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3 tips for staying on your toes with your customer value chain

  • Posted on October 27, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

As a kid growing up, I played goalie for my soccer team. And the one thing my coach kept drilling into my head was that I needed to stay on my toes (literally), because you never knew where the ball was going to go. The moment you sit back and assume you know what’s going to happen next, the ball takes a wicked bounce you never saw coming. Even the best goal keepers in the world can attest that no matter how strong you get at reading the game, it takes just one small deflection that you didn’t see coming to completely disrupt any preconceived notion of how you think the game is going to go.

Our future is never what we imagine – our ability as individuals to be forward-thinking and predictive is vastly limited by our preconceived notions about the way things should be based on our past experiences, and these limited inputs prove to be insufficient at predicting our futures.

This inability of seeing into the future is ultimately what has caused so many companies to fail. They assess their current situation, and if it’s going well and has been going well, then they feel safe to assume that things will continue to go well.

Typically, this assumption is unspoken, but highly visible in the way the company spends its time, energy, people and resources. Innovation budgets are small (if they exist) and “trying new things” is not a company value. Instead, investments are heavily poured into what’s working today, assuming it will work tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.

And to some extent, the executives and boards wouldn’t be unwise to make these assumptions. Based on what they know, positive progress should continue, right? Newton’s law?

But we’ve faced the reality this year that smart, rationale business leaders are not predictors of the future. And we shouldn’t expect them to be.

If they were, all of the companies that had to scramble to figure out remote work this year would have already planned, implemented and perfected their solutions.

So then the question becomes: HOW do we arm ourselves and our companies with the wit, flexibility, and resources to rapidly adapt when “unpredictable” circumstances occur?

That’s the problem with trying to plan for the next pandemic (which has been the approach of some) – unpredictable circumstances are, by definition, not predictable.

Rather than “planning for the next pandemic,” the best thing you can do is to apply the lesson from my old soccer coach: learn to stay on your toes, challenge yourself and your company to throw out the notion of a status quo. Redefine your ways of working to operate in a manner that continuously has an eye on the market and your customers spoken and unspoken needs, seeking to improve and innovate your product and service offerings, especially when things are going great.

Start by evaluating your customer value chain: Think about the value you are delivering to your customers and clients today. What steps must a customer take in order to acquire this value from your company? In this customer value chain, the chances are good that there are steps along the way that your company has not improved or updated simply due to the fact that it’s working well today. Compare how your competitors are delivering value in these moments, or even better, how are others outside your industry delivering value in similar moments?

Now ask yourself big questions such as:

  • "How might we become the best {insert your value offering here} on the market?"
  • "How might we serve our customers so they never want to leave us for a competitor?"

These should serve as your frame of mind as you look for opportunities to improve and innovate the ways you deliver value to your customers.

Looking to do something right here, right now?

It’s always a good practice to shake the dust loose in your own ritualistic ways of working. Then be a wave of change through your organization and help others evolve.

I’ve put together a few “dust shaking” tips below to help you get into a fresh, innovative, customer-oriented state of mind. This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get started.

1) Collect the assumptions your company has about what problems you are solving for your customers

You could ponder this question using this format: We are providing “this solution” because we assume our customers are facing “this problem”. Based on these assumptions, where might it make sense to brainstorm about new and innovative ways of delivering value to your customers? Where is your company sitting back on its heels, assuming things will continue the way they are, when instead you should be on your toes, head on a swivel, looking for the next best opportunity. Write this down and set to the side.

2) Now, stop thinking about your company and start thinking about your customers

No really. Stop and think: If I were “customer XYZ”, what problems am I REALLY trying to solve? Write these down. If you have a strong relationship with a customer, talk to them and see what they say about your assumptions. What problems are they facing that are missing from your list? Are there any clear disconnects between what your company is solving for and what your customers REALLY need?

3) Remove your “rationale” frame-of-mind

Get a diverse group of people within your company together and ask yourselves, if we could do anything, what might we do to better serve our customers now that we know what their problems REALLY are? Given our current circumstances, how are we best poised to address their needs? And how do we need to pivot our people and resources and operations to meet our customers unmet needs?

The more insight you have into your customers and the set of activities they must complete to get value from your company, the better you’ll get at improving and innovating your products and services.

One of the best parts of my job is helping companies take a step back and evaluating the way they are serving their customers, prioritizing the right opportunities and rapidly taking action to deliver value quickly. If you’re interested in our process and how we’ve helped other companies down this path – I’d love to talk more.

Great customer experiences don’t happen by accident, learn how Avanade creates excitement for clients.

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