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CHANGE and become customer focused...

CAMILLA SCHOLTEN writes about Strategic Change:


Where do you start when you are tasked with changing the company to become more customer focused?An ever returning topic for many large multinational organisations is "how to become more customer focused" and in spite of the effort put into this by many hard-working employees I still don't have the impression that the logic and the methods are clear to everybody in these organisations.Some companies are lucky enough to have a CEO or influential board member that drives the vision to become more customer focused. They might have adopted a metric on customer experience to hold the company accountable. But further down in the organisation, practical business life is struggling to embrace the change towards the customer and could be trying to keep the Customer Voice outside the business rather than letting customer feedback in.Some examples of where the customer needs are forgotten: For many marketers the quest for customer focus has translated itself into complicated loyalty programmes or meaningless (e)-direct marketing activities which deliver one-way communication to the customer only, with no back channel ("Please Do Not Reply to This Email"). For sales people the focus is still revenue + sales targets and any direct dealing with end-customers is seen as a threat to the channel that they serve. And contact centres are so engrossed into dealing with issues efficiently that their priority is a maximum time spent on the call rather than genuine customer engagement.


Business visionaries understand that a critical factor for future success is how well their large companies can transform themselves to open up and embrace their customers. For real. Meaning nothing less than having products and services in place that continuously want to serve and add value to its users. Operating with customer satisfaction at the forefront of every employees brain. Allowing all business processes to be built around serving the end-customer. And all this with the purpose of generating ever-growing revenue for the enterprise.Now that might be a very ambitious goal and for many, a ten if not twenty year plan. By itself an intimidating thought. But before you kick-off the long-term plan, where do you start? How much change can a company handle without drastic implications on business today?If you are starting down this road, I have a few best practices to share today.
  • Get going with your existing customers. Have you got a direct sales operation or a call cantre that deals with existing customers? Collecting names on your website? Run a competition recently? Use these opportunities to tap into your existing customer base. This is by far the most practical way to get going. Don't delay - do it today!
  • Decide what are the basics: What is key to know on how these customers feel about your company and product/service - that's your starting point. You want some simple insights on what they are thinking. And before you think about spending thousands on a new database project, just stop. Don't design new databases unless you have no database to start from. Instead, use anything to get you going today - a spreadsheet will do.
  • Adopt Net Promoter Score (NPS). Or at least settle on one company-wide metric that you will use to measure and improve customer experience around. The simplicity of NPS will help you drive the logic and methodology of ‘moving closer to the customer' throughout your organisation. And you can benchmark yourself against others.
  • Now ask the questions. Once you have your existing customer base you start by sending recent purchasers or recent users of your services a very short questionnaire tailored around their experience. Minimise the number of questions and focus on Net Promoter Score for maximum response. Don't worry about statistically relevant samples. Information (any) information is power
  • Care and Caution! As you start getting real customer feedback on how they value and perceive your company, treat this information must be treated with care and caution.
    • Care because you don't want to throw away this valuable feedback or not use it
    • Caution because you need to sell it into the organisation while minimising resistance
  • Minimise internal resistance by sharing Net Promoter Score results without initially linking the result to good or bad. You need to do these quick surveys on a continuous basis in order to study trends. Combine the general result with areas for improvement based on customer feedback. i.e. these are the top-2 issues our customers tell us we need to improve.
  • Accent the positive. It's important to note that if you have feedback on say, the service-desk of your company, the people working in this department can see this as an attack on their performance. You can minimise this negative perception by presenting the results in a simple format to the respective department first. Also make sure you involve them when designing the plan for improvement. And remind them how good it will be once these improvement start to impact the score on their part of the business. Also if the issue is investment in this particular area, NPS might help generate some of the necessary funding!
So in short, start with highly professional yet easy to understand measurement and reporting of the customer experience. This will help identify next steps as they can be different for all companies. Once you have weekly or monthly measurement and reporting up and running you can take the next step of analysing the feedback in relation to your customers profitability.That I will write about in our next news update. Until then happy customers!
Camilla Scholten has worked on the strategic marketing as well as operations and direct sales side of large multi-nationals, running teams to drive customer focus. She engineered a measurement tool for customer experience and later adopted an existing Net Promoter Score measurement tool to deliver insight into customer experience based on the Reicheldmethodology of promoters and detractors.

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