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Perhaps the biggest, and most common, mistake I see in strategy map and balanced scorecard design, is failing to describe the objectives in the external customer perspective, from the perspective of those customers.

This sounds obvious:  after all it is called the Customer perspective.  It is outside the organisation.  It is an outcome rather than an output.  It should describe what they want in their terms.

What goes wrong with the customer perspective

Let me take an example.   In the water industry if I say, Our role is to provide our customers with clean water, that is clearly what the organisation wants to do.  It is not what the customers say.  They would say, “Keep my water clean”, “Keep me supplied” “Make sure my water tastes nice!”.  They would say it simply, in the first person.

So write their phrases in the first person.  Then your customer perspective of your strategy map (and subsequent scorecard) will reflect what they want.

In a recent charity client we wrote their “strategic objectives” as “Our beneficiaries say they want this, so we will…. “.  We started with what the beneficiaries of the charity were saying.

The problem is that I see many, many “scorecards” where the customer perspective just describes the outputs of the organisation.

This is really saying, “They want what we provide them – so if we make that better they will want more.”  Of course this is a fallacy.  An arrogant and often ignorant approach.

What problem does this cause?

First it is clear that the strategy would not represent what the customer is saying.  This is a major flaw.  It presumes what they want.

Secondly, by assuming what you provide is what they want, there is a very large chance that you never test (or have never tested) whether this is true (or still true).  In other words you continue to assume that what you provide is what they want, until your organisation fails.  By then it will be too late and you will be “stuffed”.

Thirdly, you never test it.  Your measures of customer satisfaction will be the quality of your outputs not what they are actually saying about them.  You never think to go out nd check that the changes you are making is improving things for them.  You just assume it is better and live in blissful ignorance, until…. it happens.

Finally, you end up losing a perspective of your strategy map and balanced scorecard.  This is because the customer perspective has become your process perspective describing your outputs, not the outcomes for the customer.  So, when you develop the real process perspective you either go, “oh we have done this before” or start developing pieces that would be in the learning and growth perspective.

Of course if you put the learning and growth components in the process perspective there is nothing left to put in the learning and growth perspective when you eventually get there.  The rich cause and effect model has compressed into two simplistic perspectives – what we do and how we do it.  Any richness in your strategy map has just been destroyed.

How do I fix this?  How do I represent the customers’ voice?

This is simple.  You write from their perspective.  You write in the first person.  You use their words (not corporate speak).  You use the vernacular not corporate jargon.

For a water utilities’ customers they might say things like “Give me clear water”, “Make sure my house does not flood”, “tell me what is going on with my water supply”.

For a retail organisation, they might say things like,”Make it easy for me to pick up my shopping”, “Give me an assistant who knows what they are talking about”, “Make it as cheap, or cheaper, than on amazon”

For a charity, they might say, “I just want to be safe in my own house”, or a parent might say,  “Make sure my child is safe”, or “I don’t want to feel ashamed of going out”

In summary

It is obvious really, but in a commercial organisation you should write your objectives from the perspective of the customers.  In a charity write from the perspective or the beneficiaries of your services.  In a regulated environment write what your regulators or funders want.  When considering corporate responsibility, write from the perspective of an environmental or socially conscious group.  Whoever it is, write from their perspective.