The changing world of B2B customer experience and what the future looks like – Interview with Charlie Peters of Emerson

FutureToday’s interview is with Charlie Peters, who is Senior Executive Vice President of Emerson, a diversified global manufacturing and technology company that is working to solve the world’s most complex engineering challenges. Emerson has a market capitalisation of$45 billion, approximately 135,000 employees and 235 manufacturing locations worldwide.

Charlie is a 40+ year veteran of Emerson and his main responsibility is to develop innovative global business models that build the company’s capabilities and create added value for Emerson’s customers. Commonly known as Emerson’s “innovation guru”, Charlie joins me today to talk about the changing world of B2B customer experience and what future business models might look like.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Behavioural science offers insight how customer experience can be improved – Interview with Prof. Nick Chater – and is number ninety-four in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here are the highlights of my interview with Charlie:

  • As Emerson’s products become more ‘intelligent’, Charlie works to see how that affects their business models and what progressive things they can do to become more innovative and create more value for their customers.
  • The B2B selling paradigm is changing. We have had a preview of what could happen in the B2C sector. However, now things are starting to change in the B2B space.
  • The value add that historically comes from distribution networks is being eroded and is shifting towards a more centralised model.
  • However, this is often to the detriment of communication, support and customisation.
  • So, Charlie is working on how Emerson does ‘local’ in the B2B landscape of the future.
  • Much of how that will develop in future will, Charlie believes, be driven by millenials and their behaviour and preferences, particularly as they rise up into product management, development and leadership roles.
  • The B2B business model of the future is likely to be a hybrid model where you have global approach to production, inventory and providing content whilst the local dimension will tailor the product/solution to the individual customer and will stay in regular communication with them to remain relevant and trusted.
  • To make this work, the information flow between the centre and local nodes will need to thought and constructed about carefully so they remain connected and in touch.
  • A lot of these changes will also be driven by the march towards mass urbanisation.
  • Big data and analytics will start to play a bigger role as the centre amalgamates data from the local nodes, facilitating insight and better decision making.
  • In terms of how we will manage these information flows, there are possibly insights to be gained and learned from how the military and intelligence agencies gather information locally, analyse it, add to it and then push what is relevant back out into the field.
  • All of this is having an impact on the sort of people that Emerson are looking to hire when they think about future business models.
  • Charlie says that for the first time in his life he prefers people under the age of 25 to those that are over 40 because of the dramatic changes they see coming and their ability to deal with what he calls ‘glocalisation‘.
  • It will be hard for Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers to really understand and to get to grips with the social and community elements of the future glocalisation business models.
  • These models will take about 5 years to figure out and another 10 years to implement and get right. So, by that time most of the decision makers will be millenials.
  • However, it’s not all over for the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. They just need to remain ‘curious’ and use their experience to remain relevant.
  • Future business models are not set and to get it right will require an iterative approach. One, that encompasses ‘failure’ and ‘piloting’ in order to learn and work towards an optimal solution. That may require a cultural change in many organisations.
  • Big data and predictive analytics can’t be done locally and has to be done at the centre. The idea being that local agents can draw on insights from the centre and customise it to the end ‘local’ customer.
  • Interesting is synonymous with content and interested is synonymous with support.
  • If these sort of dynamics apply to your business, start by thinking about building a new channel to your customers that is an adjunct to your existing channels as a way of getting started i.e. don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
  • But, you have to remind your existing channels that this is only a pilot and the best will have find a role to play in this new, future model.
  • Think not just about who your customer is now but who he/she will be in 10-15 years time.
  • However, don’t mistake your current distributor as your customer.
  • Paint the final picture and then draw the bridge.

About Charlie (taken from his Emerson bio)

Charles A. Peters EmersonCharles A. Peters was appointed to senior executive vice president in 2000 and is responsible for helping Emerson and its business units develop innovative global business models and strategies that build the company’s capabilities to support and create value through its customer relationships. He also oversees Emerson’s information technology, marketing and customer support programs that provide a foundation for implementing these initiatives. Peters has served as a management member of Emerson’s Board of Directors since 2000.

Peters joined Emerson in 1975 as an engineering cooperative student at its Browning business in Maysville, Ky. He moved to corporate planning in 1978 and later served in strategic planning positions at several Emerson business units, including Skil power tools. In 1986, Peters was named president of the Harris Calorific welding equipment business.

Peters went on to hold several corporate positions at Emerson, including vice president of strategic planning, vice president of development and technology, and senior vice president of growth programs. In 1998, he assumed operating responsibility as the business leader of the industrial components and electronics business, and was promoted to executive vice president.

Peters received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University. Peters lives in St. Louis and is married with five children.

You can say Hi to Charlie on Twitter @Emerson_Charlie, keep up with Emerson’s new on Twitter @Emerson_News, find out more about the company on LinkedIn here and check out their website:

Photo Credit: darkmatter via Compfight cc

7 comments On The changing world of B2B customer experience and what the future looks like – Interview with Charlie Peters of Emerson

  • Adrian,

    The point in the interview that most resonated with me was;

    Future business models are not set and to get it right will require an iterative approach. One, that encompasses ‘failure’ and ‘piloting’ in order to learn and work towards an optimal solution. That may require a cultural change in many organisations.

    The big point for me is that this may require a cultural change

    It amazes me how many organisations are too scared to try new things for fear of making a mistake and are hell bent on maintaining the status quo.

    Isn’t that the biggest mistake you can make?


  • Hello Adrian,
    What jumped out at me was the following:

    “Future business models are not set and to get it right will require an iterative approach. One, that encompasses ‘failure’ and ‘piloting’ in order to learn and work towards an optimal solution. That may require a cultural change in many organisations.”

    Why? Because large organisations and ‘smart’ executives do not do failure. Any career respecting manager looks to avoid anything that looks like a ‘hospital pass’. And innovative business models always look like a hospital passes.

    Then there is culture change. Most culture change requires a change in the Tops. Not just one person. Usually, almost all of them. That is exactly what Jobs did. And what Gerstner ended up doing. Brave is the CEO who is willing to take this on. And of course it takes time: culture change does not happen overnight.

    All said, I will put my money on the newcomers. And with for the dinosaurs to fall.

    All the best

  • Emerson is a very familiar brand for me as this is where my cousin worked. They are really a company that is well in touch with technology. I am glad to hear the thoughts of one of their company heads.

    • Thanks, Ivan. It was a pleasure to be able to talk with Charlie and share his thoughts, experience and insight.


  • Pingback: Big and little data, building trust and B2B marketing | Adrian Swinscoe ()

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