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Brandwave-logo-6.png |Customer Centricity | jan '16

For too long organizations have been paying lip service to customer centricity. Everyone knows it. But the old guard is getting old. Customers are no longer making every purchase decision merely on cost or ease of access, though many still are. Increasingly, purchase decisions are being made on whether a company is socially responsible, for the reputation of how they treat their workers and for the experiences they deliver.

The time has come for radical customer centricity. It is not only something that will enable companies to remain competitive, it is now required for those that want to remain relevant. Radical customer centricity will require an investment in the #ReOrg of company governance, structure and operational processes. As I’ve previously written, the #NewWayToWork requires new mindsets, methods and measures in order to not only survive, but to thrive. This sort of transformation requires vision and courage. The sort of courage Ford showed by investing in transforming itself prior to the economic downturn. The sort of vision and courage IBM has shown over the last several years in re-imagining and restructuring its entire business to be Future Strong. That sort of long term thinking is still missing across large swaths of our economy. Which is actually a great thing, because it represents an extraordinary, once-in-a-business-cycle opportunity.

As we begin to more closely understand the market dynamics of a connected society and its impact on the people within it, the most drastic shift comes in how we perceive, create and measure value. In this emergent, “collaborative economy” (or whatever you want to call it), the values of the company and the way it values people are two of the greatest competitive differentiators. Today we have new mechanisms for making visible previously intangible value on the balance sheets. As I posted in The Engagement Curve, companies should be looking beyond financial returns, to understand the additional value they receive from customer labor, data and the legends people share about their products and services.

It is my belief that the first companies to properly execute on this strategic #Reorg of their companies to embrace radical customer centricity will win not only in the short term, but over the long term. We are already seeing that a company which has real empathy for stakeholders, that designs great experiences and consistently delivers them, creates a level of customer loyalty that was previously unimaginable.

Why? Because the switching cost of what I call REAL Relationships are exponentially higher than transactional ones. “REAL” not only means genuine, but stands for Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic and Long lasting.

A zeitgeist moment for Customer Experience Design

The time has long past for CX Design to be the primary mechanism through which we understand, design and optimize a series of signature moments for marketing engagement to create a sense of REAL Relationships across an omni-channel customer journey. To transcend the idea of feeling successful after creating a sale through interruptive advertising techniques. Do you know anyone who enjoys being interrupted? Of course, we still do it, we have to – after all spam is still here because it works, at a sufficient, justifiable cost scale whereas it still generates reasonable or sometime exponential profit. But that doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean past success will continue to equal future success.

CX has actually been around a long time, decades it seems. It existed long before I thought I had first discovered it when I was Chief of eBusiness at the U.S. Mint. Back then, I called it the customer experience lifecycle and it was predicated on insights I learned from Patty Seybold, Joseph Pine and being a regular reader of Fast Company magazine. So when I developed the engagement matrix in 2001 to support a broader framework beyond what we now call journey mapping, I had presumed it would only be a matter of years before someone enabled it via an integrated marketing platform. It had become pretty clear then that every organization needed tools to establish the context for delivering the right content at the right time to remove friction from the customer experience. But over a decade later, I continued to be disappointed.

At least I was – until May of this year when I saw the future the product team behind IBM Journey Designer had envisioned and seemingly built. Once again, I had hope that what we finally needed to do the right things in the right ways was finally in reach. Olivier Blanchard wrote the following at its public debut during IBM Amplify in May of 2015, in Did IBM Just Build the Marketing Management Solution We Have All Dreamed about?  

For myself personally, with the IBM Journey Designer I saw a new platform that would enable a truly holistic business strategy—a mindset and an approach for integrating all channels of customer communications, all touchpoints, managing an intentionally designed and optimized customer experience to differentiate the brand value in the mind and heart of the customer. To do that using knowledge, empathy and an emphasis on creating shared value. Wow. Finally.

This is why I believe more and more companies are already embracing the idea of radical customer centricity without actually calling it that. Not only do we have new products to make the process simpler like Journey Designer and We also have books like Brian Solis’ X – The Experience When Business Meets Design. Right now we are experiencing a zeitgeist moment. More and more organizations are applying design thinking to all aspects of their business. We have more companies investing more dollars in post-sales communications with customers than ever before.

