An Insider’s Take on the Customer Centricity Simulation 2017-11-29T10:14:49+00:00

On May 17-18, Ambition Data is sponsoring the inaugural Customer Centricity Conference 2018 in San Francisco. A key program element is a one-day, nine-round Customer Centricity Simulation that helps participants put knowledge into practice. University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s Professor of Marketing Peter S. Fader, and IT Director Sarah Toms designed and run the Simulation. Ambition Data’s CEO, Allison Hartsoe, shares Sarah’s insights about the Simulation.

Sarah Toms
Director – Al West Jr Learning Lab
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


Why did you create the Customer Centricity Simulation?

Like many Learning Lab projects, our Customer Centricity Simulation is born out of a need to bring an emerging business strategy perspective to life by bridging the gap between knowledge and practice. It is a nine-round game that presents data and situations to team members who must work together to make decisions. Pete Fader is one of Wharton’s premier marketing professors, but even he knows that lectures and coursework have limitations. Creating this simulation has transformed his research, teaching, and consulting on customer-centric business models into a real-world experience that allows participants to explore the lessons and strategies captured in his acclaimed book on the subject in a secure, controlled environment. The design triggers the “Aha!” feeling that happens when you know deep learning has occurred and keeps the learning from becoming inert.

How does the Customer-Centric Simulation work? What is its value?

Our goal is to demonstrate that you can’t be all things to all people. Knowing a customer’s individual value is the secret to focusing time and money where they’ll make the most difference. This core tenet of Customer Centricity represents a paradigm shift in the business world that must be seen to be believed. The simulation works by showing, not telling, participants how a customer-centric marketing model affects their bottom line. An interactive CRM dashboard, which grows and evolves throughout the game, helps teams make budget decisions, quantify clients, measure the impact of customer acquisition and retention, and see how their strategies play out year-over-year. The goal is twofold: 1). Identify the most valuable customers and maximize their lifetime value, and 2). Find and attract new customers with similar qualities.

The robust data modeling, which simulates predictive, real-world outcomes, creates a uniquely effective learning experience. As teams work to solve problems, make decisions, and strategize in a realistic business situation, the game’s lessons gain meaning with each passing round. Unlike traditional business strategies (and simulations) you’re not managing by looking in the rear-view mirror, but projecting the worth of different kinds of customers in the future, and then being held accountable for the quality of your predictions. The real value comes in exploring unchartered territory by selecting different paths and understanding the consequences they have on your business without actually experiencing them. Mistakes are welcome; in fact, that’s where the real learning takes place!


What’s the end game for the Simulation? Where do you see it in five years?

The world has changed, and most companies are scrambling to adjust their business models accordingly. At Wharton, we are preparing students and executives for a commercial era that has shifted from the traditionally product-centric past to the customer-focused future. Participants learn the fundamentals of customer centricity by practicing them in a fun game. They gain an invaluable roadmap for sustained success in a global marketplace that no longer revolves around blockbuster products but rather on the kinds of customers who buy them. The new world order that Customer Centricity reflects (and celebrates) is about building better relationships with consumers, using new data tools, choosing CRM strategies, and creating analytical insights.

The “end game” is to teach a new generation of marketers, as well as those who’ve been in the field for years, to excel in customer acquisition, customer retention, customer development and perhaps most importantly in the eyes of a data guru like Pete Fader—to embrace the right quantitative metrics without hesitation. The simulation is a finely tuned vehicle for demystifying customer-relationship management and emphasizing the importance of gathering customer data in meaningful ways.


What will attendees take away from the Customer Centricity Simulation?

Attendees will learn that running a customer-centric organization is about tapping the power of CRM data to identify and, in turn, get a 360-degree view of their most valuable customers. They then learn to use that information to enhance their customer experience and make as much money from them as possible over the long run. At the same time, they find more customers just like them. They’ll learn that a core component of this type of business model is to understand customers at a granular level and separating the “good” customers from the “bad.” Sorting customers is fundamental to being customer-centric.

In addition to mimicking a realistic corporate experience in a safe environment with a much-accelerated timeframe, the team-based structure adds an element of competitive fun. Conference participants walk away feeling energized and confident that they can organize a company around customer centricity and explain what the company will gain from it.


What are the typical reactions to the simulation?

Wharton alumni, Exec Ed students, and corporate marketing executives, all walk away from the Simulation with a whole new respect for—and way of looking at—customer data. Direct feedback has included comments like “exceeded my expectations” to “truly remarkable.” Many participants leave excited about CRM! If that’s not a testament to how effective this simulation is, I don’t know what is.


What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about coming to the conference?

If you’re on the fence, you clearly have an interest in customer-focused marketing strategies! Why not take an “Ivy-League crash course” in the most promising and revolutionary methodologies out there on this topic? Chances are you’re one of many who confuse customer-centric with “customer friendly.” Or perhaps you see CRM simply for collecting data, not driving profit. You could believe that all customers are created equal. This doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, but learning the right way to do customer centricity will be a game-changer. In one day, you can learn how to spend marketing resources to boost your bottom line for years to come. And, you’ll have a lot of fun!


What makes this conference different from other “Customer” conferences?

A core tenet of Pete Fader’s approach to teaching this business model is that “The Customer” does not actually exist. Our attendees don’t sit around doing back-of-the-envelope calculations about what “the average customer” is worth, or sit through a PowerPoint on how “The Customer” can be expected to respond to various types of products and offers. These outdated ways of thinking fail to recognize the vast heterogeneity and the distinct attributes of customers in general. Their propensity to buy, their ways of communicating with one another, their categorically different responses to the same offers all change the way they react to you. In fact, one of the first “Aha!” moments for most attendees is when they suddenly understand that by conventionally considering “The Customer” as a singular entity, they are actually selling themselves short.

Here’s what it all comes down to: By attending this conference and taking part in the Customer-Centric Simulation, you’ll learn that being truly customer-centric is about acknowledging heterogeneity and celebrating it. And you’ll ensure your company’s long-term growth by learning to do both!


About Ambition Data

Founded in 2016, Ambition Data is a Portland-based boutique consultancy that helps domestic and international companies leverage customer and digital analytics to grow intelligently. CEO Allison Hartsoe is a recognized leader in customer centricity who has designed and executed customer-centric strategies for companies including GlaxoSmithKline, PaulFredrick, Drug Information Association, The Enthusiast Network, and Oregon Health Sciences University.