complicated when we expose the actual contacts that took place between the customer and the business and resulted in the customer’s purchase.

Note that the customer recounts each contact in sequence and notes the channel (email, website, store, or home). Presented this simply, it is reasonable to assume that anyone at your company or even your competitors could understand the steps in the customer’s process.

However, as with many illustrative business scenarios, the simple process does not adequately convey the amount of design, planning, and coordinated execution required across the company to make the customer’s purchase seem “uneventful.”

Unfortunately, processes like these are often created through trial and error. As a result, your company and customers may suffer through a number of mismanaged contacts, broken processes, and missed hand-offs before you fine-tune the process and deliver the best outcome.

To highlight the simple elegance of the lawn mower story, look at the diagram below for a sample of the potential problems that could have happened at each contact:

Figure 3.3

The potential negative outcomes highlighted in Figure 3.3 include a couple of points worth mentioning:

• The email, website, and store contacts bear a cost, whether suc- cessful or not.

• Contact costs are not funded until the mower purchase.

• Each contact’s success is dependent on the success of the upstream and downstream contacts.

• To succeed, each contact requires synchronization across market- ing, operations, sales, fulfillment, website, store, finance, reverse logistics, legal, and partners.

• Failure at any of the contacts, malfunction, or defect in execution raises costs and endangers the revenue objective of the business.

• Each contact contains substantial data that, when put in the customer’s context, delineates the success of the business.

Trial and error is expensive for both your company and customers, wast- ing internal resources and your customers’ time while foregoing eventual revenue. The Matrix provides a means for you to plot each of these contacts and to observe the potential gaps in communications, connectivity, and operational processes. It allows you to minimize errors while ensuring a positive customer outcome.

The Matrix also captures the success rate of all customers going through each contact or process stage. The number of customers who survive from “need” to “shop” to “buy” is the measurement of success at each contact. By exposing each contact, the elements of each contact, and the resources accountable for each contact, you can assess performance and modify the process to improve the outcome.

The Matrix captures and codifies the company’s most successful contact paths, enabling replication and continuous improvement for future promotions. Collectively, the repository of best practices, promotions, marketing, sales, operations, and customer-service contact processes becomes the company’s unique knowledge base for success.

Now . . . for the rest of the story

While the customer relayed his journey, which led to happily mowing his lawn, he did not acknowledge, remember, or recognize the other contacts the business used to ultimately secure his mower purchase. He was bombarded with messages attempting to get his attention, to prompt and prod him into “needing” a new mower. Some of the additional contacts are outlined in Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4

Once the customer engaged in the initial contact, each subsequent contact was carefully choreographed with a single objective: to create the urgency to replace his three-year-old mower.

Part of the well-executed design entailed educating the customer on “how to buy a mower” and specifically, “how easy it is to buy from Acme.” Additionally, each contact carefully persuaded him that “Acme Local Hard- ware is your best choice for garden equipment.” Every contact and sub-mes- sage in every contact was aimed at these two objectives.

Choreographing each step in a consumer cycle

The seemingly simple customer “need” was the result of multiple efforts coordinated across marketing, advertising, product sponsors and co-op advertising partners. Each group’s efforts focused on getting the customer’s attention, building his awareness of his need for a lawn mower, and con- vincing him that now was the best time to act. All of the messages were coordinated to reinforce the value of a new mower and to create urgency to “act now!”

The “shop” step fulfilled the customer’s need for more information to make his purchase. Each contact was designed to reinforce the superior benefits the customer would achieve by upgrading his mowing experience, providing details and specifications that were carefully presented and pack- aged to meet his specific needs and preferences.

The customer’s needs and interests were distilled from:

• His previous mower purchase,

• Subsequent store purchases,

• Web page downloads,

• Local market information,

• Purchased third party lifestyle and interests data, including:

- The types of lawn products the customer purchased,

- The price point at which the customer purchased,

- The total amount of outdoor home expenditures the customer made over the past three years,

- Other information not directly related to home and hardware purchases.

All of this information was used to build a company memory that mirrors what a top sales and customer relationship manager would remember and use to persuade a customer to “buy.” The company invested in technology, data, and training with the Chief Executive Officer’s mandate to become each targeted customer’s “single, most trusted, most knowledgeable source.”

Same customer outcome, low tech delivery

Would the customer know the difference between this highly technical, tightly orchestrated, overly complex sales, marketing, and operations process versus receiving a chance email from the salesperson who sold him his old mower three years ago?

No, and it makes no difference. Either way, the customer buys the mower.

What the CxC Matrix provides your business, regardless of its size and infrastructure, is a means to delineate the best way to manage individual contacts by matching your business objectives with the customer’s values and preferences.

