Is Your Customer Experience Breaking Down? Four Steps Will Fix It


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Most companies will tell you that a great customer experience is essential to their business model. In fact, a recent survey conducted by MarketTools, Inc., as part of its Enterprise Feedback Management Marketplace Report, found that 75 percent of companies think that customer satisfaction is extremely important to their bottom line.

But while 64 percent of the businesses responding to the survey plan on a greater focus on customer satisfaction compared with last year, only 39 percent plan to invest more in customer satisfaction-related products and services in 2010. That’s a big discrepancy between what businesses say about customer experience, and what they actually do to ensure that the experience is a good one.

When a company doesn’t put enough time and energy into customer satisfaction, they run the risk of the customer experience breaking down—and that can negatively impact the entire organization.

The key to avoiding customer satisfaction issues is the ability to identify where, when, and exactly why a good customer experience turns bad. Customer feedback surveys are a great start, but many companies don’t have the right tools at their disposal to help them discover and resolve the problems at the root of complaints. An enterprise feedback management (EFM) solution with robust action management capabilities—using real-time feedback, automatic alerts to flag problems, and case management processes to act on issues—can help resolve customer problems rapidly and effectively, and support a company-wide culture dedicated to improving the customer experience.

The key to avoiding customer satisfaction issues is the ability to identify where, when, and exactly why a good customer experience turns bad.

United Stationers, a leading North American wholesale distributor of business products with net sales of $4.7 billion in 2009, is an example of a company that responds to feedback using action management to strengthen customer engagement and improve business processes. They implemented an EFM solution with MarketTools CustomerSat in 2007 to help them listen more effectively to the voice of the customer, respond quickly to issues, and ultimately improve the customer experience. By focusing on the four action items below, United Stationers improved overall customer satisfaction and positively impacted their bottom line.

1. Analyze and Manage Each Issue

By using an action management process to open a case for each customer issue as it arises, companies can better identify specific problems and pinpoint recurring concerns. You can more effectively respond to the customer by assigning a case manager (or case management team) to work on resolution, establishing a workflow, and tracking the issue to a close. Analysis of cases allows companies to see how often specific types of problems occur, identify patterns, and uncover the root causes of customer issues.

United Stationers’ action management process kicks into gear when a customer’s scores on survey questions to gauge satisfaction and loyalty on a 10-point scale fall to “3” or below. These scores generate an alert that automatically notifies case managers on a resolution team that an issue is evolving. The case managers contact the customer immediately, and begin working to resolve the problem. Supervisors follow through with analysis of the case details and performance evaluation.

2. Accelerate Response Times

How well and how fast a company responds to a customer’s feedback has a big impact on customer loyalty. Using business rules to automatically open cases and generate alerts allows you to follow up on customer problems in real time. If issues aren’t resolved in a set period of time, automatic escalation ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. Since implementing an action management approach to respond to issues, United Stationers’ rapid response times outpace the industry average in the wholesale business—and they have seen a subsequent increase in customer loyalty.

3. See Where Your Efforts Have the Most Impact

The true test of the action management process is in how it improves the customer experience—which can be seen by examining cases in relation to satisfaction and loyalty scores. United Stationers implements monthly and quarterly reports that allow the company to look for both positive and negative trends in customer satisfaction and loyalty as they relate to the volume of cases and resolution time. These overall trends help the company understand where to accelerate and decelerate efforts, validate the changes they’ve made to business processes in response to customer feedback, and target specific areas of the business that need more attention than others.

4. Identify Great Performance to Build a Customer-Centric Culture

Action management reports also help companies identify which teams are doing an outstanding job of customer service and deserve recognition, and which are struggling to perform and need assistance to improve. United Stationers has a “Kudos Alert,” which sets off an alert to case managers when a customer gives a 10 for all responses in a feedback survey. By acknowledging associates for their excellence in customer care, United Stationers is instilling a focus on great customer experience throughout the company.

These four action management steps, as part of an enterprise feedback management solution, can go a long way in improving overall customer experience—which in turn will have a positive impact on the bottom line. In the two years since United Stationers has implemented an EFM solution, their loyalty scores have risen 200 base points in key revenue areas. They have also benefited from the tools that action management gives them to advance quality improvements, boost productivity, and build new revenue opportunities.


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