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The Customer-Base Audit

The First Step on the Journey to Customer Centricity

Peter Fader, Bruce Hardie, and Michael Ross


As a leader in your organization, you will be very familiar with your organization’s key financial statements and monthly management reports. You may have spent countless hours discussing budgets and expenditures. But how much time have you spent reflecting on the fact that these revenues are generated by actual customers—the people who pull out their wallets and pay for your products and services?

In The Customer-Base Audit: The First Step on the Journey to Customer Centricity, experts Peter Fader, Bruce Hardie, and Michael Ross start you on the path toward really getting to understand your customers’ buying behavior as well as the health of your overall customer base.

A customer-base audit is a systematic review of the buying behavior of a firm’s customers using data captured by its transaction systems. It will help you answer questions such as:

  • How healthy is your customer base? How realistic are your growth objectives?
  • How do your customers differ in terms of their behavior and value?
  • How has the quality of your customers changed over time?
  • What changes in customer behavior lie behind period-to-period changes in firm performance?
  • What is important to your high-value customers? Which products help you acquire and retain your best customers?

Fader, Hardie, and Ross present five “lenses” through which an executive can address questions like those above. The answers are often lurking in various parts of the organization, but it is rare to find all the relevant analyses in one place, let alone performed on a regular basis (as an audit should be). Yet without such a basic, systematic understanding of the foundations of the firm’s primary source of cash flow, how can executives make informed decisions?

Fader, a Wharton professor, is the author of Customer Centricity and coauthor of The Customer Centricity Playbook, both of which have helped businesses radically rethink how they relate to customers. In this first step of the journey, Fader, Hardie, and Ross assist leaders in gaining a fundamental understanding of their customers’ buying behavior—and thus their company as a whole.

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About the Authors

Praise for The Customer-Base Audit

The Customer-Base Audit brings a long-overdue customer focused structure and discipline to the practice of business decision-making. Fader, Hardie and Ross take away the mystery and uncertainty associated with customer analytics, replacing it with a comprehensive approach that no company should ignore.”

—Rob Markey, Partner, Bain & Company, Inc., and coauthor, The Ultimate Question 2.0

The Customer-Base Audit brings clarity and rigor to the analysis of what is the most fundamental unit of analysis: the customer. The truth is that most executives don’t understand their customers as well as they should, and this book provides them with the frameworks they need to gain insight and to guide their strategic decisions. It also equips investors with the right questions to ask managers. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand customers and how they create value.”

—Michael J. Mauboussin, Head of Consilient Research at Counterpoint Global, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Author, The Success Equation

“The Customer-Base Audit is a masterpiece that challenges companies to measure the differences and dynamics between their customers. A gateway into customer centricity, this important book is one you’ll devour and then proudly evangelize to the rest of your organization, bringing all those who listen to a path toward profitable, sustainable growth backed with conviction born from insurmountable data and an endless buffet of experience.”

—Neil Hoyne, Chief Measurement Strategist, Google, and Author, Converted

“I once believed that product and brand alone were the answer to business growth, but learnt to appreciate the need to interrogate the business sales line through the lens of the customer. Customer behaviour must be understood at the most granular level to make a company truly customer focused; then combined with data based planning and decision making for the best possible outcomes. I now find myself passionate about the power of adding a data driven customer-centric lens to everything we do.”

—Sarah Welsh, CEO Retail, N.Brown plc

“Understanding the nature (and value) of our customers’ behavior is central to every decision a bank makes, as well as the way those decisions are evaluated. I’ve been a strong advocate of formally assessing customer value for years, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than through a customer-base audit. The frameworks and analysis in The Customer-Base Audit are incredibly useful for any company and should be part of every analytics team’s repertoire. Further, boards and executives should be demanding this type of work from their analytics leaders.”

Zachery Anderson, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, NatWest Group

“I would be a rich man if I had been paid a pound every time I had been told in the last 40 years or so that if only we had a reliable, complete view of the behaviour of each customer, we could become a much more successful business. This book shows the reader how to take the steps to achieve this.”

—David Tyler, Former Chairman, J. Sainsbury plc

The Customer-Base Audit makes the complex simple. It shows how straightforward analysis can spotlight massive opportunities for change and is a must read for anyone who wants to do more for their customers.”

—Gill Barr, former Marketing Director, John Lewis

The Customer-Base Audit, by Fader, Hardie, and Ross, provides a practical and example-rich hands-on guide to their core methods of analyzing customer data. The authors, who are master teachers and practitioners of this field, point out that executives know so much about their products, yet so little about their customers.  For most of history, customer specific data was not readily available, so people were not trained to analyze it and there were no good guides to doing so. But with the digital age, it now becomes possible and imperative to view a business through the lens of customer data. This book is a must-read guide that will empower leaders for a generation and spur countless insights within organizations of all kinds.”

Barney Pell, Ph.D., AI Pioneer and Thought Leader; Entrepreneur and Investor; Founder of Powerset (Microsoft Bing)

“Fader, Hardie, and Ross’s practical, logical and commonsense approach to data analysis is refreshing when compared with the myriad of confusion that normally reigns in understanding consumer behaviour.”

—Mark Newton-Jones, Member of the Global Supervisory Board, INGKA

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