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New Product Success

Posted on: November 27th, 2017 by Bryan Weidner No Comments

One of the biggest challenges for business leaders is deciding where to invest, when and how much. As they look to achieve or maintain market leadership they are constantly striving to find the next market offering that drives exponential growth, market differentiation and customer delight.

There is often no shortage of ideas. The challenge is framing and prioritizing; identifying the idea or concept that will be most relevant and be recognized as delivering the most customer value. There are always multiple ideas competing for limited resources with global competitors moving faster across local markets, increasing time-to-market pressures. Balancing value creation with time-to-market can make the difference between new product success and failure.

Framing Ideas

One of the first steps in identifying high potential ideas is to take the time early in the filtering process to frame ideas from the customers’ view point. Spending time discovering and capturing customers’ day-to-day activities/challenges helps teams describe how new ideas align to customer needs and improve their experiences. There are 4 steps that drive increased success as companies consider new ideas. They include:

  1. Forming small cross-disciplinary teams:
    Small cross-disciplinary (or cross-departmental) teams should be formed to participate in the ideation and prioritization process and assigned specific ideas to frame. These joint teams should include staff from Strategy, Marketing, Product, Engineering, Finance, Sales, Customer Service and Legal. The formation of cross-disciplinary teams leads to richer brainstorming and idea definitions as teams leverage more diverse and robust experiences and talents. As these teams participate early in the new product process they provide a broader understanding across the business of the potential of new offerings and the customer challenges they address. This participation creates a “common purpose” that encourages early collaboration and cooperation vs traditional siloed interactions. Teams should stay together as ideas move through the vetting process and on to design and delivery. This will help drive momentum and a deeper understanding within departments as team members serve as advocates and provide additional clarity based on their knowledge and insight.
  2. Spending time with customers:
    The best way to frame ideas is to spend time with customers in their environment, interviewing and studying behavior in order to understand daily activities, challenges and needs. This exposure and insight enables teams to more effectively describe the idea through customer stories and scenarios, expressing how it will benefit the customer. These early insights and descriptions form a customer-based foundation that will continue to be built upon as the idea progresses through the decisioning process (and on through design, development and delivery …).
  1. Using design early and often:
    The use of creative design techniques should be leveraged during the idea definition and selection stage to help business colleagues visualize the potential of ideas early in the filtering process. These techniques include illustrations, story-boards and rudimentary prototypes, and should be used in an iterative fashion as ideas progress through the review process. Visual aids strengthen the story and help colleagues better understand the intent of the idea and how it benefits the customer (and the business).
  2. Creating and refining Value Factors:
    During the prioritization stage, teams should establish or refine business and customer value factors that form the basis for analyzing the potential of ideas based on their level of factor alignment. Identifying value factors and weighing ideas against these measures provides a more objective and structured approach to the decisioning process. Although it’s not completely scientific, it provides a more systemic approach to comparing and analyzing the early potential of ideas. This helps teams navigate decisions that are subjective and based on emotion (pet projects).

Initial idea prioritization can be completed quickly, with just a couple days of research, framing and team presentations.

Increased customer and expert research drives deeper insights and definition as teams move through the next iterations of the ideation process. During these iterations, teams should continue to leverage design, creating more in-depth illustrations and functional prototypes to provide additional clarity regarding new offering capability and potential. Prioritization iterations should continue until 2 or 3 ideas remain.

As prioritization narrows the idea pool, increased customer research and positioning will help cross-business teams understand early in the delivery process how new products address customer needs … preventing extended design and development timeframes.   Establishing a deep understanding early will help drive meaningful use cases that will inform design and development, reducing rework and delays.

Harnessing Technology

Technology is constantly evolving and has often served as a catalyst for market disruption and incremental value creation. Companies that harness new technologies to improve operational efficiencies and create new, compelling customer offerings often leap-frog the competition and redefine industries. As new ideas are framed and vetted, teams need to ensure they include a focus on how technology can and should be leveraged in designing, delivering and supporting new offerings.

