The Customer Intimacy Journey: A Blueprint for Change

The challenge for any significant change initiative is maintaining motivation and focus throughout the effort.

Most change initiatives fail because of this very issue. Both individuals and corporations suffer from this phenomenon – personal improvement (like weight loss) is difficult because the change in habit must be maintained for a long period of time without seeing results immediately.

A large enterprise has even more difficulty undergoing a significant change, particularly when the change is as radical as business model migration.

Business model change impacts more aspects of the business than any other change initiative, and therefore requires a longer period of time to accomplish. We all know that is extremely difficult to move a significant initiative forward because few are truly dedicated to effort and its success although in the company’s interest does not easily align with individual’s interest.

Let’s look at the different constituencies:

  • First, you have individuals who will suffer the normal challenge in any type of change. They will have to be bought in to the reasons and be able to align it to their career and compensation.
  • Second, you have the leadership in charge of accomplishing this effort – they are naturally concerned about how this is going to affect their career and want to minimize whets expected of them. 
  • Third, you have the senior executive group – many times they are forced to live in an ADD type world which works against a continued focused effort. And, can sometimes force efforts to focus on outputs to early and skill key infrastructure or process steps.   
  • Finally, you have all the naysayers and the people not involved in the initiative.  They rarely see they value and because of their needs – staffing, funding and other support – they find themselves (sometimes inadvertently) undermining the effort.

Now let’s look at the customer intimacy journey itself: 

There are many factors that must align in order for a company to build and operate their Intimacy Engine™.  This will be accomplished by examining the four phased journey – form, commercialize, scale and dominate.

Let’s introduce them now and examine them in greater detail as we go.  I will say after assisting over 40 companies through the journey, the process is more art than science and the sooner we understand this the better. 

Form – As the name implies this stage is about forming a new business.  This phase also includes getting the Companies head around the need for the new business model and selecting the leader of the effort.  Further, selecting the target focus – be it market, or product group, or customer segment. This includes building the initial True Solutions™ sets for the target, gaining initial talent and taking the solutions to market.   Much of this effort should be considered R&D – even though GAAP rules do not recognize it as such. Finally, this phase includes protecting the effort from the organization.

Commercialize – You know you are in this stage when you can predict outcomes from the business unit.  This phase includes expanding the initial offerings into a robust portfolio of solutions.  Further, this phase demonstrates the ability to pull through product and harvest accounts (explained later) – thereby fundamentally changing the relationship those accounts have with the Company. Additional targets can be added during this Phase.  Finally, this phase begins to change the market’s perception of your brand and abilities.

Scale – This phase begins the re-integration with the broader business.  For this to be achieved the unit must develop critical mass and have completely adopted the skills necessary to be effective in the new business model – this cannot be over emphasized –  running an Intimacy Engine™ business is much like the military – everyone must know their role and be able to adjust to client situations.  Unlike traditional hierarchical businesses – the person at the client makes the callthere is little time to call corporate and gain approval.  Also, at this time the full extent of the Intimacy Engine™ for this business should be understood and all True Solutions™ sets should be either developed or being developed.

Dominate – This Is the Phase where the entire business operates in the new model.  This often requires reorganization and final adjustments to the staff organizations that support the business.  Marketing is dedicated to the new True Solutions™ sets and key executives come from the new business and management development comes through the new business model.

In the next set of entries, we’ll dive into the details of each stage – the activities, key abilities etc. and we’ll look at the broader perspectives in customer intimacy business model transition, including where to start, how to protect the initiative, how to guide the initiative, how to fund the initiative, leveraging an organic change model, and more.