Vantage Blog

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21
Nov
2017

Winning through Resilience

There’s no doubt that to succeed in today’s challenging market requires a great deal of resilience. Personally and organisationally. Strategically and operationally. And, of course, most critically in leadership.

The Vantage Leaders Forum (a group of CEO’s, GM’s and business owners brought together by Vantage Strategy & Marketing) met again in November to explore this topic, and what it means for their teams and for themselves.

The forum kicked off with a focus on organisational orientation; in particular customer centricity. But not just in terms of the normal narrative which just about every business trots out via their values. The group instead explored the whole concept of Customer Success versus Customer Service. Is the organisation set up to engage with customers proactively or reactively? Is the focus around ensuring customers achieve real value from your product or service, or merely ensuring that they are satisfied? The concept has grown from SaaS or subscription based businesses but has a lot of resonance in how we could approach customer management.

Several of the CEO’s reflected that maybe their balance wasn’t quite right; too much time spent on servicing customers and sorting out problems, rather than ensuring that they are achieving ‘success’ in terms of the value they are extracting from the use of the business’s product or service.

We then added to this idea the concept of building emotional connection with customers, and the potential value that could deliver. The HBR article The new science of customer emotions generated a lot of discussion. Especially given the research data indicated that customers who were ‘emotionally connected’ were 52% more valuable (on average across 9 product categories) than those that were merely highly satisfied. 

This of course raised the question as to the customer data businesses are using to drive their customer engagement strategies – satisfaction research, or insights as to how to engage and connect with customers at a deeper level. Not all organisations have the capability to do the sort of in depth research espoused in the HBR article. However, determining how best to uncover the key emotional motivators, and then using those to structure your customer journey and critical touch points, is something in reach of most…and now on the action list for a few of the group. 

The second half of the forum collaborated on what was required to build a strong and tenacious team – a key requirement for organisational resilience. We brainstormed all the key attributes, and then ranked them based on impact, with our final six being…

A good discussion then ensued around where the strengths and weaknesses were for each business, and the strategies they should undertake to close key gaps. 

Additionally, we explored avoiding blind spots when developing strategy, in particular when using scenario planning. We finished the day with an exercise aimed at enabling some personal reflection on how they behave and present to others as leaders.

All up some fantastic and practical collaboration across the group saw a number of new insights and ideas for the business leaders to take away and apply in their businesses.

As one of the participants said afterwards… “today’s workshop, was engaging, insightful and provided thought provoking content as we continue on our transformational journey. The networking was also very valuable!”

The Vantage Leaders Forum will next meet in February 2018 to kick of the first of four workshops for the year. If you would like to know more please contact James Atkins via email on jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au

James Atkins

Vantage Strategy & Marketing......Powered by Mindshop

The Vantage Leaders Forum (a group of CEO’s, GM’s and business owners brought together by Vantage Strategy & Marketing) met again in November to explore this topic, and what it means for their teams and for themselves. ..
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29
Oct
2014

Clarity from simplicity - the customer point of view

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain. I was reminded of this saying last week when I received my new credit cards from CBA.




Normally these types of communications are long on complex instructions and unnecessary promotion largely written from the perspective of what the bank wants, not what the cardholder needs. Far from being simple or clear for the reader.


This letter, however, was a pleasant surprise.

Two sided letter – a short introduction on one side (which I actually didn't read - and didn't need to when I looked later). It was the flip side where the cards were that struck a chord.














Three simple boxes:
  1.  "What you need to know"
  2.  "What you need to do" (which I read first), and 
  3.  "Important PIN Information".

It was clearly structured making it easy for customers to quickly absorb. Often you are required to plough through lots of meaningless verbiage, which is not a great customer experience.

I could find what I needed to do quickly and painlessly. In fact what I needed to do was follow four simple steps - took no time at all to understand, and less to actually action.

Distilling communication to its essence, as the CBA have done in this instance, is simple in concept, but hard in practice. Quite often brands attempt to stuff so much other information or brand messages into what should be a transactional instruction. The irony of course is that in taking this design led, customer focused approach the CBA are in fact delivering a positive customer experience. This will build the brand so much more than the insertion of ‘key brand messages’ ever will.

I think this approach owes a lot to Apple and their approach to user experience. It's a real opportunity for all businesses to apply this mindset in how they communicate with their customers - in line with their needs and aligned with the sort of brand experience you are trying to build.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing.
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile 


“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain. I was reminded of this saying last week when I received my new credit cards from CBA. ..

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04
Jun
2014

The Yin and Yang of Business

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation" Peter Drucker…really – why’s that?

Peter Drucker made this statement back in 1973 but it is just as relevant today.

Marketing and innovation are the two drivers of business that deliver customers, today and into the future. And of course without customers you have no business. Everything else flows from that simple starting point.


Customers must be front and centre

Production processes, sales and human resources are without doubt critical elements of any business model, but they are not the starting point. Understanding who your customer is and how you will satisfy them is the key. From there you are able to determine the appropriate production model or the type of resources that you will need in order to deliver. All aspects of your business model should be structured in such a way as to ensure that you are able to deliver value to your customer for an appropriate return.

Marketing – delivering value to your target market

The marketing function should define how you create, communicate and deliver this value to your target market. It aims to answer key questions around who are your customers, what are their needs and what product/service can you provide to satisfy those needs. How you will price. How you will deliver it to them. How you connect and engage are all critical elements.

Marketing really is everything you do to provide value to your customers today. It is how you provide and reinforce your point of difference and value proposition at each and every touch point. So you need to ask yourself - are you clear on your value proposition? Does it provide value? Does it engage and connect with customers?