Delivering Enough Value

As new products move through delivery phases trade-offs often occur as teams experience unexpected challenges. These challenges often put the budget and delivery schedule at risk. Extended timeframes often result from unanticipated complexities, increased effort or increased scope causing initiatives to exceed budget – time and resources. Delivery teams mitigate design and development challenges using the three levers of time, budget and scope.

Quite often one of the first levers teams consider as they mitigate delivery challenges is “scope”; analyzing … is there functionality/content that can be cut that will allow the team to get back on track (schedule and budget). They often focus on scope as they consider the second lever – budget (i.e. additional staffing/resources); analyzing … can additional staff help without causing additional delays as current team members bring new staff up-to-speed (if supported by the budget). Maintaining a customer focus as these tradeoffs are considered is critical. Delivery teams need to continually confirm whether current scope is still meeting the original idea customer/market objective … delivering enough differentiating value.   Quite often scope takes the majority of the hit to stay within budget and delivery timeframes, this practice can have a dramatic impact on the usefulness and usability of new offerings – impacting customer value.

Maintaining a Balance

Maintaining a balance between value creation and time-to-market is a true sign of a team that is in-tune with customer needs and operations – continually questioning whether the offering is useful enough to create compelling differentiation and offered in a timeframe that meets customer business goals/needs. If too much scope is cut, the new offering may no longer be useful (i.e. misses the mark – one of the main reasons 75% of new offerings fail). If the offering is delivered too late, the company may miss the customer’s business window (i.e. budget, technology or sales cycle) or fail to be first to market.

New product success occurs when a new offering is robust enough to delight customers and timely enough for customers to effectively leverage its capabilities to achieve their business goals … creating a new offering that is relevant, differentiates and drives top-line growth … Balancing value creation and time-to-market

It’s not about Customer Retention (tactics)!

Posted on: March 14th, 2015 by Bryan Weidner

Business leaders often try to attack customer attrition through short-term, short-sighted retention tactics (i.e. campaign-of-the-month or this Quarter’s service initiative …) without the commitment to discover root cause, improve customer interactions or change “customer-hostile” behaviors. Companies that take the time to know their customers, build trusting relationships and focus on delivering exceptional value … achieve high levels of customer loyalty and advocacy. Retention (or Loyalty) is earned through long-term customer commitment not through short-term business tactics.

Often, because of short-term market and corporate expectations, leaders are pressured into short-term approaches to fill revenue and profit gaps. These pressures can lead to behaviors that exploit current customer relationships through price increases or service limitations that can lead to dissatisfaction and attrition. These short-sighted behaviors create a deadly spiral that is difficult for companies to break with short-term attrition or retention efforts. Leaders need to be bold enough to break these spirals by establishing a customer-oriented culture. This cultural change shifts corporate behaviors to include empathy and a commitment to deliver increased value that leads to loyalty and increased revenues.

Companies that have achieved market leading success over the past 15 years (i.e. Apple, Starbucks, Virgin, Cirque du Soliel, Target, Four Seasons, Zappos …) are companies that are changing industries by focusing on delivering new, compelling customer value and experiences.

Market Leaders

These companies have achieved this success through their commitment to deep customer insights that expose new opportunities to deliver exciting new experiences that are relevant and valued. This approach leads to customers who become devoted to the brand, serving as advocates who can’t wait to tell their friends and family about their exciting experiences with company products and services … This is the ultimate goal of any company, achieving this level of loyalty and advocacy.

The first step to building this type of relationship is a focus on Voice of the Customer (VOC), establishing a series of customer interactions and input channels. This commitment to VOC ensures company decisions and investments are informed with fresh, relevant insights as new ideas and concepts are prioritized, designed and delivered.


Voice of the Customer goes beyond the typical satisfaction survey or customer leadership council (which a lot of companies put in place). High impact VOC interactions should include a full spectrum of customer input channels; i.e. customer visits, customer interviews, customer observations, customer surveys, profiles/personas and journey maps. These efforts reflect a true commitment to understanding the customer. These varied approaches help cross-business teams establish “fresh” perspectives on current customer wants, desires, preferences, activities and challenges … practicing what we call “proactive empathy”.