The company’s side of the story—orchestrating the contacts

Dissecting the mower contacts

Each customer contact contains multiple messages. Figure 3.5 exposes the 47 message slots used in the simplified need, shop, buy story. Each slot can hold a message, an offer, instructions, contact information, third party advertise- ments, images, operational information, news, or government warnings. It is constrained only by limitations in the medium, data, technology, or ability to personalize. Without limitations, messages can vary by individual, location, time of day, product inventory, and so forth. Just about any attribute can be used to prescribe the message, wording, images, colors, or order language for each individual slot.

Figure 3.5

Here’s how we count the slots:

• Email: 8 slots—banner, offer, closing, contact information, return- address message, right border, header, footer;

• Web page: 24 slots—3 pages, 8 slots per page;

• Store visit: signs—4 slots; point of purchase—3 slots (display literature and rack); sales person—3 slots (greeting, information extend, close); point of sale—3 slots; receipt—2 slots (back and front); warranty card—1 slot.

There are numerous additional slots at the store and throughout this customer’s process.

Digital printing, digital technologies, and Internet-connected devices such as kiosks, websites, and point-of-purchase displays are equipped to deliver multi-part messages and groups of messages as directed by a set of rules based on customer type, location, customer segment, time of day, or any other set of rules.

Each contact is a container for slots

Definition: A container is the specific contact point within a channel. Containers distinguish the individual contacts within a contact. The nature and attributes of a container depend on the channel or medium. A container can be the greeting in an in-person sales call, a brochure, an FAQ on a web page. Containers have specific dimensions. Retail stores are containers with actual physical walls, shelves, brick, and mortar. Dealer or distributor containers may refer to separate busi- nesses. Containers in an advertising channel may be different issues of a magazine or time slots purchased on different television stations. A web container may be a web page, while a call center container would be an individual telemarketing script.

Each of the three channels represented in Figure 3.5—email, website, and store—has individual messaging capabilities. The channel’s medium provides a set of capabilities and constraints, as does the individual contact point. For example, the signs in the store are not likely to vary to present a different message for each customer, whereas email does provide individualized mes- saging. Similarly, specifications for a web page will be quite different from store receipt container specifications. The web page contains 7 more slots for messages. It also accommodates images and provides much more space per slot for messages. The receipt is restricted to one message on each side printed in black and white and the message cannot exceed 144 characters.

Key takeaway: Inventorying each medium’s specifications and slots enables companies to manage slots across the company from a single system.

Too much to measure

With so many messages, tracking which slot and message combination “works” becomes nearly impossible. However, assembling all of the contacts and their components in the sequence, environment, and context that the

customer experiences is essential to understanding each element’s perfor- mance, as well as identifying and codifying success. With this understanding we are not only able to better measure performance but we are also able to predict the outcome and likely success of similar initiatives delivered to similar customers.

For example, the mower story’s success comes not just from the custom- er’s click on the picture of the mower in the email. It also comes from the email’s subject line, the offers and messages contained in the email, and all of the messages that preceded and succeeded each contact. The Matrix uniquely measures not only what “works” but also measures the absence of activity related to other messages and contacts. The mower offer may have successfully worked in this sequence because it was positioned next to a more expensive alternative or in a sequence of other customer activities.

The CxC Matrix is designed to conceptually represent the multitude of variations across the customer’s contact path while capturing the periph- eral messages and contact elements, giving you the most comprehensive view of all customer contact experiences, successful and unsuccessful. The Matrix enables scenario building and experimentation providing a platform for customer-partnered innovation.

All of these elements can be individually measured, as well as in combi- nation with others using the CxC Matrix, to assess the investment of each department and the company’s total investment per customer, per program, per channel, per contact, and per message.

The loudest sound in business is customer silence

We can easily see how the Matrix measures contacts and contact sequence, but the Matrix is equally powerful when used to measure what did not happen. Most business measurement systems count transactions, custom- ers, inventory, but the CxC Matrix uniquely highlights the events that were expected in the customer sequence, but did not happen. For example, the group of customers that research a product, conduct all of the pre-buying evaluation then do not buy. The customers that buy and pay for a product

but do not register, install or use the product. The Matrix highlights changes in customer behavior and alerts managers to investigate further while also providing a rich data set to examine customer contact data. The Matrix uniquely measures when the voice of the customer goes silent.


Each contact and each message within each contact bears a cost as well as corresponding direct and potential revenues.

Each slot in each contact in each channel has its own value while a series of contacts and a series of slots presented to a customer reflect your company’s total investment and return per customer.

The mix of contacts that engage a customer is the most underused asset at most companies. Extracting the optimum value contact-by-contact has always been feasible for very small companies communicating through limited channels to a small number of customers. However, using the Matrix and leveraging advances in technology, analytics, and process design, all companies can compete contact-by-contact.