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The Sound of Your Customer's Voice
Cable & Wireless replaced its traditional, paper-intensive market research with a Web-based customer feedback solution. The program's success is a prime example of the synthesis between strategy and technology.
Posted Aug 20, 2001
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Amid all the hyperbole about so-called holistic CRM and enterprise-wide solutions, it's easy to forget that often a relatively simple point solution can make all the difference in your customer relationships when it is applied just the right way. Case in point: Cable & Wireless(C&W), a London-based provider of Internet Protocol (IP) and data solutions to business customers, is enjoying the benefits of streamlined customer feedback since implementing the Satmetrix Customer system. Satmetrix Systems, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., offers hosted solutions designed to deliver a continuous stream of customized customer satisfaction feedback.

C&W's Satmetrix solution replaced its traditional, paper-intensive market research, which was both sluggish and expensive. Telephone surveys were costing C&W $22 each and face-to-face interviews $1,400- -even worse, the data was months old and hidden away in binders when it arrived on managers' desks.

The new, Web-based solution has begun to pay off, but only because it has been driven from the highest levels. C&W's director of customer loyalty, Nick Giurietto, won approval from senior executives and 150 frontline managers to launch the Voice of the Customer program. And shortly after the system went live, the 800 users received a very clear message highlighting the strategic value of the solution: the CEO began calling account managers- -four levels below him on the org chat- -to inquire about the status of dissatisfied customers.

Now C&W uses Satmetrix to conduct Web-based surveys for up to 30,000 customers in 11 different languages at less cost than it previously took to survey 5,000 customers in one language. destinationCRM.com's director of content, Matt Purdue, recently spoke with Giurietto about C&W's singularly successful efforts.

Matt Purdue: Can you give us your 30,000-foot view of the CRM market in the UK? Can you kind of characterize the interest in customer loyalty?

Nick Giurietto: Most people, regard it as something they've got to do--they don't know what it is, but they've got to do it. Some people are quite connected in thinking if they can really cement customer loyalty by doing something clever or something they've done in the past; they often find that very daunting. It also depends a lot on sector. What I think you find are these [high-tech] candidates: IT companies or ISP companies are very much into it. The other area where it's being well received, and it's a consequence of government activity, is in privatization of public services. Those two areas are very go-ahead. It's the middle that is probably more uneasy, the name banks and some of the airlines. They have a feeling they should do something but they don't really know what it is.

MP: One of the issues we have here in the states is that this market has been driven by the technology vendors. We've seen dismal failure rates in enterprises implementing CRM, up to 60 and 70 percent. Some of the research we've done and the end users we've talked to, a lot of that was based on the fact that this was looked at as a technology bolt-on. Do you see that possibly happening in the UK?

NG: We've heard all the stories about the general cynicism around IT projects. At the same time we see vendors banging on people's doors. And what are they selling? People here are a little more wary because of the stories. But they're not necessarily moving into the creative space, asking "How can I drive this differently?" They don't necessarily start from culture change as a primary goal.

MP: That's unfortunate. I would hope you would learn from our mistakes here in the states.

NG: It is an IT consulting experience. We've got consultants helping us including Siebel, and it's the way they're behaving. You've got a few passionate missionaries trying to do it a bit differently, but by and large you've got direct, IT, bolt-on intelligence. Especially when you're dealing with anything like a bank or telco, where you've got massive issues of legacy systems. Those people who've got the option to design from scratch take a completely different view. I don't know how much airtime the easyEverything company has gotten in the states, but the CEO, stelios Haji-Ioannou, has a company called easyJet, which is completely Web-based and CRM is built in from the bottom.

This guy is starting from scratch. He's in the position of building the business with this built into it. But when you get these IT people saying, "I've got that vision but I need to connect to 16 different Cobol databases," sometimes they just run away

MP: It's refreshing to see a company like Cable & Wireless addressing the CRM issue by appointing someone with your title, Director of Customer Loyalty. Obviously C&W is taking a different approach to CRM.

NG: That particular example does reflect a difference in approach. It's very much a pragmatic business issue of we've got to keep these people because they're expensive to acquire and if we don't meet their needs we're going to waste our investment. In the telco space, it takes two or three years sometimes to get anything back from them. So we're saying that this is a legitimate thing to think about; not just the cost side of the business or the revenue side of the business.

MP: Let's talk about what you are doing with Satmetrix. For gauging customer satisfaction in the past, you were using the traditional methods: telephone surveys, face-to-face interviews, focus groups, things like that. And those get prohibitively expensive, don't they?

NG: Yes. The agency doing this for us was doing a perfectly good job; they were very, very adequate within the traditional model. But they didn't spot the extra opportunities provided by a different way of doing things. That meant, "Guess what, you're doing a fabulous job, but I don't want to pay you next month." Cost was important, but it wasn't the driver. The first one was timeliness. The second one was client feedback. The third was the ease of communication; that means what we could do culturally. In the past we'd get these great wads of paper that would arrive three or four months after the event. They would go to a very limited number of people, and there were three things that happened after that. We didn't have time to really get any feedback; people didn't like what it said so they sat on it; and we would have a very knowledgeable group of market analysts who basically were playing intellectual games with themselves instead of business.

