What is the key to Customer Strategy? A Chief Customer Officer who is regularly speaking with customers and drawing connections where none existed before. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Carol Hymowitz profiles Ann Livermore, H-P’s head of storage & servers as well as the software and services business. In years past, she was dubbed H-P’s Chief Customer Officer. In the article, she describes herself as someone who “understands how processes and people work at the company.” She’s very focused on customers, “talking to two or three big ones every day.”
In conversations with major financial services companies several years ago, she listened when they said that they were spending too much time & money operating their data networks. As a result, she drove H-P’s strategy for building next generation data networks that are driving significant growth for H-P’s software and services. Ms. Livermore’s division reported $37.7B in revenue last year, or 36% of H-P’s total. More recently, H-P’s purchase of EDS was driven by conversations with companies that had huge outsourcing opportunities that her group couldn’t handle. Ms. Livermore helped drive the strategy whereby Ronald Rittenmeyer, current chief of EDS, will assume the outsourcing portion of H-P’s services business and report directly to Mark Hurd, CEO of H-P.
What do we learn from the article? The critical imperative that senior executives have to be speaking with their most important customers on a regular basis–and drawing the connections that will help grow the business.
How do you do so?
- Identify your most strategically important customers that are the most critical to your growth
- Orchestrate meetings with key executives–not just buyers–to get their perspective on their business challenges and opportunities, even if you may not be currently providing solutions to the problem areas
- Capture the issues in your CRM or other knowledge management system so you can return to them again if they crop up in other areas
- Take time out to review customer data, looking for connections and correlations
- Where correlations exist, invest in discovering the ramifications
Like Ann Livermore, you may just find a huge opportunity to grow your business.