Certainly, as we have continuously advanced in my Blab series #CXDNow, the time for Customer Experience Design is now! So get to it. Figure out what radical customer centricity means for you, embrace greater empathy, intentionally design your customer’s journey and find the way to continuously improve it through a never ending customer feedback loop.

I hope you are able to join us on this journey. Not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of all your stakeholders and the market at large.

Meet IBM Journey Designer: Design and refine your marketing across channels to give your customers the experiences they deserve at no cost. This IBM Marketing Cloud innovation enables teams to collaboratively visualize journeys, set shared marketing goals, and create and refine tailored experiences for dozens of priority segments. Sign up today at

Also follow #NewWayToEngage on Twitter to hear more from Chris Heuer @chrisheuer and other influencers as we tackle the future of commerce together.


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Today's customer is growing accustomed to researching and purchasing across multiple channels, even for a single transaction. The best omnichannel marketers understand this, and it shows in their advertising, messaging, and customer interactions. However, too many businesses have taken an inside-out approach, focusing on individual channels at the expense of a consistent experience across channels. 

Old habits die hard, but die they must if marketers are to alter their strategies and place the customer at the fore.

“Customer centricity has become an imperative,” says Chip Overstreet, SVP of marketing at cross-channel personalization provider MyBuys. Here, Overstreet, and other experts offer six questions marketers can ask themselves to determine if their business is on track to being customer centric.

Are customers engaged?

“Are people engaging with your messaging? Have they responded to whatever it is that you're putting in front of them? Are they moving in your direction as a vendor?” asks Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer at Purch, the digital publishing company formerly known as Tech Media Network.

Nothing is more telling of a company's marketing than the engagement rates on its content. Low engagement rates such as a lack of comments or shares could signify that customers and prospects didn't see the content or did see it, but didn't care. Marketers lose in either case.

Are you listening?

Today's customers demand much from the businesses they engage with, but they're also extremely open about their preferences. Beyond the heaps of volunteered data that companies such as Amazon have optimized their business around, customers are quite clear about how they wish to interact with a brand. Woe is the marketer who ignores this input. “Today's successful marketers are the ones who listen to their customer' implicit and explicit preferences, and communicate based on those cues,” explains Dave Walters, product evangelist at automation and email marketing company Silverpop.

Are you consistent?

Perhaps the most discerning quality in true omnichannel marketing is consistency. Customers don't distinguish between the different divisions or operating groups within a company. Part of the omnichannel promise is making sure customers receive messaging that is consistent across channels and personalized. “You have to be consistent, but there's a difference between having a consistent message and having a consistent personalized message,” MyBuys' Overstreet says. “If you're just repeating the same messages through social channels it's not social, it's spam. There's nothing social or consistent about that.”

Are you responsive?

People often engage with brand's messaging only to find the brand completely unresponsive. Ignoring customers has always been a dangerous practice, but it's an easy habit to fall into given the sometimes negative nature of feedback online. Though temptation may be strong, marketers must remain responsive. In today's transparent digital world, silence can be even more damaging than negative feedback. “You're never excited about getting a negative response, but response is always valuable. It gives you an indication of how people feel about your product or service,” Purch's Kisseberth says. “Any interaction is positive in that regard.”

Do you recognize your customers?

Given marketer's access to data, there's little to excuse not knowing a customer. However, even if businesses understand a customer's behavior and habits on one device, the challenge lies in recognizing that same customer on another device. “Mobile has changed shoppers' behavior drastically. If you can't recognize customers when they reach out on mobile, you can't have a customer-centric view,” Overstreet says.

Are you fostering relationships?

Simply closing a sale and moving on to the next lead is no longer viable in today's environment. Consumers are making big buys in half the time and marketers who aren't working to maintain relationships with their customers risk being forgotten when the sales cycle begins again. Marketers must strive to foster a healthy relationship with customers, old and new. “All too often, customers are forgotten after a first purchase, but to be successful--and drive great revenue--marketers must engage and reward their most loyal [customers],” Silverpop's Walters says. “It's also important to remember that today's customer relationships cannot be siloed. A customer's actions on mobile, email, the Web, brick-and-mortar stores, etc., must be housed in one marketing database.”