MP: The ivory tower factor?

NG: Exactly. And what's different about using the Web-based reporting is that if you give everybody in the company access to the files, you empower them to draw their own conclusions. You change the whole dynamic and make it a very positive thing; you can really use it as a communications tool.

MP: So how did you go about choosing Satmetrix? What other systems did you look at?

NG: We had a bit of good luck. One of my U.S.-based colleagues had a contact with Satmetrix and said, "You should look at these guys." At that point I realized that all the traditional-model vendors were inadequate, so we stopped the [RFQ] we had underway and did a quick exercise set to the Satmetrix style. We found one that was sort of close--Customerservice.com--but that was more like pasting results onto a Web page than the dynamic reporting that we can get with Satmetrix. This is where the cost factor became important, because cost savings meant that I was way under what I was budgeting for the traditional model. I didn't need to do a detailed financial study on Satmetrix.

MP: And it was deployed in six weeks? Is that what you expected?

NG: No, it was about three times faster than what I expected.

MP: Who gets the invitations? Do you slice and dice your customer base depending on the topics you're surveying?

NG: We're doing a relationship survey, so we're looking for the decision maker on the account--what is the overall perception of the different aspects of the service provider. We're also bringing in a set of transactional surveys. These will be specifically focused on particular events and will be actively impacted by that event. For example, one of the transactions will be billing. When customers receive the bill, we want to know what that was like, and that will go to that billing clerk. Or if they take the network quality survey, it will go to the telecommunications or IT managers responsible. One of the virtues of this solution is that it forces you to look harder at the information you've got and clean that up. It's not as perfect as it sounds; you do have to make compromises. It's the best we've got and some information is better than no information, so we're going to go with it.

MP: How were you able to gain buy-in from these 150 managers?

NG: I think there are couple of elements. One: is the very, very strong endorsement from the CEO, Graham Wallace. The second factor was the moral high ground; it's very hard to say the customer is not important. People know that in their hearts. The tool itself is another fundamental feature in that it makes visible things that people know that they don't otherwise acknowledge. You do have to find the bellwethers, the key people in the company. You get them excited and they bring with them a whole bunch of others just because they're so excited.

That bellwether thing is a really important point in cultural change. We created what we call Voice of the Customer Champions--a group of about 40 people to start. So they were doing it from the bottom up and [the executives] were doing it from the top down. We squeeze the ones in the middle.

MP: Let's talk now about the feedback. I'm very curious about these automatic e-mail alerts that are generated by the system whenever a customer responds below a predefined threshold.

NG: On almost every questions, there's a rating scale, such as a level of satisfaction with Cable & Wireless's engineering services on a scale of 1 to 10. [The systems sends] an alert if the customer gives us a score below 5; we want to know about that right away, because that's an unhappy customer. It's a relatively trivial algorithm to put into the database. What's powerful is that someone at C&W gets an e-mail that tells him that customer Mary Smith, who has just completed the survey five minutes ago or a couple of hours ago, is unhappy. It started in the U.S. and we were getting back to customers within 24 hours, acknowledging the existence of the problem. We're saving customer accounts. We have probably paid for the program out of only that technical response.

MP: We've talked to many vendors like Satmetrix who offer automated e-mail alerts. But what about the process on the back end, at the end-user site? Because all of a sudden you have to be much more proactive. Obviously you've built it into the compensation packages there. What else?

NG: First was we thought we should begin with what the appropriate fixer group was for each of these issues, so that the techies could go to someone who actually had a connection with the problem; the temptation would be to throw it at the front office. Where it is a back-office issue, we target back-office people.

Also, we cc the senior executive on some of these accounts. In two of our channels we're talking about accounts that that can be worth millions, if not several tens of millions, of pounds of revenue a year. So if you're the person who's got an alert that says Chase Manhattan Bank is unhappy and you see on the e-mail that the president of your channel has been copied, you've got a reasonable incentive to do something about it. It's not yet automated--and it's probably an area that Satmetrix could explore--but we enter all these e-mails in a database and watch the closure. I have a small center where they track them, and if they're not being closed they report back and we look at them.

MP: And you are integrating Satmetrix feedback with Siebel sales and service client-server software?

NG: We are in the middle of deploying Siebel. Our next step is to take the Satmetrix responses and create a Siebel page. My spreadsheet, for example, I won't need anymore. It's going to be a very simple job because the API already exists and partly because Satmetrix is partially owned by Siebel.

MP: So what benefits do you expect to get out of the Siebel integration?

NG: It all goes to how clever we can be with this stuff. I would with simply using the creation of the Siebel case as the way to manage our e-mail alerts. Users will get that done much more reliably, much more consistently. Next is integrating our decision making tools that pop the agent, select a history of customer loyalty and project our digital routing to the right agent for the issue

Another virtue of Siebel is that by tracking some of the hard issues of performance--for example, how long did it take to issue the service--and adding to that the level of satisfaction, we can start to do some progression that then lets us target an optimum level of internal performance that gives us the right level of customer loyalty. Optimization would be the next step.

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