Vinay Iyer is co-author of The Customer Experience Edge with fellow SAP senior executives Reza Soudager and Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand. Prior to including this book as an example of the power of original research for my Thought Readership series, I interviewed him about the experience of becoming an author.
Dr Liz: I believe you hadn’t originally planned to write a book, that this was a research project you were engaged in that you decided to write up in book form. If that’s correct, how long were you actively engaged in the research and how long did it take you to write the book to final draft?
Yes, we started to do some research into the Customer Centricity / Experience topic since it was becoming a common theme at the Board and C-levels at companies. We also came across IBM’s Global CEO study where they found that getting closer to the customer was the top priority for CEOs globally, above everything else. We commissioned Bloomberg BusinessWeek to do some research for us on this topic by surveying their reader base and also interviewing some companies that had achieved significant transformations by focusing on their customers above everything else. All this research, over a period of 12 months or so, generated a lot of valuable insights that led to the idea of a book. Once we successfully pitched the idea of the book to our publisher McGraw Hill, the writing of the book and various edits and revisions took another six or so months. So, overall, it was an 18 month project.
Dr Liz: Why did you decide to go with McGraw Hill as your publisher? Had you considered self-publishing?
Among many things that could be written on this topic, we discovered that there are not many business books out there that help transform a ‘customer-centricity’ strategy into successful implementation – especially with the successful leverage of technology. Our research had made it pretty clear that in today’s world, strategic use of the right technologies was going to be critical to the implementation of any successful customer-centricity strategy. So, there clearly was a white space in the market for such a book. The audience for such a book is global and this topic is of relevance to every company large or small. We were told that, as relatively unknown authors, it would be advisable to leverage the distribution power of a big publisher like McGraw Hill (assuming they would be interested in this topic, of course) rather than private publication and then having to try and figure out how to get access to all the distribution channels!
Dr Liz: What are you particularly proud of with respect to how the book was structured and written? What do you think is your book’s best feature?
One of the big challenges was how to take a rather complex subject like Customer Experience and distill down the key messages in ways that an average business person could comprehend. As experts on this topic, it would have been very easy for us to dwell on esoteric topics and the complexities involved in attaining the objectives. Our goal was to reach a broader market and help the average reader grasp this important topic and, more importantly, help the reader gain some practical ideas for what can be done. This took a lot of soul searching and I am particularly proud of the fact that we broke down the complex topic into 4 simple (but very deep) pillars of excellence. To deliver on the demands of today’s customer expectations, companies will have to focus on the pillars of Reliability, Relevancy, Responsiveness and Convenience. If companies can do all of these consistently at reasonable cost, during every customer interaction, with every customer (not just the top 100 or so), they have what it takes to succeed in today’s world!
Dr Liz: What surprised you most about the book publishing experience?
It was pretty amazing to realize that, despite living in the age of the Internet, Social Media, Smart Phones, Kindles, Nooks, etc., printed books still matter! I was a skeptic when we started out (my wife had just bought me a Kindle), but, now that I am living the experience of a published, hard-copy book author, I am glad we did it. I suppose human nature is difficult to completely change and a lot of people still care about a printed book. Despite having a Kindle, I find myself returning to a printed book every so often because, no matter what they say, the printed book experience is not (yet) substitutable by any modern technological gizmo!
Dr Liz: Roughly how many books have you sold and given away — two separate numbers if possible — since the book was published?
I checked with the publisher who doesn’t want to reveal these numbers publicly. What I can tell you is that in the first eight weeks that the book was available, we have sold several thousand copies through outlets like Barnes & Noble book stores as well as online retailers like Amazon.com. We are experiencing an interesting trend where approximately 30% of book purchases are eBooks, compared to around 10% industry average for business books overall.
If you are a business book author or represent someone who is and would like to be considered for review either here or through my Thought Readership series, please email me at info (at) drlizalexander (dot) com with details.