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Keys to Achieving Customer Excellence
Four techniques that can generate award-winning customer satisfaction results
Posted Apr 29, 2011
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As “customer satisfaction” has emerged as a key performance indicator for businesses of all sizes, more and more companies are establishingvoice of the customer (VOC) programs to capture customer feedback. Ideally, this input provides actionable data to improve the customer experience and move the needle on satisfaction scores.

Establishing your own customer feedback program is the first step towards taking advantage of this critical source of business intelligence. But the way to achieve true customer excellence is to follow the example of those leaders who have established award-winning customer satisfaction programs. Virtually all of them have four common elements that guide them toward success.

First of all, successful VOC programs employ enterprise feedback management (EFM) software and processes to capture, analyze, and respond to feedback company-wide. An EFM solution gathers customer input (most often in the form of targeted and timely surveys, but also through social media, voice recordings, call center notes, and more), analyzes the data, and efficiently distributes actionable information for response. The ability to share feedback data about satisfaction–or dissatisfaction–in real-time with the personnel who are able to resolve issues is an important factor in improving satisfaction levels.

The second critical element for creating a successful Voice of the Customer program is executive sponsorship. Top management must buy in to the program if you expect your employees to participate at all levels and incorporate customer feedback into their daily work processes.

One company that has demonstrated exceptional top-level support for their VOC program is Wind River Systems, a subsidiary of Intel that is a world leader in embedded and mobile software–and a 1to1 Media 1to1 Customer Champion as well as a three-time winner of the MarketTools Achievement in Customer Excellence award. Wind River uses customer feedback at the executive level as a strategic, fact-based decision tool to drive significant changes to the customer experience. The company has instituted more than 100 business-process improvements based on insights from customer feedback, and as a result, its customer satisfaction rate has skyrocketed to 94 percent.

Which leads us to the third element for sustained success for a VOC program: measurable results. After you’ve learned what truly matters to your customers, have you applied that knowledge to invest in the improvements that will increase their satisfaction levels? An EFM solution can help drive the changes that lead to real results. For example:

  • Significant increases in overall customer satisfaction scores after opening up feedback channels for an ongoing stream of customer input
  • Increased new-business opportunities, fueled by customer feedback and suggestions
  • Lower rates of customer defections with the ability to identify at-risk relationships before they deteriorate

Once those measurable results begin to emerge from your customer feedback program, you’ll be able to see how improved satisfaction leads to increased customer retention and profits.

The final element essential to excellence in a VOC program is a commitment to continually evolve. Your customer feedback data will reveal new directions that are likely to prove profitable and help you extend your reach into the marketplace. Your program results will guide you along a path to continual improvement by highlighting trends, opportunities, and pitfalls as they arise.

SimplexGrinnell stands out as an organization that is committed to the ongoing evolution of its customer feedback program. With 1 million customers, SimplexGrinnell is a leader in fire-safety and life-safety systems and services–also a three-time winner of the MarketTools ACE Award, and a winner of the Aberdeen Achievement Award for Excellence in listening to the voice of the customer. The company looks beyond customer survey scores to examine factors that impact and drive loyalty, along with ways that individuals within the organization can impact that loyalty.

SimplexGrinnell’s feedback metrics have advanced from basic survey scores to more sophisticated loyalty indices that include willingness to recommend the company to others.  Their learnings have helped them become more agile in addressing customer requirements (and even anticipate new customer needs before they arise) through improvements such as automated case management to resolve customer problems and proactive staff preparation to provide the right level of service when and where it’s needed.  As a result, the company’s primary satisfaction indicator has soared 210 percent since their feedback program’s inception.

As with any program, the success of your VOC initiative depends on the creativity and commitment that you apply to its use. But with a robust EFM solution, executive sponsorship, attention to the right metrics, and a dedication to ongoing evolution, you too can produce the kind of improvements in the customer experience that foster customer loyalty, boost profits, and win awards.


Jodi Koskella manages product marketing for the Enterprise Products Group at MarketTools, Inc. She has more than 15 years of B2B software marketing and consulting experience with a background in Web analytics, data warehousing, and ecommerce.

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