Organizational adoption of customer experience excellence is the holy grail that drives sustained growth. Temporary upticks in revenue are possible without it, yet optimization of customer lifetime value requires it. To get off the continual hamster wheel of throwing scarce resources at the fixes, enticements, and massive monitoring that we have come to call “customer experience management”, you’ve got to rise above the norms of today’s common practices and shift your strategy to company-wide ownership of customer experience performance.
How do you know when you have it? When day-to-day work of employees in every functional area incorporates customers’ expectations and when everyone perceives personal consequences for aligning their work with customers’ expectations. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to customer experience management.
This article is a continuation of the article Strategic Customer Experience Action on Voice of the Customer, using the analogy that John Deere presented at a conference: customer experience strategy is like integrating the components of a vehicle (or tractor):
- Windshield = vision and strategy
- Steering Wheel = organization and governance
- Wheels = processes and tools
- Engine = measurement program
Using this analogy, here’s a picture of organizational adoption of customer experience excellence from Applied Materials, where I led transformation as Voice of Customer Manager, Customer Satisfaction Improvement Manager, Head of Corporate Quality, and Director of Marketing:
Let’s talk about that engine. Our voice of the customer portfolio included an annual relationship survey, quarterly service survey, ongoing installation survey, executive listening sessions, and customer report cards. In all cases we emphasized company-wide context when providing every business unit with their own cut of the data. We strived to link operational and financial data to voice of the customer, and to provide a single 360-degree view of each customer, and the end-to-end customer life cycle. What was so different, compared to nearly everyone managing customer experience today, was this: in our customer experience measurement program, VoC took a front seat to informing us about customers’ realities, but VoC took a backseat to monitoring our progress, in favor of tracking what we were doing about it!
In our measurement of VoC progress, we published (internally, updated quarterly) customer survey trends as a context, and what we called six-up charts (six graphs on a page) or flag charts (all organizations’ graphs for a given priority area in a single row for each area, with flags indicating upward, downward, or static trends). Our emphasis was on how various organizations might learn from one another, and how well we were moving the needle internally as a preview of what customers would soon experience. Eventually, we could overlay VoC trends and financial trends on top of our internal progress metrics. Our philosophy was that what we did inside the company would eventually be what customers saw and reported in surveys, and that would eventually be reflected in our revenue, costs, and growth. Our C-team received bound copies of these progress report books at the same time that they received similar financial reports in preparation for their quarterly call with industry analysts.
Let’s talk about that steering wheel. Our organization was in Corporate Quality because our executives wanted to see real change, and that was the place with the most tools to do that. I had a market research expert on my team, along with a quality metrics analyst and three CX improvement facilitators for Europe, Asia, and Americas. The product lines and support functions were divvied up among them. Across the company we liaisoned with a counterpart in the Quality function of their parent business unit. We did all we could to empower them with moral support and skills in change management, quality tools (i.e. Lean/Six Sigma), CX management (i.e. the six CCXP competencies), organizational learning, process improvement, etc.
Just after we conducted the round-the-globe action planning workshops we published the top themes from our latest relationship survey and promised customers we’d report back to them in nine months. And we did. At the end of the fiscal year the VP-CX and I met with each GM throughout the company to discuss their action plan progress and determine their bonus multiplier accordingly.
We didn’t stop there. We saw the opportunity for further strategic action. This involved timing the survey reporting to coincide with strategic planning processes, and making VoC analyses available specific to big initiatives and decisions. We continued to create alliances with many people across the company, to weave-in CX insights across our ecosystem: employee communications, recognition, hiring, onboarding, performance reviews, staff meeting agendas, training, leadership development, supplier management, day-to-day work, and so forth. We tied external VoC to internal CX management (CXM), to drive improvements in timely and effective hand-offs across the company.
From the start, everyone understood this whole process and we repeated it year after year. We constantly welcomed ideas from our stakeholders and involved them in refining our whole methodology as our collective maturity increased. It wasn’t always easy, but it was very gratifying to feel company-wide momentum.
It’s essential to align the entire company in seeing their ripple effects on customers’ well-being. Employees have an innate desire to help customers love the company. If we establish processes and tools that integrate CXM into their ongoing routines, they’ll engage in strategic action that customers will reward.
Originally published as a special invitation Advisors monthly column for CustomerThink.com: Strategic Action on B2B Voice of the Customer
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