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Introducing: Brandcell Conversations

The first edition of the Brandcell Conversations was held on Friday 19th of February from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. with the following Theme:  “Innovation in Business”.

Participants from several industries were gathered to discuss the theme with a focus on the Barriers and Enablers for Innovation in Lebanon.

The mix of discussions, guest speakers, workshop and presentations resulted in a very interactive and dynamic morning session that allowed a better understanding of the main barriers facing Lebanese companies and outlining the enablers that would help them innovate: by thinking differently, using new design-led approach and tools mixed with proven strategy solutions as the ones used by the international innovation design consulting firms in the world and by Brandcell consulting in Beirut and Dubai in partnership with Liveworkstudio global design firm.



Large companies today spend billions to manage their public image. And in many industries no part of that image is more important than how people think a company's customer service is. Customer Service is becoming a lot more than an ‘industry buzzword' as large companies who treat their customers poorly are starting to lose customers right and left.

Customers want good customer service, but if companies can just hire good PR people to cover problems up, how do we, as customers, ever demand that companies improve. We thought that a good start would be to close the information gap, so that customers know who is good and who isn't. With that in mind, we have sifted through customer surveys and studies as well as some real-life experiences of customers, to pinpoint and ultimately learn from, the 10 worst companies for customer service. 

1. AOL - Playing Dirty, Tricking Customers?
An overwhelming majority of netizens have had bad experiences with AOL - especially while closing their accounts. Listen to Vincent Ferrari's conversation with AOL CSR John here.

About Ferrari's experience, blogger Rich Brooks says: "After 15 minutes he finally got through to a human being. The call resulted in something that's a cross between Dante's 9th ring of hell and Orwell's 1984. The king from Monty Python's Holy Grail had an easier time explaining to the palace guards to keep his son locked in his room than Ferrari had explaining that he just wanted to cancel the account."

Dan Spencer says, "I will never forget when I called to cancel my family's account with AOL after my dad passed away very suddenly. This was about six months after the death. AOL said because the account was in his name they needed to talk to him to cancel it. We explained how difficult that may be considering the circumstance and they then had the nerve to tell my family they will not cancel it with out proper identification of the death such as a death certificate. They then even said that they billed my father for the six months each month. We had moved and never recieved these so we told them if they get the money from him to call us ASAP so we can witness a miracle. Even with all the information concerning the security provided with them they refused to cancel it."

When a company believes it can retain customers by antagonizing them, something is very wrong with their customer service policy. Also, AOL is not above tricking customers into buying stuff online that they were only browsing.

2. BEST BUY - Worst customer service?


Though it faced serious competition from Wal-Mart, Best Buy beat its competitors to bag the position for worst customer service in the retail sector. Bill says, "Best Buy and AOL seem to share that short-term thinking, screw the customer, anti-social mindset."

A whole lot of customers are unhappy with the company, mainly because of the customer service policies. When your insistence for selling protection plans drives away customers, you need to rethink your policies, buddy!

And what's with all the sour faces, guys? Do they treat you so bad at best buy? Read this customer's experience with Sour Face Jim and Handshake John at Best Buy.

3. LASTMINUTE.COM - Customer who?


In the online service provider category, the winner undoubtedly is This company has been featured on watchdog for fraudulent practices, yet continues to survive and harass customers who are not aware of its history. Tom Wright says, "A series of phone calls and broken promises later - lastminute finally agreed that they had made a mistake by not sending through the booking - and offered to refund me……….HALF the purchase price!!"

Dave had a similar experience with the company, that he has described on his blog. Another customer, Claire says, "If you have a problem no one listens, they honestly do not care and have no idea what customer service means. The so called manager of this company laughed at me with my complaint and when I I asked for his company address to write a complaint he answered I don't need to give you that!!? and refused to do so."

4. HOME DEPOT - Who cares about your home? Not us!


Lowes, though having its fair share of disgruntled customers, is not the topper for bad customer service - it is beaten by Home Depot. When this customer wanted to complain to the Home Depot manager about a rude employee, the manager seemed to be worse! "After 10 or so minutes I asked where the manager was, the person behind the desk called again. At that time the so called manager Anthony called back, did not bother to come to the service desk just called and said, "What does the customer want"."

