Outside In: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by bobmorris

Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business
Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine
New Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012)

There’s “bad news” and there’s “good news”

Development of the concept of customer-centrism predates Barbara Bund’s business classic, The Outside-In Corporation: How to Build a Customer-Centric Organization for Breakthrough Results (2005). However, it was while reading that book that I gained a deep understanding and appreciation of the power of customer-centrism. Curiously, there are no references to Bund and her work in Outside In, co-authored by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine. As Bund explains in the Preface, “The primary objective of this book is to help business managers use [her various] insights effectively in practice. It is to share the outside-in discipline — to provide a road map for managers to follow in creating and leading outside-in corporations, even in organizations where the unfortunate inside-out perspective has prevailed in the past.” (page xviii) Whereas Bund invokes the “road map” metaphor, Manning and Bodine focus on what they characterize as “the customer journey,” based on experiences that occur on three levels: an experience that meets a customer’s given need(s), is easy for the customer to complete, and is en enjoyable experience as well.

The best business books are research-driven and that is certainly true of this one, given the nature and extent of Forrester Research’s resources. To their credit, Manning and Bodine also provide a wealth of information, insights, and counsel that are anchored in real-world situations. They insert dozens of micro-case studies throughout the narrative, sharing lessons from a diverse group of companies that include Barclaycard US, BBVA, Boeing, John Deere Financial, Ecosytem Maps, FedEx, Fidelity Charitable, Holiday Inn, Mayo Clinic, Vanguard, and Walgreens. As for what can be learned from large and complicated organizations such as these, the lessons are relevant to any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o  What Natural Ecosystems Teach Us About Customer experience (pages38-39)
o  How to Create a Customer Experience Ecosystem Map, Step by Step (47-49)
o  The Six Essential Customer Experience Disciplines (66-69)
o  What You Think You Know About Customers Is Probably Wrong (88-89)
o  The Role of Cocreation in the [Customer Interaction] Design Process (113-114)
o  The Customer Experience Measurement Framework (126-132)
o  You Need to Build a Customer-centric Corporate Culture (153-159)
o  The Four Adoption Levels of Customer Experience Practices (175-177)
o  Why Do Companies Need a Chief Customer Officer? (187-188)
o  Customer Experience Innovations Will Provide a Competitive Edge (2314-221)

Manning and Bodine as well as Bund and countless others all agree that establishing and then sustaining strong relationships with customers is more difficult now than ever before because customers have more choices than ever before, are better informed than ever before, and not only expect but indeed demand that the selection and purchase experience involve more, much more than a transaction to obtain a product or service. The challenge is not to hire people who “get it” insofar as customer interaction is concerned. The challenge, rather, is to establish and then strengthen a culture (i.e. an organizational ecosystem) that is customer-centric, indeed customer-driven at all levels and in all areas. Hence the importance of the six disciplines that Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine emphasize. Hence the importance, also, of having a framework such as the one they describe within which the disciplines ensure that interactions with customers are based on mutual respect and mutual trust…to mutual benefit.

I conclude by sharing some “bad news” and some “good news.” First the bad news: Customer relationships have never been more vulnerable than they are now. What’s the good news? Customer relationships have never been more vulnerable than they are now.

 

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