What is the ideal structure to enable a rapid and result orientated team which are customer focused?

On reading Ashley Friedlein's recent post, 'With a blank sheet, what organisational structure would you choose for marketing and digital?', I wondered what the ideal structure would be geared around the customer and rapid delivery. 

I thought I would start with the customer. I love the idea of the customer director and being a big fan of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm I thought his concept of creating a competitive advantage by understanding your customers is essential.

One of the initiatives looks at how to create the whole product, "by thinking through your customer's problems-- and solutions-- in their entirety"

So why not have someone internally representing the customer? This person, although internal, would need to be focused outside in and not the typical inside out. Steve Blank’s approach to Customer Development not Product development really reinforces this approach.  

As per Ashley’s model this person would drive everything from the proposition, technology roadmap and also pricing.

I would go one step further and place this individual on the board of directors and actually own all customer interactions.

This is no small change in an organisation. This person would not only have financial objectives but they would also have a very simple KPI, how many customers have you met or how many days have you been out of the office meeting customers?

Where does the feedback come from?

If we look at a software business the feedback from customers could come in a number of forms:

For example: 

  • Prospects.
  • Existing customer through customer support enquiries.
  • Services/consultancy team who are consulting on the software.
  • Journalists and coverage about the software.
  • Analysts reviews, feedback and commentary.
  • Potentially social media feedback – depending on the type of software and volume of chat.
  • Web analytics data (in terms of leads or trials taken out).
  • Transactional data with churned customers. 
  • And, where available, a customer survey.

With all these sources of information it would keep people more than busy!

Why not create a structure around the customer director to enable the organisation to react in a manner a customer would expect?

Ok so we now have the head of the department identified. So what does the supporting structure look like?

Supporting structure

In the diagram below the Customer Director has direct access to customers. This might be a physical or digital interaction either way this information needs to flow back to the team underneath.

Note the job titles are descriptive of the role they will perform and there is a more detailed description of their responsibilities below. 

Organisational Strucutre

This team would be solely responsible for answering the needs of the customer.

Much in the same way Amazon have a two pizza team approach (which Neil referred to in his blog post Which organisational structure would you choose for marketing and digital? (Redux) this customer solutions team would also grow once the task was bigger than the team and a new supporting team would be created. 

In the world of ecommerce one team might be responsible for the purchase journey whilst another team would be responsible for the returns experience.

However, the customer director would set the direction and prioritisation.

The team roles

So what role would each of the team play?

customer director

Customer Director

As discussed above, the customer director has sole accountability for the results of the customer roadmap. They are responsible to gathering the customers challenges and needs.

Some of this might come from face to face interviews and some of might come from the web analytics or transactional systems. They will need to have a handle on both as the interviews will only describe what they want vs. the data will tell them what they actually do.

Focus

The focus for the customer director is three fold:

  1. Create a list of tasks or solutions to customer problems. These ideally are not technical but written as customer stories, which the technical team can then translate into technology solutions.
  2. Prioritise the customer stories. Initially the customer director will need to quantify the size of the problem. If five customers are having the problem is it something the organisation really needs to focus on today.
  3. Create into bite size achievable chunks. Asking for everything means nothing will be delivered. One of the skills of the customer director is to break down large customer stories into the absolute minimum or must haves.

    This can be a big challenge in organisations who want to big changes when in fact adding a phone number to homepage is likely to have positive effect on customer needs.

artist

Artist

The artist is responsible for the look and feel of the customer experience. Some of these might be very simple changes whilst others are complex in nature.

The artist is responsible for taking both the customer solution identified by the customer director with the team and making it a simple yet achievable solution.

Furthermore the artist needs to work with the builder to understand what has been built and to ensure it easy to use and simple to understand.

Focus

Their sole goal could be measured by bounce rates or customer abandonment/conversion rates, but essentially they are all about the needs of the customers answered in a simple self service way. 

tycoon 

Tycoon

The tycoon is there to help identify if the solution is something which is core to the existing offering and if the customer need could be charged for additionally.

They will need to understand if this affects the business model and how it might impact things like a reduction in media costs to attract customers (improved search visibility, social trending or customer referrals) or the impact it might have on customer churn. 

Focus

The tycoon is the one person focused on financial outcomes.

This does not mean they say no to projects but they can help the customer director with prioritisation by evaluating the impact of a customer pain point through the commercial benefit.

builder

Builder

The builder is there to construct the solution for the customer director. They will need to look at what is and is not possible within the existing environment.

They will have to provide feedback to the customer director on timings for the delivery of the solution and if the size of the task is too large the customer director will need to reduce the size of the task.

Focus

The builder has two key tasks. Speed how quickly can the solution be delivered and quality does the solution answer the problem and does it work. 

 broadcaster

Broadcaster

The broadcaster aims to interpret what the solution and customer problem is and how they can engage audiences around the new solution.

Furthermore, they will create content and supporting material for the new solution.

Focus

The broadcaster works to take the feedback, which has been gathered by the customer director, and tell everyone how the problem has been solved and why it is different.

As part of their skills they will need to assess when to shout and when to wait. In some instances there will be little to shout about so they might want to create content about the larger problem consumers are facing prior to describing how they have solved this larger problem.

They will use anything they can to create awareness of digital audiences and engagement of existing customers. 

Summary

For this potential new structure organisations will need to be focused around the customers. This means actually making change rather than just saying they are customer centric.

For example:

  • Creating a customer director function who sits on the senior leadership team.
  • Enable the customer director to have their own budget without constraints or bureaucratic sign off processes.
  • Provide autonomy for the customer director’s team to create change which directly affects the needs of the customer.

As a payback this new customer focused team lead by the customer director will need to be able to react in a rapid manner due to the antonymous and constraint free function in the organisation.

They will need to be able to demonstrate tangible customer problems they have solved and how this has benefited the organisation.

There will need to be an element of compliance for certain industry such as financial services, however this should not be a barrier to change but an opportunity to help customers and create greater transparency between the faceless corporation and the frustrated consumer.

For more, Econsultancy publishes a very popular report called “Digital Marketing: Organizational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide” and also offers advice and guidance to companies around the globe on organisational restructuring and digital transformation

Ben Salmon

Published 15 April, 2015 by Ben Salmon

Ben Salmon is Founder at Attributely and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

4 more posts from this author

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Comments (2)

Nichola Finan

Nichola Finan, digital marketing at Media-input

Enjoyed your article, Ben. A great challenge for a Wednesday morning. If I am starting to grasp your concept, then would it be fair to say that most agencies adopt this approach broadly, but most client organisations don't, as they tend to lead with product/service/logistics??

almost 3 years ago

Ben Salmon

Ben Salmon, Founder at wearecrankSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Nicola, great point. In fact some agencies do have similar teams yet I've found the tycoon persona is not there.

They do sometimes play the role of the customer director but when it comes to applying what's best for the business by prioritising what needs to be done (value vs cost vs speed) or chunking down the deliverables they aren't always spot on.

I'd love to hear what agencies think and if they are creating a commercial benefit for their clients.

almost 3 years ago

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