Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #156

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Managing the Customer Experience - A Case Study
Craig Bailey

We are excited to kickoff our next newsletter series sharing strategies and techniques put in place by one of our clients to effectively manage the customer experience. Working with numerous companies across many industries, the recurring theme we see is "same stuff different logo." This includes lack of cross-functional alignment, delivering a disjointed customer experience while achieving marginal (at best) results. In these economic times, only the strong will survive. It is in this spirit that we present a case-study example of a company that demonstrates practices and disciplines that we recommend and implement for our clients. The results speak for themselves.

PTC - Managing the Customer Experience

Any company in the enterprise software services space knows that there are several factors that can impact the customer experience. These factors include: the client's IT infrastructure; the skill-set of personnel receiving and/or supporting the solution; the need for high-availability; the complexities of the application; and the reality that "where there is software, there are bugs." In order to ensure client success, proactive measures must be put in place to manage the entire customer experience.

Improving the customer experience doesn't happen just because the executive team "says so." Rather, it requires active engagement of senior management on a daily basis. Quite simply, there is no other way.

We now begin this multi-part series, resulting from a collaborative effort with Mark Hodges, DVP and Chief Customer Officer at PTC. This series will cover the following topics:

  • Closed-loop between the front-line and R&D/Engineering
  • Executive oversight and engagement on key customer issues
  • The Tiger Team (formalized)
  • Executive sponsorship for strategic accounts
  • Customer surveys
  • Metrics and results
  • Taking things to the next level

Closed-loop between the front-line and R&D/Engineering

How many times have you heard (or said) something like "if we could only improve customer service or technical support, our customers would be happier?" While there are opportunities for improvement in EVERY part of EVERY company, "fixing" customer service or technical support (in and of itself) is NOT the answer to improving the overall customer experience - it is just one factor.

In our experience, customer service and/or technical support is often in the unenviable position of having to respond to customer issues resulting from areas of the business that they do not directly control. Some examples are: software quality issues; incorrectly set customer expectations; service deployment or configuration issues; and broken or disjointed internal processes. As such, "fixing" the customer service or technical support department in terms of responsiveness or knowledge of the team is only one component of the optimized solution. To be truly customer centric, you need all relevant functions within the organization to align cross functionally, share and escalate issues effectively, agree on priorities, and own rapid resolution of the Customer issue.

PTC realizes that being customer centric requires EVERY organization in the firm that directly or indirectly influences the customer experience to be fully engaged to listen and respond to the needs of the customer. For example, should it matter to the customer that a problem reported to technical support requires the engagement of R&D / Engineering? And, should their experience be the same as would be the case if technical support were to resolve the issue? PTC knows that regardless of the nature of the inquiry, it should not matter to the customer who is engaged and their experience should be the same.

To support this, PTC put in place a closed-loop process to alert R&D of customer issues needing their attention and support. They also defined internal service levels based on the severity of the issue. In particular, they built an "Enterprise down" priority which when invoked, because of the production impact to a customer, requires not only 24-hour attention from their Global Support organization, but also from R&D engineers as well. This ensures that updates are received efficiently and resolution occurs in a timely manner. The processes enable the front-line (technical support) to properly set expectations with their customers and to then provide accurate updates based on regular collaboration and communication with their R&D colleagues. The diagnostic process often includes direct communication between R&D and the customer, all facilitated through the Technical support escalation management team.

The reality is that (reasonable) customers know that "stuff happens." With closed-loop processes, PTC ensures that customers remain up-to-date on the status of their inquiry and that issues are addressed in a timely manner regardless of who is engaged to resolve them. Doing so enables effective setting of expectations and serves to minimize anxiety.

As reported by Mark Hodges, of PTC: "We have found that through seamless, cross-functional relationships and processes we are able to respond much more effectively to customer needs. Our customer feedback and company performance confirms this."

Stay tuned for our next article in this series, where we will continue to highlight strategies and techniques that have worked for PTC.

About PTC: PTC is all about helping discrete manufacturers succeed by meeting their globalization, time-to-market, and operational efficiency objectives in product development. As one of the world's largest and fastest-growing software companies, PTC delivers a complete portfolio of integral Product Lifecycle Management solutions to over 50,000 customers in the Industrial, High Tech, Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Consumer, and Medical Device industries.

PTC's solutions enable teams to collaborate across departments—and across continents—helping them create innovative products that meet their customer needs and comply with industry regulations. In addition to best-in-class solutions, PTC also delivers expert training, software support, and world-class services directly through PTC Global Services and indirectly through a range of partners.



+ Managing the Customer Experience


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