With very few exceptions, most established business operate from the inside out. The business becomes focused on what’s core (manufacturing, processing, etc.) and they project that focus out to the world. What I find fascinating, is that most businesses don’t start out that way, but complacency and the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way” drive such behavior. The further away from the core of the business one moves, the closer one gets to what really drives business, namely customers. However, it’s been my experience that most established businesses inevitably fall victim to this inside out vs. an outside in perspective. Of course, the risk of behaving in this way leaves these “established businesses” vulnerable to competition. Also newer disruptive businesses that are hyper focused on improving user experience along this outer edge are forever changing customer perspectives and expectations.
Netflix is a great example of this “outside in” behavior. While established television, cable, and movie rental providers were focused “inside out”, Netflix was hyper focused on servicing the outer edge of the user experience. For Netflix, this mindset drove their behavior to give their customers what they wanted – on demand entertainment, wherever and whenever they wanted it. The result of this strategy helped propel Netflix from a nascent media provider, to a fearsome entertainment powerhouse that the established providers are still struggling to contend with.
However, I would submit that the “outside in” approach doesn’t involve a ground breaking idea and could be something as simple as merely removing customer friction in a process. For example, I recently signed up with a financial service provider over the telephone. Overall, the process was fairly painless and positive until the representative told me that he would have to mail me several forms to sign. Although the same representative helped me pre-fill the paperwork, mailing me documents to review and sign introduced what I felt was an unnecessary speed bump in an otherwise smooth process. To add insult to injury, the paperwork took 4 days to show up, and it sat on my desk unopened for about a week and a half. It wasn’t until I got a reminder phone call from the company that I finally got around to completing the document and sending it back. It wasn’t because I changed my mind about using the service, but I got busy with work and the service became a lower priority. The truth is, if I didn’t receive that reminder call, there’s a good chance the envelope would still be sitting on my desk unopened.
If the financial service provider had a greater “outside in” perspective, they likely would have been using DocuSign to allow me to complete the entire sign-up process, during the initial call with the representative. Overall, this would have saved weeks of time, removed frustration, and provided me a very favorable view of the business. Instead, my perception of this business is that they are a great company, with great people, but they are difficult to do business with. This perception may not be a fair assessment, but since I had been exposed to the DocuSign technology when I purchased my home, that excellent customer-focused experience rightly or wrongly gave me a new standard for modern day document management.
I submit that established businesses should pay a lot more attention to their customer experience. Examine all the clicks, telephone punches, phone transfers, and paperwork involved in the customer process and see what can be eliminated either through process re-engineering, or applied technology. If one takes a Kaizen (continuous improvement) approach, customer satisfaction will soar, and as a result, the business will grow. Isn’t that worth the effort?