This Business Week article elaborates "The University of Michigan's annual American Customer Satisfaction index shows Home Depot slipped to dead last among major U.S. retailers, 11 points behind Lowe's."

Americans ranked Home Depot's customer service as dead last, according to Steven Silvers. Home depot customers complain about the worst service they received from the company.

5. AT&T - The Next Dinosaur?


In the article entitled ‘Should you remain an AT&T customer?' Liz P Weston states, "It's not as if AT&T horror stories are anything new. Those old enough to remember Lily Tomlin's Ernestine the Operator can recite her mantra: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company!" With that attitude the company may soon become the "ex" phone company! Weston observes, "Of the six largest cell-phone carriers, AT&T Wireless generated the most complaints overall and the most complaints per subscriber last year, according to FCC records obtained by Consumers Union."

6. SBC - $200 to cancel the service!!!


Cliff Edwards writes about his experience with SBC customer service, "Another eight days later, still no faster speed. In fact, the upstream speed appeared to have slowed down! I called customer service again, but was told the speed had been upgraded. My testing through told me otherwise. The new suggestion: Wait a few days more, then call back."

In "Stay away from SBC DSL !!" A Anand says, "My basic complaint is that AT&T Yahoo charged me 350 dollars unfairly. They also have a very unfriendly attitude, stay away from them!"

7. DAY'S INN- We're racists AND We break promises


While this customer was told to "go back to China," Stan Dulkiewicz of Rochester was denied the one night free stay that he was entitled to.

8. ALBERTSON'S - No value for customer privacy


"Albertsons' pharmacy customers receive direct mail and phone solicitations derived from confidential customer medical information provided to the pharmacy solely to fill prescriptions. The solicitations look like they are from the patient's concerned local pharmacist and remind the customer to renew a prescription or consider an alternative medication. But they are actually generated for pharmaceutical company's sales purposes by a specially-designed marketing database, sold by Albertsons."

9. MCIMETRO ACCESS (Formerly known as MCI Communications) - Billing for eternity …


The company violated state service quality rules 850 times, including failing to:
• Inform customers when the new service will be provided
• Investigate customer complaints promptly
• Repair service interruptions within 48 hours

The most frequent violation by the company involved the continued billing of customers who had cancelled the phone service. Here are some MCI customer complaints.

10. CIRCUIT CITY - We have your money - now get lost!


One example of the many disgruntled Circuit City customers - Though it was acknowledged that the laptop purchased by Matt Southerton was defective and no other pieces were in stock, the customer service rep refusing to refund his money.

And if you're thinking about purchasing their extended warranties, stop for a moment and read about John Alexander's interactions with the company when he tried to (and deserved to) get his TV replaced.

Linda Meister has wasted money on extended warranties that are not worth the paper they are printed on. According to Consumer Affairs, "Circuit City pushes a lot of electronics out the door — and they're also pretty good at loading up the customer with extended warranties and other add-ons, many of which turn out to be a big disappointment if they're ever needed."

* The University of Michigan compiles the ACSI in numerous product categories by randomly calling U.S. residents and surveying their buying habits.


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Deek Duke requested a Brand Audit and Positioning Review prior to its regional expansion.
We undertook qualitative empathic research both internally (among employees) and externally (among consumers) to identify areas of improvement. Then, based on the insights collected, we drafted several routes for the DD brand and business in order to pave the way for a regional expansion.
Service Design for Business
by B. Reason, L. Lovlie, and M. Brand Flu
The latest book from our partner Livework “Service Design for Business” helps you transform your customer's experience and keep them engaged through the art of intentional service design. Written by the experts at Livework, this practical guide offers a tangible, effective approach for better responding to customers' needs and demands, and provides concrete strategy that can be implemented immediately.


1. Get inside the customers’ heads and hearts

2. Align offers with customer values

3. Think Omni-channel

4. Match the message to the medium

5. Make responding to community interaction a priority

6. Align content with your community's interests 


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