Secrets to Building a Customer-Driven Service Platform

Nov. 29, 2007
Platform should enable companies to tie financial results to customer satisfaction.

A truly customer-driven service platform allows a company to place a dollar value on customer satisfaction, enabling management to tie financial results to customer satisfaction and employee performance. The keys to building a strong customer-driven service platform include collecting and managing the right customer and employee satisfaction data, call monitoring data, and daily internal metrics, and then using a variety of advanced analytics and predictive modeling techniques to bring everything together to track and predict the success of business and marketing efforts.

For manufacturing companies that have adopted various quality practices such as Six Sigma and ISO, establishing a customer-drive service platform is even more critical. These companies have already invested significant amount of time and money to ensure that their internal resources (i.e., manufacturing operations and organizational structure) are running as efficiently as possible. To not invest similar resources into maximizing the experience of their external resources (customers) is at best short-sighted and at worst, potentially disastrous.

When establishing a customer-driven service strategy, the first thing to look at is how your customer is represented in your company. For most companies, customers are represented by data collected in many ways, for many reasons and by many different departments. Unfortunately, there usually is not a single department responsible for pulling all the data together. A company with a strong customer-driven service platform will have a "Quality Department" responsible for linking all the customer data the company collects.

There are four key types of data required for a well-built, customer-driven service platform:

  • Customer Feedback Data
  • Employee Feedback Data
  • Behavioral / Monitoring Data
  • Operational Daily Metrics used to run the business

In many companies, various departments access this data through static daily or weekly reports. Nowhere does this data meet both analytically or operationally to show the cause and effect of major business actions. Because the data is not linked, it's difficult for a company to see how the different aspects of operations are affected by one another. In reality, each of the four data points reflects effective "levers" that can be pulled to affect business or marketing efforts. Over time, these four key data points can be tied to financial fluctuations and true Return on Investment (ROI) analysis.

Data Rules

It has been said, "He who has the data rules." But in many companies the four key data types are owned by or kept in separate silos or departments that have formed strong "fiefdoms." Unfortunately, fiefdoms tend to protect "their" data and can be unwilling to share or allow other departments to control the analysis, impeding the development of a customer-driven service platform.

While other departments can and should take an active role in the collection and interpretation of data, only one department should be responsible for linking all the data that will feed the customer-driven service platform: the Quality department. If fiefdoms exist or the Quality department does not have the analytical power to build the linking service platform, companies should consider outsourcing the task to a Quality company that specializes in building customer service measurement platforms. In fact, more companies are outsourcing large portions of what were traditionally in-sourced quality department functions.

The four primary quality operations to consider outsourcing include:

  • Monitoring and evaluation of calls, chat, e-mail and customer comments coding
  • Customer and employee surveys
  • Advanced satisfaction/loyalty modeling
  • Continuous quality improvement efforts

Customer Feedback Is Predictable

A company cannot begin to understand the effects of its business and marketing plans -- not to mention company procedures, policies, systems, products and service - without an actionable and accurate customer and employee feedback loop. Every company should have a minimum of two types of customer surveys: relationship and transactional.

Unfortunately, for budgetary reasons, many companies only use relationship surveys. Relationship surveys certainly have value, tracking the brand image in areas such as price, value, advertising, customer service, billing, etc. However, surveys are given at random to the general base of customers with no point of reference to business activities. Consequently, relationship surveys are very bad for managing the day-to-day business decisions affecting customers.

Conversely, transactional surveys measure customers' experiences within a given time frame of their interaction with one aspect of a company's products, services or support. With the proper analytical modeling, a company can survey and track which aspects of the customer experience are causing the customer to be satisfied (or dissatisfied) with the outcome of the interaction.

A "Blueprint" for Customers

Many larger companies have very sophisticated marketing and research departments but still outsource survey design, data collection and advanced analytics. For smaller companies there may be no marketing or research department, and an outsourced partner is critical. Regardless of company size, it's vital that sophisticated customer and employee satisfaction surveys are created properly.

In order to ensure your surveys -- both relational and transaction -- are asking the right questions, start with an "Ideal Customer Blueprint Map." This is a total exploration of the ideal customer experience for customers in your industry. The mapping includes focus group benchmarks for industry norms and breaks down each aspect of a company's service delivery cycle. It explores the articulated and unarticulated needs of your customers and tries to define expectations and delights within their service experience. The final blueprint can then be applied to a company's current business model to determine where there are weaknesses and points of competitive advantages.

From the Ideal Customer Blueprint Map a company can then design a Blueprint Survey. In this process, a comprehensive life cycle survey is created to capture every critical aspect of a company's service and sales delivery. Through advance modeling techniques, a company can determine the impact of key business activities from a customer's perspective. The blueprint survey lays the foundation for development of the ongoing customer satisfaction/loyalty survey -- a far more effective tool than a generic survey that may completely overlook that one aspect of your business that differentiates you from the competition.

The outcome of a blueprint survey is easy to translate to management and employees because they can see it came from customers' input, and the results will help show who is responsible for each action that drives satisfaction. Once a company has built an actionable and accurate customer survey process, it will then have the foundation to replicate the same process with employees. With the right modeling, a company can quantify the ROI of a pay increase, commission increase, changes to employee benefits or other aspects of a company's culture.

Don't "Dummy Down" Data

Even with a well-designed survey, some companies "dummy down" the customer satisfaction data that they collect. One of the most common ways companies "dummy down" customer satisfaction data is by looking at only "Top Two / Three Box" responses to key questions. This is where the business reports only the percentage of responses to the 4 and 5 scores on questions with a scale of 1 to 5. When reporting top box response in this way, a company can claim, for example, that "85% of all customers are satisfied or very satisfied with our service." Unfortunately, this is not an accurate or actionable reflection of the company's true performance.

A company that wants to build a customer-driven service platform must employ an index methodology for analyzing and reporting customer and employee survey results. The index methodology survey process calculates multiple critical survey questions into a single number that, when operational, will ensure that customer feedback becomes part of the DNA of any company. In addition, the indexed approach also allows a company to track its performance to many national syndicated surveys like JD Powers and American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). This approach is best outsourced in the beginning to ensure buy-in from management, then brought in-house after the methodology becomes firmly established.

The final level of higher analytics involves bringing all the data together to track and predict financial impact on business and marketing efforts. Using a variety of advanced analytics and predictive modeling techniques, a good quality partner will be able to help your business determine where you are losing money or brand position due to poor performance. This modeling and analytics will determine your business plan's driving issues and will quantify losses or potential growth opportunities. All analytics will be actionable, quantifiable and measurable.

With a customer-driven service platform in place -- along with the right partner -- these subjects and more can be debated accurately and with a clear picture of the connection between customer metrics and financial results.

Joe Caliro is the Executive Vice President of Quality at HyperQuality. He was responsible for launching and managing Professional Services, HyperQuality's new, full-service customer quality consulting arm. Joe can be reached at [email protected].

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