Agile Business Outcomes, Part 3: Helping Your Customers Achieve Their Outcomes

In this blog series we explore the world of Business Outcomes; turning what’s important to our business into actionable outcomes, consider outcomes as opportunities to experiment with and improve, and how we meet our outcomes best by helping our customers meet their outcomes.

Part 3: Helping Your Customers Achieve Their Outcomes

When it comes to analyzing our business’s performance, we tend to look internally. While metrics like return on investment (ROI) and market penetration are definitely useful by helping you keep your eyes on the bottom line, they’re never going to tell you whether you’re achieving your core goals.

To find out how well you’re actually performing relative to your target outcomes in the marketplace, you need to look outside your own organization, and examine outcomes bigger than yourself. In Part 1 of this series, we talked about looking beyond the profit metric, and using multiple metrics to help shift your focus from internal reporting to external outcomes. In Part 2, we explored how to analyze those outcomes themselves, and determine whether they’ll actually help your business grow – or whether you should be focusing on different ones.

Here in Part 3, I’ll highlight some key external outcomes that’ll tell you how well your business is really doing. One of the most direct, powerful indicators is the set of outcomes you’ve achieved for your customers.

Validating the value you’ve given your customers

We’ve all seen sales pitches for business products that claim to provide 50-percent boosts in sales, hours saved on data entry, and so on. Those metrics might be good selling points, but, just as it’s easy to get caught up on internal metrics instead of concrete outcomes, it’s equally easy to fall into the same trap with external metrics. So, instead of boasting the little improvements you’ve made in your customers’ lives, you need to be asking whether you’ve helped them achieve their ideal outcomes.

As you let that thought sink in, you’ll find yourself looking beyond individual problem areas and pain points, and start asking, “What are we actually trying to help these customers achieve? And is that what they want to achieve?” In other words, you’ll begin focusing on validating the value you claim to put into your customers’ hands.

It’s easy to focus on those kind of outcomes when we’re dealing with business-to-business (B2B) products.  For example, if you’re in the auto dealership business, you know that dealerships need to be able to sell cars, then service them. If you’re able to help improve dealerships’ ability to sell more cars, and to service cars more effectively – in other words, to achieve measurable business outcomes for the businesses you serve – then that’s obviously a good outcome for you as well, because they’ll keep buying what you’re providing them.

But what about when you’re not serving other businesses, but individual customers?

Applying B2B metrics to the B2C world

In the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, many of the same questions still apply – you just have to phrase them a bit differently. In worlds like retail and food service, it’s especially easy to get caught in the trap of thinking, “Well, customers keep coming through our doors and buying what we’re selling. We must be doing great!”

However, as I’ve been emphasizing throughout this series, that sole set of metrics is never going to tell you how well you’re actually achieving your business outcomes – or how well you’re helping your customers achieve theirs. To truly understand how well you’re helping your customers, you have to start by asking how well you served their needs when they came to you. Did you give them the quality they expected? Was the value great for the price? What would they have changed?

In other words, many of the metrics you’d be tracking in a B2B business are still applicable in the B2C world. Customers have many of the same questions and concerns a business does. All you need to do is structure the phrasing a bit differently.

Of course, those questions will lead to responses you weren’t expecting, which will make you reevaluate your entire approach. For example, sometimes a customer will ask something of you that you’re not sure fits your business outcomes. At that point you have to make a decision: “Do I sacrifice the road I want to go down for the sake of what this customer wants or expects?” Every business has to approach that question in different ways – but that’s a topic for another series.

As a final thought, great companies are focused not only on their own measurable business outcomes, but also on the measurable business outcomes of those they serve. Companies who focus on those outcomes will stay far ahead of the curve and will have the best opportunities to capture the lion’s share of the market, because they will have won the hearts of their customers.

Thanks for joining me in this series on Agile Business Outcomes. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tackling the practical side of many more Agile-related topics, including some actual case studies from our clients. Stay tuned!

By Michael Moore, Enterprise Agile Enablement Lead, Cox Automotive