voice of customer actionStrategic customer experience results require a strategic approach in the way we collect data and in the way we take action on it. Of all the strategies within a company, what has the potential to be more far-reaching and impactful than how we understand our funders (customers) and how we cater to their propensity to continue funding us? What may come to mind is an acquisition or merger or reorganization or new product. But even so, these same funders are in-play in each of these scenarios. There’s really no way to separate customers, as our ultimate funders, from any other business strategy.

This acknowledgement may shine a new light on what we really should be doing in customer experience management (CXM). In her presentation at a CXPA conference, Erin Wallace of John Deere pointed out that every major undertaking in a company — like new product development, capital investment, market expansion, deployment of a major technology (e.g. ERP), etc. — requires carefully thought-out plans and decisions. Using a tractor as a metaphor, she described the requirements for best-in-class CXM. The windshield represents CXM vision and strategy. The steering wheel represents the CXM organization and governance. The wheels represent CXM processes and tools. And the engine represents CXM measurement.

customer experience improvement modelLet’s talk about those wheels. Robust processes and tools are necessary for strategic action on VoC data. When I was at Applied Materials we had a well-oiled machine in our VoC actioning. First, we researched what it takes to drive action, by talking to action experts outside and inside our company. We identified tools, including a CX improvement facilitator in each business unit (usually from the Quality organization), how to prioritize CX action areas, how to digest customers’ verbatim comments during an action planning workshop with cross-functional teams, how to identify themes and root causes of the comments, how to create specificity in the action plans and sanity-test that they address the root causes, and how to create progress metrics for action plans.

Let’s talk about that windshield. We created a diagram to show the steps and explain how to make changes that customers would reward. We noted things about our culture that could accelerate or hinder adoption, and we created processes and tools to address both sides of that coin. Then we shopped our plan with the C-team. They stewed over our survey results for quite a while, and, facilitated by our VP-CX, they eventually agreed on a company-wide approach to interpreting, acting on, and being accountable for progress, resolution, and prevention of issue recurrence. We worked with people in HR, Marketing, and IT whose help we needed to pull together these tools and processes.

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Let’s talk about that engine. In our measurement of customer perceptions, we gave every business unit, account team, and support function their own report — their own cut of the data, to minimize finger-pointing and maximize ownership, or CX adoption and accountability. To identify patterns we studied cross-tabulations, conducted correlation analyses, characterized groups of customers who saw things similarly, linked various customer feedback sources, connected quantitative (ratings) and qualitative (verbatim) data, and explored linkages between customer perceptions, sentiment, behaviors, operational data, employee opinions, and financial data. Patterns were enriched through root cause analysis (ask “why?” 5 times), Pareto charts, scatter diagrams in quadrant charts, and estimating customer lifetime value. Patterns were helpful in motivating collaboration across organizations that had the same top priority.

For more information, see B2B Customer Experience Management
Originally published as a special invitation Advisors monthly column for CustomerThink.com: Strategic Action on B2B Voice of the Customer