This level of customer input, feedback and insight creates a “Customer” environment that allows companies to get close to the customer and identify current experience gaps. The discovery of experience gaps leads to innovation opportunities that can result in new exciting solutions and experiences that are relevant and valued. As customers see new solutions delivered that address day-to-day challenges and help them reach their goals, they realize the commitment made to gain this understanding and become devoted advocates. Apple, Harley Davidson, Four Seasons, Cirque du Soleil, did not drive the deep loyalty they enjoy (and the excitement that customers exhibit for their brands) through short-term retention tactics. They achieved this devotion from long-term “Customer” commitment, delivering solutions that are fresh, new and relevant … leading to exciting new customer experiences.

Case Study

We recently worked with a company that was experiencing increased levels of attrition. Like a lot of companies, they were chasing quarterly revenue and profit targets and looking for ways to close looming gaps.

For years they had turned to their current customer base to help meet quarterly targets. These approaches had become a short-term crutch for the company, often leading to long-term retention issues. The CEO and regional President were committed to becoming more customer focused and identifying longer-term approaches to customer loyalty and increased revenue. We helped them implement a series of new customer input channels that provided fresh perspectives on customer activities and needs, wants and desires. These VOC initiatives helped to expose root cause and identify change initiatives that would help deliver new value, drive increased revenue, improve the customer experience and build stronger customer relationships. They realized that customer retention was not achieved through short-term tactics but is the result of a long-term customer commitments.

Delighting customers begins with discovering Value!

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Bryan Weidner

In today’s crowded markets it can be difficult to differentiate your company from global competitors. Many business leaders have recognized the importance of customer experience as a means of differentiation. Creating an experience that is relevant, meaningful and delights begins with a commitment to understanding your customers. Quite often, companies don’t take the time to listen to what customers are anxious to share … what they truly Value. For successful companies, the focus on Value begins with actionable insights and remains a central thread as they look to deliver new solutions that drive market leadership and differentiation.

At flo, our Customer VALUE Framework helps companies gain an intimate understanding of their customers, exposing experience gaps that create opportunities to drive cross-functional change that is focused on delivering compelling customer Value.

Customer VALUE Framework

Delivering compelling Value…


As companies interact with customers to gain fresh insights, they need to ensure customer conversations include a focus on Value. This discovery helps companies map “Value Factors” that serve as guide posts as teams consider and prioritize new ideas and concepts. Often, companies invest in secondary research or conduct satisfaction surveys which don’t provide the vehicles for exposing these valuable insights.

Customer profiles and personas are a great way for companies to elicit customer characteristics, including what they Value. These qualitative approaches inform teams as they consider new concepts and solutions, keeping customer needs, wants and desires in view as they move new solutions through the many tradeoffs that often occur during design and delivery. Many new products and services that are intended to create an exciting new customer experience miss the mark as corporate teams get caught-up in the internal challenges of driving a new idea to market. Often, so many compromises have been made without the customer in mind that the new solutions no longer address the original Value Factors that were identified … one of the main reasons so many new offerings fail.

Have you made “Value” a focal point in your conversations with customers and within your teams? In most cases customers will not be able to tell you the new and different solutions they need, but they can tell you what they Value most in their day-to-day activities and experiences (or what they would like to see done differently to improve their experience).

A great way to become more focused on your customers and what they Value is to take the time to “askWHAT4”. As you start your day, as you begin meetings, as you think about new ideas, as you make decisions, as you design new solutions … “askWHAT4”.


Asking WHAT4 helps keep the customer top-of-mind as teams go about their day-to-day activities and will keep them focused on what customers Value.   Are you asking WHAT4 … do you know what your customers Value?

Case Study

We recently worked with a company that was trying to differentiate their solutions in an industry where offerings were becoming commoditized. The leadership team realized the importance of becoming more customer-focused and forming stronger relationships with their customers.

They had rarely interacted with their customers beyond account rep. visits or the occasional customer support call. We helped them establish new vehicles for proactively interacting with customers, capturing meaningful insights that provided fresh perspectives on who their customers were and what they Valued. We implemented customer journey maps and created profiles/personas that highlighted behaviors, attitudes, aspirations and Value. We found that customers were delighted to be participating in these conversations and were happy to share what they Value most in provider relationships and industry solutions.

