Underneath The Bonnet Of A Customer Hub

This is the third post of Martin’s series on customer hubs. He previously explored how they provide a low risk way of developing greater responsiveness to current and emerging customer needs. This is achieved by co-locating and then coaching a cross section of specialist teams recruited from functions silos.  

Social Customer Hub

The aim is to develop  agile teamwork in place of disjointed functional responses.  Best known models of this in action are probably ‘in form’ sport teams whose teamwork is greater than the sum of individual talent. Think of customer hubs as being the grown up version of ‘model office’.

The need to learn new ways of working together is to be found in the increasingly complex, ever mutating marketplaces that organisations now compete in. The balance of power ping pongs back and forth between customers and organisations that compete for their attention, advocacy and ongoing spend.

Innovation keeps evolving the behaviour of both sides. Buyer reviews and social connectivity tilts the balance in favour of customers. Then real time personalisation harvested from digital footprints restores organisation’s ability to re-attract their attention.

Meanwhile, cloud based platforms play host to any would be competitor with the imagination to build a better mousetrap. Every market can expect their Uber or Airbnb to arrive at some point, catalysing new ways of delivering value.

Organisations that have yet to focus their attention of this bubbling pot of new business models can expect to become tactically surprised and strategically outmanoeuvred as a result. And the icing on the cake is that this flow of innovation is just getting started.


What Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger

So the question becomes how to adapt to this new reality. Command and control, focussed on an ongoing agenda of efficiency, remains the prevalent structure and culture. Yet feedback from customers, employees and the diminishing lifespan of publicly listed organisations suggest the writing is on the wall.

Radical change is not easy. It’s the equivalent of being tasked with running a competitive race while enduring open heart surgery. Even if a perfect blueprint emerged of the way to thrive in 21st century organisational life, the gap between plan and execution would remain. This gap is only closed once new behaviour fills it. This is what really matters. Responding in ways that matches the emerging world everyone can see popping up around them.

But changing behaviour is not like a course of antibiotics; simply take them and wait to get better. Behaviour is based on a dense web of habits built over time which by definition are unconscious and instinctive. They are designed to endure.

So changing a habit takes time and conscious effort. It stands to reason that developing new organisational habits need the same treatment and intense personal transformation at individual level.

This is challenging but achievable in small groups. But in the context of our massively scaled organisations of thousands of people, it can never happen.


Sheep dip change management is what reality tv is to real life.


Think of your customer hub as a ‘jeep’ model. Just Enough Essential People. Recruit enough of the people from each of the necessary specialisms to effectively engage in today’s agile, complex marketplace and help them develop new interdisciplinary behaviours.

Once new behaviours are learnt and have become instinctive, you can release some of the Hub members back into the ‘wild’. Let them return to their old functional teams to infect the legacy culture while you recruit the next set. This is a low risk, incremental way of transforming the overall organisation and avoids the risk of corporate heart failure by disrupting too much, too fast.


Underneath The Bonnet

Here’s a detailed view of how a customer hub functions. Some of the workflows might be new to an organisation. Certainly all of them will perform more effectively once trust, shared purpose and ‘group mind’ lubricate the teamwork between these teams. As the title of General Stanley McChrystal’s new book on ‘New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World’ puts it so well, the behavioural end goal is to develop a ‘team of teams’.

Social Customer Hub

To give a flavour of how new behaviours are nurtured, let’s explore one of the nodes in this new network. In the yellow box that flows out of the response framework category called ‘Engage’, are five rows of core tasks. The first row summaries the Service mission. The second summaries the Marketing mission (aspects of it). The third row summaries the Sales mission.

Nothing new here. However all this traditionally takes place each day within the blinkers of functional agendas and whatever contextual awareness exists within those teams. Any shortfall remains invisible in terms of lost opportunity or collateral damage from more agile competitors. This is because those teams are not trained to look for the broader opportunities outside their remit or join the dots.

For instance, very few CRM systems right now will have captured the full lifecycle flow of engagement between customers and marketing, sales and service teams. The reason is that there is no perceived benefit. The best version might include transactions and service history. How many Marketing teams feed off that? Not many I bet.

As part of the induction for working in the ‘Engage’ workflow of a customer hub, all specialist recruits are provided with a foundation course. This aims to provide a common context in the form of that organisation’s ideal customer lifecycle and the associated customer journeys.

Delegates then learn about the three core engagement disciplines that inhabit the lifecycle; marketing, sales and service. They come to appreciate that each is a uniquely valuable skill worth learning.

This foundation course is presented, explored and understood as a holistic education. In much the same way that history, geography, sociology, economics etc. can be interwoven as a more integrated approach to learning how societies work.

This broadening of awareness is then underpinned each day with access to common dashboards, frequent exchanges of insights and development of aligned plans under the guidance of the Hub Coach.

Etc. Etc..


If you want to explore how the rest of the Hub works, we are spending one day on 14th April in London doing just that. There is still time to sign up. All details are can be found here.


P.S The previous two posts in this series can be accessed below.

Why Customer Hubs Accelerate Your Digital Agenda

How To Create Your Own Customer Hub 

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Martin Hill-Wilson – View the original post.