Outside-In vs. Inside-Out Thinking

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In the world of customer experience, what’s the difference between outside-in and inside-out? And why is this important?

Inside-out thinking means your focus is on processes, systems, tools, and products that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer’s needs, jobs, and perspectives do not play a part in this type of thinking; they aren’t taken into consideration. You make decisions because you think it’s what’s best for the business – not for customers. Or you think you know what’s best for customers.

On the other hand, outside-in thinking means that you look at your business from the customer’s perspective and subsequently design processes, tools, and products and make decisions based on what’s best for the customer and what meets the customer’s needs. You make decisions because you know it’s what’s best for your customers. Why? Because you listen to them, and you understand them and the jobs they are trying to do.

It might be inside-out thinking when there’s a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:

  1. Don’t improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing shareholder returns, not about benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies but to the detriment of customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that also negatively impact the  customer experience
  5. Might be the wrong process, policy, people, or systems to change

By contrast, outside-in thinking flips each of those points on its head and looks like this. There’s a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:

  1. Improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies known to be pain points when executing customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that significantly improve the customer experience
  5. Are the right process, policy, people, or systems because you’ve listened to customer feedback and know how customers are affected

It’s clear that outside-in thinking is the way to go. It leads to a number of things, none of which you’ll get by making decisions that are not based on what’s best for your customers…

  • reduced complaints
  • increased satisfaction
  • increased referrals
  • increased repeat purchases
  • improved ease of doing business
  • fewer lost customers

These then translate to reduced costs and increased revenue for the business.

How can we ensure that we’re operating in an outside-in manner? Here are some tips.

  • Understand customers and what they are trying to do
  • Use that understanding to develop products for the customer, products that solve their problems and help them do what they are trying to do
  • Listen to customers at all key touchpoints
  • Close the loop with customers on their feedback
  • Act on what you hear
  • Share the feedback and ensure it’s used throughout the organization to make decisions and to design the best experience for your customers
  • Do right by the customer; ask “Is this decision what’s best for the customer?”
  • Reduce customer effort rather than making the experience convoluted and confusing
  • Save a seat in the room (a la Jeff Bezos’ empty chair) for the customer/customer’s voice
  • Map customer journeys and ensure all employees – frontline and back office – have a clear line of sight to how they impact the customer experience
  • Talk about customers and what they are saying

The customer and her voice must be incorporated into all decisions, design, and development initiatives. Weave the customer’s voice into your organization’s DNA and watch what happens.

This post originally appeared on CX Journey Inc.’s blog.

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