Customer Intelligence Advantage - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Customer Intelligence Advantage

Course Number 1310

Associate Professor F. Asis Martinez-Jerez
Fall; Q1; Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions
Other: written assignments

This course takes a general manager's perspective to provide practical frameworks for crafting strategies and designing organizations that exploit the insights from customer information. How do I know which customers to devote the most resources to? When crafting a contract with a strategic customer, what performance measures should I include to promote cooperation and trust? What incentive system should I put in place for customer-facing employees?

Career Focus

For students pursuing a career in general management, sales and marketing, consulting, or private equity, or for students planning on starting their own businesses, this course will provide in a very practical way the analytical frameworks to rapidly create value for the firm.

Educational Objectives

At the end of this course, students will be better prepared to: (i) leverage the insights provided by performance measurement systems, (ii) Design a customer-facing workforce that truly delivers the customer-centric proposition aimed for by top management, and (iii) Design the mechanisms to develop customer-supplier partnerships.

This course is designed to provide practical tools and frameworks to develop and implement strategies, including the Balanced Scorecard, Customer Lifetime Value, and the Net Promoter Score. Special support will be provided for students to reach basic proficiency in some generic analytic tools in Excel, such as pivot tables, regression analysis and propensity models in optional out-of-class sessions.

We take a general manager's perspective with a structured approach to data analysis. However, the focus of the discussions is on managerial insights, NOT the analysis.

Course Content and Organization

We look at some best-in-class and worst-in-class practices from a variety of industries (entertainment, CPG, banking, B2B, internet, retail) in global settings (US, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa), including such celebrated firms as CEMEX, Gucci, MGM, and Schwab. The course also features guest appearances from case protagonists and managerial authorities (ex. Robert Kaplan or Fred Reichheld). The goal of the course is to learn how to:

  1. Leverage the insights provided by performance measurement systems. Performance measurement systems provide managers with useful information, but they often contain biases that can lead to dangerously flawed decisions. Understanding how these biases are created and how to overcome them is a prerequisite for successfully unlocking customer value opportunities.

  2. Design a customer-facing workforce that truly delivers the customer-centric proposition aimed for by top management. In many firms there is a big gap between the customer value proposition defined in top management's ivory tower and the one delivered by employees in day-to-day contact with the customer. To close this gap, managers have to think carefully about how to design the appropriate incentive system, what decisions to decentralize, and what information to provide to their customer-facing employees.

  3. Design the mechanisms to develop customer-supplier partnerships. To compete in the 21st century, B2B firms should transcend the adversarial nature of transactional relationships. Building trust and cooperation with your key customers requires careful design of the contractual environment governing the relationship.


55% class participation and 45% a combination of three individual and group assignments, in which students will be asked to apply the concepts learned in class to examine field-based cases/scenarios, and independently generate insights. A class session with be reserved for students to work on each of these assignments.