GoToCustomer—Why It’s So Hard To Achieve – by Tamara Schenk

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.“—Albert Einstein

It was in March when I was heading back from the Forrester sales enablement conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Back to Frankfurt via Denver with Lufthansa and United, both Star Alliance partners.

Booking and upgrading code-share flights wasn’t a problem at all. Also, the online check-in procedures for both flights worked properly from Frankfurt to Phoenix. It looked like a well-aligned process—until my trip back home.

I was hanging out with the sales-enablement gang after the conference, when I wanted to check-in online for my flights the next day—pretty quickly, just before dinner. The first message I got from the Lufthansa app said: “we cannot process your check-in right now“. Nice. Why do they communicate messages telling me what the system cannot do instead of telling me what it can do and—more importantly—what my next step should be?! The app then suggested I call Lufthansa directly. I did and explained my problem to the very friendly agent. She told me that she could only process my check-in for the Denver-Frankfurt flight, but not for my connecting flight from Phoenix to Denver, operated by United. Also, she was not able to send my boarding pass to my cell phone, for whatever reason. She recommended using the United web site to process my check-in for my connecting flight. Why do I as a customer have to fix their problems? Inhale, exhale–let’s stay positive, it’s just a simple check-in. Guess what? The United page accepted neither my booking number nor my ticket number. Nothing. No check-in. Are they kidding me? Did anyone ever check this process from a customer-experience perspective?

The story continues: Next morning at the airport I asked an agent to get my problem fixed. She needed three different attempts to get the check-in done, manually and only from Phoenix to Denver. She was also not able to create my boarding pass for the Denver-Frankfurt flight. Unbelievable. Do they collaborate somehow or the other? I’m a very positive person, but my level of frustration did increase. Those of you who know me in person, know that it takes a while to make me angry. In Denver, I immediately went to the United lounge, asked them to create my boarding pass. They couldn’t fix it at the reception, but they handed me over to Sally, a service angel in a United uniform. Sally challenged all the systems and processes back and forth, utilizing all her wisdom, knowledge and patience. After twenty minutes (I’m not joking), you won’t believe it, I got my boarding pass. Wow. Finally. I was so happy. I shared the whole story with her and expressed my gratitude, that I finally found a human being who cared—who really cared. That made all the difference. Sally owned the outcome (my boarding pass) and she didn’t stop until the problem was fixed, even if I was actually a Lufthansa customer. She fixed the disconnect between the Lufthansa and United systems and processes because she wanted to make me happy. It was her passion and her commitment to deliver on a service promise—that made all the difference. Sally is a real hero!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to blame Lufthansa, and United in particular. I’m sharing this story because it resonates with people’s own experiences. It shows in a tangible way what GoToCustomer actually means. The story shows also where the traps are. In general, the traps are industrial age and inside-out thinking:

GoToCustomer is about thinking, designing and acting outside-in, customer-centric:
Both airlines connected their existing processes based on internal design points, that were defined slightly different—such as booking number, reference code, etc. We have experienced the problems. This is industrial-age thinking, inside-out, it’s a GoToMarket way to design around product, place, promotion, price. In the connection economy, we have to think and design differently: We have to work consequently backwards from the customer’s journey. Customers don’t care about what services and products are and do; they care about what they mean to them, along their customer’s journey. It’s all about value communication towards the desired customer outcome: Having a smooth trip with collaborating airlines, feeling that it’s one. Period. And that doesn’t work by building interfaces between existing systems only.

GoToCustomer covers the entire customer’s journey:
Here, the selling systems were pretty well aligned, whereas the service didn’t work properly. The customer’s journey cuts across departments, functions and also organizations. The collaborating vendors own the customer’s outcome, simply to deliver the value they promise along the entire journey, which is sales and service delivery.

GoToCustomer is about collaboration across functions and organizations:
If companies really want to create value for their customers–more value than each of them could create individually—they have to collaborate effectively to make a difference in terms of customer experience. This means to use the first two principles. Then, it’s about identifying and removing collaboration barriers to be able to effectively design a cross-company collaborative end2end GoToCustomer system.

GoToCustomer is about people:
Design your processes and systems outside-in, but keep them flexible–because you can never anticipate everything that might occur. To make a real difference, enable people, enable your most important capital, the human capital to create tangible results with intangible things.

It’s our perspective that matters.


Tamara Schenk serves as VP of Sales Enablement for T-Systems International GmbH, a Germany based ICT service provider. She is a highly experienced sales enablement executive, a well known thought leader, speaker and a passionate writer – have a look at her blog Sales Enablement Perspectives.

Tamara’s special focus is to bridge between business strategy and execution, to connect the dots between portfolio-oriented GoToMarket models and more seller- and buyer-relevant GoToCustomer frameworks. Her sales enablement vision is a strategic and collaborative approach covering the entire selling system, designed backwards from the customer, with a special focus on the people within the system to drive the transformation to the intangible economy.

Her mission is to change views from inside-out to outside-in, to change mind sets from “I have to sell a product“ to “I love to solve customer problems“ based on a stable, effective and social selling system, in order to create more value for customers as a foundation to drive a vendor’s business strategy.

More on Tamara’s professional experience: LinkedIn.
Follow Tamara: Twitter.


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