What’s very cool and I believe unique in the CX industry is that the winners are determined only by customer satisfaction scores, which are either collected or audited by Omega. And the bar is high — companies must achieve at least a 4.0 out of a 5.0 scale over the 12-month calendar period.
According to Omega founder John Maraganis:
In 2015, more than 275 projects, many international in scope, were audited from 71 companies based in the U.S. and abroad. The majority of companies are repeat recipients, which shows that, despite the tough economy, implementing a CEM strategy is a reliable, proven way to achieve business success.
I share this preamble to make the point that the award winners I’m going to discuss have really earned their accolades through performance recognized by their customers. And as all CXers know, perception is reality.
Omega was kind enough to arrange for me to interview three of their award recipients about what enabled them to succeed. Here’s what I learned.
Citrix: Empower Technical Support Reps to Focus on Customer Success
A first-time winner, Citrix was recognized in the technical support category. Citrix sells a wide variety of products and services for Workspace-as-a-Service, application delivery, virtualization, mobility, network delivery and file sharing.
According to Vijay Ramchandran (Director, WW Services Customer Experience), Citrix has 900 people involved in contact centers around the word, so that’s a lot of “moving parts” to manage. Vijay says they focus on helping their customers succeed in their usage of Citrix solutions, which tend to be complex. To do that, Citrix deploys a variety of support, training, trouble shooting, and engineering resources.
Contract renewal is a key business outcome metric, because successful customers become repeat customers. Renewal rates that used to run in the 70s are now in the high 80s, says Vijay.
How did they do it? Vijay says it’s important to:
- Match customers with the right tech support rep. Based on contract size and other factors, customers are routed to reps with the right skills and experience.
- Use surveys as an opportunity to engage and improve. Customers who submit rating of 8 or below are contacted to learn: “What we could have done better?”
- Collaborate with customers to grow the knowledge base. Popular items in the Citrix online community are incorporated into the KB.
Key leadership practice: empower your people. At Citrix, Vijays says they hire smart people who like to work on complex problems. They invest a lot (more than the average company) in training and give engineers latitude to get the job done independently.
NetScout: Connect the Dots from Customer Engagement to Business Success
A six-time winner, NetScout creates, sells, and supports complex solutions for “network performance monitoring.” NetScout won in three categories: sales, technical support, and training.
I spoke with Tracy Steele (VP, Global Technical Support Services) who has responsibility for 175 people in customer service, professional services, education, and knowledge management. He says that since NetScout sells a “tool box” that can be used in a wide variety of different ways, it’s critical to engage with customers: “We like it when they call us.”
To that end, one of their goals is to have at least 90% of customers call NetScout on a quarterly basis. If they don’t, NetScout reaches out via emails, webinars, etc.
Tracy’s advice: “Understand what truly drives your business.” He emphasized that “break fix” doesn’t make the stock price grow because reacting to problems is a basic customer expectation. Companies need to shift from reactive to proactive service and improve engagement to increase loyalty… which ultimately will contribute to revenue growth.
In other words, service leaders need to think bigger and not get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that they lose sight of the bigger picture — that customer success leads to business success.
Haemonetics: When Customers Call, Be Prepared to Impress
Haemonetics, an industry leader in blood management products and services, is one of only two companies that has won every year for the 16 years the Omega awards program has been conducted. Wow! In 2016 the company was recognized in field service, tech support, customer service, and training.
Linda Federico (Manager, Customer Service) spoke with me about the customer service operation. In contrast to Citrix and NetScout, calls are more routine — mainly about handling orders from hospitals and donor centers. (Other departments handle tech support and complaints.)
Customer satisfaction scores have been increased by paying attention to, and acting upon, customer feedback. Very low or high scores trigger outreach from the company to learn more. Survey comments are mined for ideas, too. For example, customers ordering electronically also wanted e-notifications about order status, delivery, etc.
This is a great example of why “closing the loop on customer feedback” is a key-driver for customer-centric business leaders. Don’t just use surveys to keep score — use customer input to learn and act!
Like the other award winners interviewed, Linda emphasized the importance of training and employee development. They have invested in a training/certification program offered by Omega, and found that even experienced reps found it valuable. The program covered time management, dealing with difficult customer situations, building loyalty, etc.
Linda’s advice is to “never lose sight of good old fashioned customer service.” Meaning that even with the trend toward digital interactions, there will still be reasons for customers to call. When they do, be prepared to leave a good impression.
Key Takeaways for Service Leaders
I’d like to close by emphasizing three key learning points:
1. Work backwards from customer success. If don’t know how your customers define success, you can’t very well design customer service practices that will build loyalty.
2. Invest in your people. Hire employees with the right talent, then empower them to do their jobs and engage effectively with customers. You’ll never be able to automate everything.
3. Use metrics to align service activities with business outcomes. Leaders know how operational metrics link to the business results that make customer service an investment, not just a cost of doing business.
Thanks to Vijay, Tracy, and Linda for taking time to share their insights with me, so I can share them with you. And to Omega for running a great awards program and conference for 16 years.