Who Knows Your Customers Best?
Along the lines of revenue production and retention, it is no secret that
knowing how your customers feel about you is extremely important.
Likewise, it certainly isn't news that efficient operations contribute to
effective cost control – hence profitability, growth and all the other
business goals we strive to achieve! What might be a shock is that people
who know about your customers' needs, how they feel about your company,
and opportunities to improve everything from process to profitability sit
right down the hall: your front-line customer care team!
Simply put, your front line deals with what your customers like and do not
like about your company – everyday. Your front line also continually sorts
through inefficient process challenges, deals with variations of corporate
culture and knows how to capitalize on the best while navigating the
worst! Members of this team are the champions of finding the answers,
enforcing policy (hopefully designed to benefit customers and your
business), and doing it all with a smile. If you think that is easy, give
it a try.
Lost in Translation
It would be pointless to debate use of information gathering programs or
the "suggestion box" - all serve a worthy purpose of acting, at a minimum,
as a facilitator. However, the difference between the interpretation of a
submission and what was truly intended can easily be lost in translation.
In fact, unless it is a simple 1+1=2 type suggestion, discussing it with
the submitter is critical, to fully understand the context and (arguably
more important) to acknowledge the act. By taking these two actions, you
gain even if the submission was off the mark.
Building the Conduit
Outside of more formal methods of soliciting submissions mentioned above,
building a conduit that promotes open discussion takes trust, credibility
and ultimately an investment in time. Remember, your front line is
perceptive; they understand communication nuances by the nature of their
work. If you are simply going through the motions, these folks will know
it and participation will be limited. Your credibility depends not only
upon your sincerity, but your follow through by way of action on
suggestions that make sense. In other words, if a suggestion is clearly on
target and nothing is done about it, you can expect few, if any,
additions. Conduit building takes an investment in time…less like a weekly
meeting and more like time everyday. Everyday time should take the form of
probing and clarifying conversation.
If you are truly interested in an eye opening experience which will keep
you thinking for while, spend a couple of side by side hours with your
front line (listening to calls). In fact, line up four columns: topic,
question, temperature and resolution. As you listen to calls, do your best
to keep detailed notes, knowing you will reference them later. As you seek
information about how your customers view you or opportunities for
operational improvement, review the list. You will likely be surprised at
how readily topics jump out! Don't be surprised, however, if you walk away
wondering where to start taking action.
The bottom line is your front line team has so many answers; the challenge
becomes asking the right questions. However, unless you already have
relationships with your front line team that minimize items like typical
chain of command hesitance, leveraging an outside firm (such as Customer
Centricity) can accelerate the conduit building process. The benefits will
rapidly contribute to employee morale, customer satisfaction, and
ultimately the bottom line!
Becoming Customer Centric - Implement
Customer-Focused Changes (Part 2)
by Craig Bailey
In the prior newsletter
edition, we introduced the 4 steps to implementing customer-focused
Management attention and commitment
Conducting formal cross-functional reviews
VoC tracking and reporting
We will now
expand on the last two items above.
VoC Tracking and Reporting
In advance of the cross-functional review meeting (discussed in the
previous newsletter edition), each functional area will provide its
key customer-impacting performance metrics to the VoC program manager. The
VoC program manager will then create a VoC dashboard that includes both
high-level and detail-level reporting on monthly trends including:
customer satisfaction and retention, revenue, contact center stats (e.g.,
inquiry volumes, hold times, answer times, etc.), customer problem reports
(i.e., bugs), days sales outstanding (DSO), on-time delivery stats,
average number products consumed/utilized per customer, etc. This will
enable a comprehensive review of overall company performance as measured
by metrics key to the customer experience.
Based on actual performance, the cross-functional team can then discuss or
recommend the necessary continuous improvement programs that are either
underway, or required, to achieve the desired results. These
customer-impacting initiatives will then be included on the VoC dashboard
to support the next step in the process, which is that of forecasting
customer satisfaction and retention.
It should be noted that this reporting, once reviewed by the
cross-functional team, should be subsequently distributed to senior
management and all levels of management of organizations involved in the
By achieving the cross-functional alignment discussed previously, one of
the more sophisticated steps that can be taken is that of forecasting
customer satisfaction and retention, as well as providing input to account
planning activities to forecast anticipated account revenue.
The following provides an approach for forecasting customer satisfaction
levels, but could also be applied to forecasting customer retention and
First, each area of the VoC program should have an established goal that
is owned by the functional area whose performance will be measured. Also,
each defined program needs to establish a quantifiable impact that can be
tracked on a timeline. For example, let's assume that the Customer Care
organization will be performing a customer service skills training program
in the month of April. It is expected that this will have a measurable
impact on customer satisfaction, for all segments of the customer base.
The first step is to determine when the impact of this training will
initially be felt by the customer, say May, for example. The second focus
is determining when this impact will be observed in the customer
satisfaction survey results. In this case, if the training will begin to
provide positive impact in May, the full impact on the survey results may
not show up until the June surveys are administered. Therefore, it will
not be until the July timeframe, when the June survey results can be
reviewed, that the organization will be able to see the full impact of
The final focus is establishing customer satisfaction goals to identify
the level of impact. For example, assume that customers are 78% totally
satisfied with Customer Care, at the present time. The question to ask is
"how many percentage points do we anticipate that customer satisfaction
ratings will increase as a result of providing skills training to the
Customer Care organization? How much improvement should we experience in
May, and how much in June?" It may be decided that the customer
satisfaction rating will improve by 2% in the May survey, and an
additional 6% in June. This exercise is repeated for each functional area
as they identify the impact that their customer-focused initiatives will
have on the results for which they are responsible.
There is no silver-bullet. As such, it is important to try various
programs designed to achieve the desired results, check against VoC
metrics and adjust the program(s) based on customer feedback. Aligning
cross-functional organizations to common goals and promoting awareness
throughout the organization is a major step to achieving the benefits of a
fully integrated VoC program.
The next area of the VoC program that we will cover could be considered
the most important: Responding to the Customer.
If you'd like to review an outline of the complete VoC program, feel free
to download the
presentation recently delivered to PDMA's VoC conference.
View previous articles in this series.
+ Who Knows Your Customers Best?
+ Becoming Customer Centric
+ Recommended Reading
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This issue we
highly recommend a humurous and all too
real case-study on customer appreciation. We've all heard of the concept
of customer segmentation, whereby customers are grouped according to
certain criteria and provided a level of service commensurate with the
value they generate to a company. In his CRM Magazine article
A Sucker for Customer Appreciation , Michael King provides a witty
look at indiscriminate customer appreciation. If you're in the mood for
a chuckle, definitely check it out.
About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through
better service delivery and management.
We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support
teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other
key operations functions.
In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your
customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner
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