Getting to Second Base

There were many great presentations at the Emetrics Summit in Washington, DC, a couple weeks ago. There were presentations on all aspects of Web analytics, from strategic implications of developing a Web measurement program to the use of advanced analytical techniques to address specific issues.

One of the most interesting presentations I saw wasn’t about Web analytics at all, however. It wasn’t about the Web or even about analytics. It was about customers and customer centricity. It was about putting customers at the heart of the organization and what that really means for your business. It was pretty thought-provoking stuff from David Rance of Round.

The main thing that struck me when listening to Rance was that none of the output from our analytics work is of any value if the business isn’t organizationally and culturally prepared to do something about it. Analysis without action is merely an interesting pastime.

Rance used a baseball metaphor in his presentation to describe the journey companies embark on in their quest for customer centricity. The journey was from “first base” to “fourth base” (or “home plate”). The stages are:

  • First base: The company is product-centric, focused on maximizing efficiency through operational performance.

  • Second base: The company has customer focus, centered on satisfying the customer by creating a consistent customer experience.
  • Third base: The company drives customer value through the application of strategies for each individual customer.
  • Fourth base: The company is customer-centric, and customers become stakeholders in the business’ success.

The estimate was there are very few companies that are truly customer centric. The vast majority are trying to move from first to second base. To get to second base, companies must create this consistent customer experience through driving continuous improvements. To do this, they must have all their capabilities aligned and pointing in the same direction. Which brings me back to leveraging the outputs of an analytics program.

There’s no point having a world-class analytics tool kit and a world-class analyst in place if the company isn’t equipped to deal with the results. At the same time, you won’t get to second base without them. The opportunity for organizations is to embrace the culture of the continuous improvement ethos and empower the analysts to inform the debate and for executives and functional managers to be prepared to take action as a result.

Additionally, all the capabilities must be aligned. It’s not just about having great ideas for action, it’s also about having the ability to execute those ideas. There’s no point creating sophisticated behavioral customer segmentation, for example, if you don’t also have the right e-mail system and expertise to leverage that segmentation in outbound e-mail marketing campaigns.

The challenge, then, is less about producing output from analytic programs and more about making each piece of output have more impact. To think more in terms of value than in terms of volume. To produce insight that’s acted upon rather than weekly reports that are merely read. To focus on the consumer rather than on the Web site. All easy to say but hard to do. We must constantly challenge ourselves regarding the impact of what we do on the journey to second base.

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