b2b customer experience operationsHow would you like to reduce customer churn by 27%, increase Net Promoter ScoreTM by 65%, and outperform competitors by 20% in sales, purchasing, ordering, installation, billing, service inquiry, maintenance and account management processes? This progress was achieved by engaging employees company-wide in coordinating customer-focused improvements across Operations, Marketing, Service and other functional areas.

The key to these achievements was the Operations SVP’s passionate executive sponsorship. She had a hunger for voice-of-the customer (VoC) data and drove cross-functional improvements. The next VoC cycles showed significant up-tick, demonstrating to the executive leadership team what could be accomplished with holistic action plans.

All this happened after 20,000 small and medium business accounts were added to tw telecom’s customer base through a merger. A global provider of managed network services, tw telecom discovered that their acquired customers were very different from their historical customer base. The executive team realized they needed to really understand all of their customers and adapt to them.

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“We evolved the VoC program out of Marketing, merging with the Customer Care and Business Operations teams to maintain independence as a best practice. Our team is called Customer Operations,” explained Lara Wise, VP of Customer Experience, in my online talk show interview. “The more we feel what it is that they experience, and adapt to them, the more loyal they are. It’s been much easier being part of the Operations organization, to get adoption from other departments across the company, helping them see their connection to customer loyalty.”

Should Operations be the home for every B2B company’s customer experience leadership? Not necessarily, but companies with the most holistic approach to customer experience improvement and innovation, such as EMC, NCR, Adobe, Boeing, TELUS, and Intuit, have core involvement among their Quality, Operations, Service, and Sales organizations. Indeed, the best progress in customer experience excellence involves every functional area. No one is exempt, as all make decisions and have deliverables with a ripple effect to customers. Your company’s executive team should carefully consider what structure will work best.

Regardless, at the heart of the achievements listed above is operational change. There’s no silver bullet besides centering your business on customers.
The end-to-end customer experience must be studied and improved. New value across the end-to-end customer experience is also necessary. Don’t fall into the trap of so many consumer industries that have bet their growth on enticing customers to rebuy and buy more through marketing and sales alone. We can all think of businesses that over-rely on customer communications while creating policies and processes that undermine it all.

Operations and Quality organizations bring important tools to the party. How can significant gains be made, and maintained, without 5 why’s and Pareto charts and Gantt charts? Every customer experience leader should be reading about and getting training in process management and change management and knowledge management. You can bring in specialists to help guide customer experience work in these areas, but there is no substitute for obtaining these skills across the whole customer experience management team. Think of it like this: a supervisor can’t relinquish people management aspects of his or her job to an HR specialist; the specialist can coach and provide templates, but the supervisor must learn people management to a certain degree in order to be successful. The same applies to these bodies of knowledge and customer experience excellence.

Go beyond your enterprise feedback management system. It’s a tool that streamlines analysis and data delivery to managers. But it has become a stumbling block, too. Create processes that enable cross-functional engagement in reviewing VoC patterns, not just trends. Find patterns between VoC and operational performance across functions. The more holistic your approach, the more significant your gains will be.

Go beyond traditional VoC. Search your company for other types of customer studies that can add new insights to VoC. Advertising, branding, user experience (UX), R&D and other departments typically conduct studies that can create greater context for VoC data. De-silo customer experience management.

Some watchwords from this story are: hunger, drove, cross-functional, holistic, adapt to customers, and engaging employees company-wide. There are numerous techniques available to help you center your business on customers. Involve your Operations organization to identify how customer experience management can be woven into your company’s fabric for ongoing substantial gains.

Is your company finding more success through Operations’ core involvement in customer experience excellence?

For more information, see B2B Customer Experience Management
Originally published as an Advisor monthly column on CustomerThink.com as part of a monthly series: Optimizing Business-to-Business Customer Experience.

Images purchased under license from Shutterstock.