Likewise, performance management in commercial organizations has its own huge intellectual challenge - to reconcile customer value improvement with shareholder value creation. (Performance management in public sector organizations presents different challenges which I will address in a future column).
Quantum Mechanics Physics and Performance Management
Einstein's contribution to knowledge was to advance the already great work of arguably the greatest physicist who preceded him, Isaac Newton. Einstein refined Newtonian principles by theorizing that space, time and mass are interrelated - his famous theory of relativity. His work dealt with the large-scale behavior of the universe.
Meanwhile, other physicists such as Neils Bohr and Edward Schrodinger were researching the other extreme of scale: sub-atomic physics. At this micro level, physicists examining quantum mechanics theorized and subsequently proved mind-boggling phenomena in our physical world, including the theory that mass could be simultaneously both a particle and a wave. The theoretical equations of quantum mechanics physicists were proven valid by applied physicists using powerful particle-accelerating atom smashers.
The problem, however, is that physicists have yet to reconcile the equations of quantum mechanics at the micro level with the Einsteinian equations at the macro level - yet the properties they both describe are part of one seamless, physical universe. Physicists are still working to make the equations converge and mesh.
What the heck does this have to do with performance management? In business there is a comparable perplexing problem in reconciling customer value with shareholder value creation. Value is an ambiguous, relative term. Hypothetically, suppliers can increase customer satisfaction (value perceived by the customer) by providing additional product features and service offerings, but if they do not raise prices, increase their market share or grow the market, then they may have increased value to their existing customers, but they will have destroyed their shareholders' wealth.
Value according to finance. The capital markets apply economic value equations based on free cash flow that are based on decomposition tree modeling of future revenue and expense streams. Financial analysts working for the CFO attend conferences learning about economic value management with complex equations that ultimately divide projected future period net operating profit after tax (NOPAT) in the numerator by risk-adjusted weighted average cost of capital from equity and loan financing in the denominator. Today's Einsteins of finance's macro world seeking a proverbial single economic equation to answer this question: "What is the return on investment - the ROI?"
Value according to sales, marketing and customer service. Meanwhile, analysts in sales, marketing and customer service examining customer relationship management (CRM) are playing around with equations that measure customer lifetime value - treating each customer (or more manageable customer segment groupings) as if they were an investment in a portfolio. In other words, they measure value today vs. tomorrow or ten years from now to develop the appropriate customer strategy. These are the "quantum mechanics physicists" of finance's micro world.
Which is the Dependent and Independent Variable - Customers or Shareholders?
The book Angel Customers & Demon Customers1 by Larry Selden and Geoffrey Colvin is sub-titled "Discover Which is Which and Turbo-Charge Your Stock (Price)." The simple idea is that companies can no longer just strive to simply grow sales, but rather they must grow sales ... profitably. Companies are realizing two connected factors related to customer economic value. If they could accurately measure the current profit contribution from their different types of existing customers - a calculation surprising in its tendency to range widely based on the product mix of what customers buy plus their cost-to-serve maintenance level - and reliably predict and calculate the potential long-term stream of revenues and expenses from existing customers, then companies would view existing customers with an additional factor - a financial one. Then they could be segmented for differentiated service-level treatment strategies (including support, self-service, loyalty and retention programs) and targeted more appropriately for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. They would also be more prudent about which new types of customers to acquire via their marketing.
The pressure is on to increase value to customers. It is more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Also, as products and standard service lines become commodity-like, thus neutralizing any competitive advantage from them, then suppliers must shift to differentiation of value-added services to customers. But since different types of both existing and new customers will yield differing long-term financial returns, then differentiated treatment levels are required to gain profit lift. It will be essential to have the analytical tools, such as for customer segmentation, forecasting and activity-based costing for calculating customer value, reducing internal debates and making trade-off decisions.