Do you really know what strategy your business is following with regard to products, customers, service, and experience? I was impressed recently by the work of Ismail Pishori and his team at Telus of Canada. Ismail works primarily with financial companies in Canada, essentially helping banks and credit unions develop strategies to position themselves in relation to emerging trend data which is being researched by Telus. Talk about a value added strategy, Telus becomes a trusted business partner not a commoditized supplier of telecommunication solutions because Telus offers valuable trend data to banking leaders. At a recent event where we both presented, Ismail advanced a model of customer or product focused strategy that is very consistent with a structure I have been championing for years.
While it’s always nice to have your thinking validated by leaders in your field, I was most impressed by the technology Ismail developed to help banking leadership teams determine which strategy they were trying to execute and further how Telus engages leaders in an appreciative inquiry process which challenges them to examine if their leadership team is in alignment with the desired strategy and if the strategy is being consistently applied. While it would take a day to lead you through the process advocated by Ismail, I’ll offer an overview of four distinct strategies and encourage you to spend time at all levels of your organization determining if that strategy is a consistent driving force for your business.
4 Key Strategies
– This strategy emphasizes having the best product at the best price. This approach clearly is the driver for a company like Walmart where price reductions, efficient distribution, maximum volume, and thin margins are the keys to greatness. While service is discussed, decisions that involve increasing costs to improve service versus decreasing costs to make products more competitive typically are resolved in favor of the less costly product.
– This approach accepts that a great product is important but that added value comes from the consistent delivery of the product. Companies that create “customer service scripts” or “service standards” often fall into this category. For example, in a business like UCLA health services it is not enough for patient’s to receive a high quality medical procedure if that procedure is offered in an inconsistent manner. As such UCLA uses a C –I –CARE protocol which serves as a template for expected service behaviors that must occur in every interaction with every patient. For example the A in C-I-CARE stands for ASK and reflects the importance of asking for a patient’s permission prior to providing a service or medical intervention.
– This strategy emphasizes delivery of relevant customer experiences. This may involve creating segmentations of your customer base, as some service experiences may be best received by certain customer segments while others are best oriented to other customer segments. This is a matter of realizing that a “size 6” customer experience does not fit every customer need.
– This approach attempts to not only meet differing and relevant needs of your current customer base but also to constantly gain insights into the evolving nature of your customers. This adaptive strategy attempts to grow your business along side of a shifting customer base so you are planning for customer needs that are, as yet, unarticulated.
There is always a risk in placing four categories out like this, namely that there is an inherent sense that the most complicated strategy has to be superior to the other three. Using that logic, a customer adaptive strategy would be obviously superior to the other approaches. In truth, the superior strategy is the one decided upon by leadership as best for their company, and the one that is being executed consistently at all customer touch points and all tactical decision opportunities.
So let’s take step one. On a scale of 0-10 how much of your strategic approach is product focused, on the same scale how much is service focused, customer focused, and customer adaptive.
My hunch is that you have not given one category a 10 and all the rest zeros. Better yet ask your colleagues to rate the categories in a similar way and look for the convergence or divergence of viewpoints.
This exercise alone should be the source of interesting discussions. On my next blog and podcast, I’ll address a process for gaining greater alignment and the competitive advantage that alignment will provide.