The company used these new insights to help inform cross-business teams as they prioritized new change initiatives aimed at delivering increased Value and more compelling customer experiences. Teams were excited to be closer to the customer. This created a whole new atmosphere and environment … the beginnings of a “Customer” culture.   A number of new customer initiatives were launched that were focused on new policies, services and solutions that were designed to deliver exciting new customer experiences and Value. As teams measured the impact of some of these initial efforts, they found that both Satisfaction and Loyalty had improved … and stronger relationships had formed.

Is Customer-Centric right for your company?

Posted on: February 13th, 2015 by Bryan Weidner No Comments

Most business leaders immediately set their sights on being Customer-Centric. This is a great aspiration but it’s important to understand what customer culture exists today and the business change required to reach your customer destination. Business success is often the result of being customer-focused (or Customer-Centric) and establishing an environment where team members are empathetic and passionate about delivering an exceptional customer experience.

One of the first steps that leaders need to take as they look to become more Customer-Centric is to discover where their business and organizations fall on the “Customer-Centricity Spectrum”. The Spectrum includes 5 categories of customer commitment, from business behaviors and attitudes considered “Customer-Hostile” to a “Customer-Centric” environment where customers are the center of daily discussions, decisions, priorities and measures.

Customer-Centricity Spectrum


Source: In Partnership with the Chip Bell Group

The “Centricity Spectrum” identifies customer-based attitudes and commitments within a business (i.e. Centric, Focused, Friendly, Aware and Hostile) and the customer relationships that result (i.e. Devoted, Loyal, Satisfied, Indifferent and Adverse).

As leaders look to discover where they are today, they need to have a clear understanding of the 5 spectrum categories and how their company’s day-to-day behaviors and attitudes map.  For example, here is a snapshot of what a “Customer-Centric” organization might look like:


  • Customer issues and priorities are the primary concern of all leaders
  • Every employee has a “line of sight” to external customers and is evaluated on contributions that support customer success
  • Customer-designed solutions, processes and communications
  • Customer feedback/input is constant, pervasive and viewed as crucial
  • Customer metrics drive the enterprise
  • Customer service shapes all recognition
  • Internal customer service is a matched set with external service
  • Customer-oriented behaviors and attitudes are critical hiring factors

Source: In Partnership with the Chip Bell Group

Current state insight is critical to setting your desired Customer Destination (or Vision), providing awareness as to what it will take to achieve your customer goals over a specific timeframe.   Customer-Centric may not be appropriate for your company today based on the amount of operational change and investment that may be required to reach this desired destination. However, there are valuable steps along the journey (moving to the left on the centricity spectrum) that you can take to help your business become more customer-focused and empathetic. Lasting customer relationships are achieved as you show a true interest in knowing your customers (their needs, wants and challenges) … and that you’re committed to their success. Where are you today on your journey to becoming a more Customer-Centric company? Do you know where you fall on the Customer-Centricity Spectrum?

Case Study

We recently worked with a company where the CEO was a very people-oriented and empathetic leader. He wanted his organization to reflect his concern for people and the customer … conversations focused on being Customer-Centric. He felt this level of customer commitment would build stronger customer relationships and help to differentiate the company.

After internal analysis, the executive team discovered that their current operations fell between Customer-Aware and Customer-Friendly on the Centricity Spectrum. Based on these insights, they considered the Customer Destination they could achieve over the course of a 3 year period. They found that setting their sights on “Centric” would prove to be too large of a leap from where they stood at the time (specifically, the operational change in behaviors and decision making and the associated cost). As a result, they set their sights on becoming Customer-Focused with the objective to continue to change the culture and over-time revisit the possibility of becoming Customer-Centric.

Being Customer-Focused was a big step forward for the company. Employees were enthusiastic and excited to be involved in customer experience activities that had them working together on setting their Customer Destination. They not only created “What” but “How”, establishing standards and norms (i.e. new behaviors and attitudes) aligned with being Customer-Focused. They set new customer-oriented goals and launched new initiatives to help change the culture and improve their focus on customer … employee morale improved, customer satisfaction increased and more customers were becoming advocates.