Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #157

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Managing the Customer Experience - A Case Study Part 2
Craig Bailey

This week we share part two of the case study example outlining strategies and techniques that one of our clients (PTC) has put in place to effectively manage the customer experience. This multi-part series results from a collaborative effort with Mark Hodges, DVP and Chief Customer Officer at PTC.

In the previous article in this series, we discussed the importance of closing the loop between the front-line and R&D/Engineering. In this article, we will cover the critical role that senior management must play to improve the customer experience.

Executive oversight and engagement on key customer issues

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

In order to satisfy the needs of its customers and operate effectively in an increasingly complex Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) environment, PTC realized it had to develop sophisticated and efficient management escalation processes. In addition to regular Customer Support based escalation processes, PTC needed to provide direct cross-functional executive oversight for key customer issues.

To that end, twice per week, senior managers of Technical Support, R&D / Engineering, Global Services and (as necessary) Sales, meet together with the "in-the-trenches" customer-facing subject-matter-experts to review the status of accounts and solution implementations that have been entered into the Corporate Escalation process. A formal escalation procedure has been defined with specific criteria for an account to get "on the list." Once on the list, a customer remains on it until the agreed upon action plan has been completed to the satisfaction of the customer and PTC's senior management team.

This single, highly visible process has been implemented on a global basis as the standard way to manage complex customer issues. All parties involved know when they need to call in, who is "on" at what time, and what they are expected to cover. The primary focus is to define, drive and monitor progress of the action-plan needed to address the immediate customer issue. This includes the prioritization of key resources from various parts of the company who are best suited to provide rapid diagnosis and resolution.

In addition, key takeaways for executive management include:

  1. Management awareness and visibility of key customer issues and the actions taken to resolve them. This direct voice-of-the-customer information is highly credible and can be used to support future resource investment decisions and product strategies. This is much more valuable than the anecdotal commentary you'll hear from senior managers of companies with less mature practices in place. Note that every member of the Executive team at PTC receives a copy of the Corporate Escalation report on a weekly basis.
  2. Obtaining direct insight into the root-cause of customer issues and ensuring that fixes are immediately communicated to internal Services personnel or shared directly with customers via web based support tools or "push" communications.

Here's a best practice Mark Hodges was willing to share: When designing your process, don't go for perfection out of the gate. Define a set of reasonable criteria for customers to make "the list", establish a weekly or twice-weekly meeting time that works (globally), communicate to the key customer-facing organizations, get started and adapt as you go. The most important thing is getting senior managers of the key customer-facing organizations in the room on a regular and consistent basis, along with their respective "in-the-trenches" subject matter experts and starting the process. The key is for each of the representatives to learn together and use their practical experience to scale to others over time. There is so much to gain and NOTHING to lose (except customers, if you don't do this).

As reported by Mark Hodges, of PTC: "We have found that by bringing the key groups together on a regular and frequent basis we are able to more promptly address complex customer issues and put root-cause resolutions in place to ensure the situation doesn't recur for this, or any other customer. We have also found that the process drives increased cross-functional collaboration and builds a much stronger sense of the importance of being Customer Centric. It places key resources much closer to the customer and builds knowledge and understanding of their working practices and user environments. All of this has the additional benefit of improving our product quality, service offerings and the skills of our support teams."

Stay tuned for subsequent editions of our newsletter in which we'll cover the remaining topics of this case study, including:

  • The Tiger Team (formalized)
  • Executive sponsorship for strategic accounts
  • Customer surveys
  • Metrics and results
  • Taking things to the next level

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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