Innovation – a practice of renewal

The innovation function, on the other hand, works to keep your business relevant into the future. We live in a dynamic environment where the rate of change is ever increasing. Changes in technology, increased levels of competition, concerns around the environment, and changes in how we communicate all have implications for the products and services that our customers need.

Innovation, at its core, is a practice of renewal. Changes - be it to a business process, to products themselves, to how we create and communicate – are all aimed at satisfying and exceeding customers’ needs and desires going forward?

Don’t let innovation be a blocker


Innovation has become an overworked and overused term. I attended a seminar recently where Gary Bertwistle , a thought leader in innovation and creativity, talked about innovation as a concept that can quite often become a blocker. Too many people speak the words but don’t know what to do next – in many instances confusing invention with innovation. His suggestion was to stop talking about innovation and focus on helping people and teams to “think differently” – the outcome will be creativity and new ideas.

Asking people, “what if” and “what else”, “imagine if” is a great way to take people out of the everyday and think beyond the constraints. Try it during your next strategy planning session – just don’t call it an innovation brainstorm!

Finding time to just think and not filling the diary is another key to unlocking creativity and innovation. Organisations such as Disney and Google mandate that their staff spend a certain number of hours each month working in a different department just observing. New ideas, suggestions, new ways of doing things can be the result of having people with a different perspective look at your operations.

Make innovation possible

Make sure you create the environment in which your staff can innovate or think differently. Too often we send mixed messages. We talk about creating an innovative culture but we are afraid about moving away from the tried and tested, and what we think our customers want rather than need. The mantra is to do things differently but we punish the risk takers for failure. Striking the right balance is critical in creating an environment where new ideas and practices can emerge and be trialed and tested.

Ensuring that marketing and innovation can occupy the central part of your business model, and the way you work, is critical if you want to stay ahead of the competition and attract and retain the right types of customers – today and into the future.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing.

This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation" Peter Drucker…really – why’s that?

Peter Drucker made this statement back in 1973 but it is just as relevant today.

Marketing and innovation are the two drivers of business that deliver customers, today and into the future. And of course without customers you have no business. Everything else flows from that simple starting point. ..

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02
Aug
2013

Brand and Culture: Two sides of the one coin

One of the most successful online businesses I have seen has to be Zappos - an online shoe and apparel store that has had exponential growth and success to the point that they were acquired by Amazon.

Most companies focus on positioning their products as their main marketing push. Zappos’ Chief Happiness Officer Tony Hsieh however has a different perspective on how to create the best brand: by focusing first on service and empowering their people to deliver.


Have a look how Tony describes it...



As he says their strategy for growth includes taking most of the money that would have been spent on paid advertising and marketing and investing it in customer service and experience.  They truly do let their customers do their marketing through word of mouth.


But it is culture that is the key to making this work. Zappos’ people are passionate about service.  Their people are empowered to deliver great service no matter what.


Brand and culture are two sides of the same coin.  Quite often there is a significant mismatch between what brands say about themselves in their marketing and the experience their staff deliver.


They are building their brand ‘one phone call at a time’.  It is a virtuous circle between brand and culture, and it works!


How would you describe the relationship between your culture and your brand – are they aligned, do they build on each other, do your staff deliver the promise?


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing

This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

One of the most successful online businesses I have seen has to be Zappos - an online shoe and apparel store that has had exponential growth and success to the point that they were acquired by Amazon.

Most companies focus on positioning their products as their main marketing push. Zappos’ Chief Happiness Officer Tony Hsieh however has a different perspective on how to create the best brand: by focusing first on service and empowering their people to deliver. ..

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19
Apr
2013

Being truly accountable

I read in The Age this week a remarkable story of exceptional customer service. 

Qantas pilot Richard De Crespigny (of the QF32 fame) had another mid-air challenge just out of Dubai, on the way to London.  This time, thankfully, it was a little less life threatening - the refrigeration unit broke down, meaning no meals and, probably, warm drinks!  You can imagine how that went down on a near 8 hour flight. 


De Crespigny gave all the normal apologies you would hope for (and often don’t get) and offered food vouchers for passengers when they landed at Heathrow.  But the clincher was when he gave out his personal mobile number.  He invited anyone to call him if they didn’t get their meal, or were otherwise unhappy – and he would fix it!


Wow!  Talk about accountability.  In the airline world I have rarely heard so much as an apology when the inevitable plane delay occurs (I think they figure that things like weather disruption etc. are not in their control so they don’t need to apologise, just advise.  Of course that misses the test of seeing the experience from the perspective of customers, but I digress). 


What is remarkable here is that De Crespigny was personally willing to be held accountable for the TOTAL customer experience – something difficult to train for, and certainly impossible to mandate.  You would, however, love to capture such an attitude as core to your culture. 


Stuff happens, so how can you not only empathise with customers but have staff invest in a solution in a tangible, personal way.  It didn’t cost De Crespigny (or Qantas for that matter) anything in hard terms, but his actions, and the resulting goodwill (and in this case also PR) are immeasurable in value.


So what can you do to empower and inculcate such a can do attitude and level of accountability for customer satisfaction?

Are you measuring and championing the right behaviours?


Worth a debate at your next strategy planning day.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing

This article is linked to James' Google+profile

I read in The Age this week a remarkable story of exceptional customer service. 

Qantas pilot Richard De Crespigny (of the QF32 fame) had another mid-air challenge just out of Dubai, on the way to London.  This time, thankfully, it was a little less life threatening - the refrigeration unit broke down, meaning no meals and, probably, warm drinks!  You can imagine how that went down on a near 8 hour flight.   ..


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