Driving strategy through customers

While any business with a service element will say that its customers are their most important consideration, very few take the time to understand their customer experience as a means to inform business strategy.

CXCO was established in 2010 as a strategic innovation and customer experience consultancy. By creating customer centred experiences, CXCO informs business strategy, increases customer advocacy, and affects employee engagement.

Managing director of CXCO, Aine O’Mahony has worked in human centred design for 20 years, working with a wide variety of organisations in consulting and external engagement.

When she started CXCO, Aine saw an opportunity to deliver high value outcomes for businesses using human behaviour as the key source of insight. This insight is delivered through three main services: business and customer strategy; experience design and innovation; and organisational engagement. A feature of the CXCO way of working, compared to other strategy design and innovation firms, is the rigorous evidence-based approach they bring to these services.

“We follow a design thinking methodology that is founded within the discipline of human centred design, considering the context and interactions of the relationship we are studying. Through this we gain a deep understanding of drivers and needs at key points of interaction, and surface opportunities for growth and differentiation.” says Aine.

“From this insight, we create decision-making tools to be used to inform collaborative, objective and strategic decision making within the organisation.”

Aine notes that building a customer centred organisation can take years of focused effort, and so her team takes a thorough approach to assessment and measurement to help expedite the transition.

“We like to help the organisation understand their customer centred maturity, and from this decide how far they want to go to achieve their vision. We’ve built a maturity model that we use with executive teams that look at the organisation across four key areas, covering 12 capability dimensions. It’s a powerful way to look at your value creation system,” she adds.

“From this assessment our clients are in a position to plan and scope what they need to do to build the required capability. Through collaborative workshops with the executive team, we define the key strategic relationships the organisation engages with, this may be the end customer; but it could just as likely be partners or intermediary relationships that help the organisation create value.”

Once CXCO has identified the high-value relationships and clarified the business appetite for change, they are then in a position to recommend a roadmap of activities, that starts with gathering insight or leveraging existing high quality insights.

“In the absence of meaningful insight within the organisation, we’ll go out and gather information from those relationships and establish how they’re interacting with the organisation; including what they need, what they expect, and what the opportunities are to deliver increased value.”

Aine and CXCO then brings the insight back to the organisation to inform the creation of a customer led strategy – a “future-focused vision” – for the organisation.

“We create outside-in strategy where we observe, inquire, and interpret to find meaning and uncover unarticulated opportunities.”

“What is required for a customer led strategy to be successful is a an internal operating model that aligns to and supports delivery of the strategy. CXCO takes a close look inside the organisation to understand systemic root cause issue across people, process and systems, and how they inhibit value creation.”

In essence, Aine says that by looking outside and then inside the organisation, we gain a holistic understanding of the value creation system, and from here are able to identify opportunities to increase value and develop an organisations’ customer centred maturity.

While the philosophy of being customer centred may sound straightforward, many organisations fail to deliver on their intentions. As Aine says, “Unless the business is a start up, many will have legacy systems, entrenched ways of working, and a culture that may not be supportive of creating outside-in strategy.”

In some cases, a business may be struggling to adapt to the change of pace in its industry. “Some organisations look at transformation and think it’s updating an IT system or changing a backend process, yet the creation of high-value services requires more than a myopic focus on a system or process.”

Equally, Aine highlights how many organisations operate in silos, focusing on their own function and failing to see the impact of their decisions on the end-to-end customer experience.

“The organisation needs to look at itself holistically and focus on the systemic issues that require behavioural change in order to deliver value for their customers and solve their customer’s problems.”

Helping an organisation understand this – and then work with them to address issues – is the basis of CXCO’s services. Citing a real case study, Aine explains the process she worked through for a client in the business-to-business environment, helping it deliver a customer focused service.

“This particular business had got to a position where customer and employee engagement was low, feedback was poor, and their customer did not feel valued or supported,” she explains. “A culture had been created where teams were quite dismissive and critical of the customer.”

“We started with an intensive business discover activity. We spoke with about 100 people across the organisation, including the executive team through to front-line service teams. We ran interviews and collaborative workshops to understand their point of view on the service they offered, and what they knew about their customer. From there we went out to understand the customer experience and how they were interacting with the business, and what key opportunities was presented from there.”

Success comes when the organisation reaches a stage where they shift from being inwardly focused and expert-led, to one that is outwardly focused and uses behavioural insight to inform strategic decisions. CXCO enables this outward focus through insight and tools that help organisations see the impact of their decisions, build empathy and increase the desire for change.

“We take great pride in the decision-making tools we create. They are visual and clearly articulate the insight or strategy, enabling people at all levels of the organisation to engage and understand the customer’s experience, the vision, and the opportunities to increase value.”

“We articulate the customer need and experience through behavioural profiles, experience journey maps, decision funnels, design principles and service blueprints. From there we collaboratively design the future state experience with the customer and business, and articulate the experience through a Vision on a page and supporting scenarios and conceptual designs. We then test concepts and prototypes with customers and the business to de-risk investment decisions and ensure solutions deliver high-value to customers and the business.”

The success of their work has fed CXCO’s growth. It is a business built on networks with successful clients leading to new business from like-minded organisations. While this organic growth has been positive, Aine believes the time is right to be more proactive in their approach. With a good portfolio of successful outcomes, she believes that CXCO is in a prime position to look at growth throughout Australia and even into Asia and parts of Europe.

“I’m really proud to have got the business started and to be keeping the doors open while remaining true to our initial objectives,” says Aine. “We have a great team of really smart and passionate people that enjoy making a tangible difference to our clients. It’s a great challenge and requires us to constantly learn and evolve what we do; positioning us to solve more complex problems and apply our thinking to a range of organisations and decision-making contexts.” BFM



Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.