Should the Lean Champion be the Chief Customer Officer?


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I asked John Goodman, next week’s Business 901 Podcast guest, author of the fantastic book  Strategic Customer Service, fellow presenter at ASQ Service Quality Conference in Las Vegas and last but not least Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting (, the question:

“Your presentation ASQ is titled, “Beyond the Buzz Words”. Can you summarize what you mean by that”? His answer led us into a different path and one that I thought readers would find interesting, Should the Lean Champion, or Quality Director be the Chief Customer Officer?

Strategic Customer ServiceJohn: What we find is there are a lot of buzz words Big Data, Net Promoter Score, Chief Customer Officer or Voice of Customer. A lot of those are used as simplistic code words when in fact the entire process is much, much more complicated than that. For instance, in most organizations Voice of Customer is viewed as being surveys and maybe look at some complaints. We think that’s a simplistic approach. Both of those are looking in a rear view mirror. They’re lagging indicators. We find in most organizations that Big Data is a big opportunity. In most cases, organizations have all kinds of data saying what they are about to do to the customer.

My favorite example is at Federal Express, they know 10 hours before you do that packages are not going to arrive because it missed a flight in Memphis. They get the frantic phone call and 3 days later they do the satisfaction survey. Our contention is that, in most cases, you know what you’re about to do to a customer before the customer knows. That should be viewed as part of the Voice of Customer. I think that’s a huge opportunity for quality. Quality tends to in many cases be cleaning up messes when if quality went back into the organization and not only looked at the data to say how are we about to do something to the customer but also to look at how our customer expectations are being met by sales and marketing. We have seen some of the biggest impacts of Lean Six Sigma Teams when they’ve actually visited the sales and marketing function within the organization and said, “Why are we telling the customer this? Why aren’t we warning the customer about that?” We’ve seen some rather dramatic impacts when proactive anticipatory communication is done.

Joe: You mentioned something to me and which I think you alluded to there is that there is big disconnect between quality and marketing, or quality and sales and even quality and finance. I hate to group all of them together but are there similarities and disconnects?

John: Absolutely, I think that the problem is quality tends to be very tactical and after the fact. Everyone views qualities as one that says no you really can’t do that or you didn’t do that well enough. There always the bearers of bad news. I actually had an article in Quality Progress in 2012 entitled “Take the Wheel“, where I’m suggesting that quality if they really sold their services the right way to marketing and finance and operations would be able to take the role of Chief Customer Officer because the requirement to become Chief Customer Officer is you first have to understand the customer experience and that includes not just taking surveys and complaint data but all the internal quality data and the kind of operations data I described.

Cobbling it together into a picture of the end-to-end customer experience. In many cases quality is more comfortable doing that than say market research or customer service or anyone else. We find that quality in many cases is well positioned to take over the customer experience. But they’re afraid to do it because it’s heavy lifting plus they’re going to be getting into everybody else’s sandbox. Quality has always been renascent to do that. I think there is a big opportunity for quality to move upstream into design which they have done to a degree but also into sales and marketing.

Joe: Readers of my blog and listeners of the podcast know that you’re singing my tune there. You’re one of the few that I’ve heard connect the Chief Customer Officer to Quality. I have to commend you for that.

John: Ran into this probably six years ago at Cisco Systems where the VP of Quality was basically the de facto Chief Customer Officer. He was looking end to end including the marketing side.

John Goodman is Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting (CCMC). CCMC’s customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys and analytics are used by leading Fortune 500 companies from every industry to produce a better ROI from their investments in customer experience. John has managed more than 1,000 separate customer service studies, including the White House sponsored evaluation of complaint handling practices in government and business and studies of word of mouth and the bottom-line impact of consumer education sponsored by Coca-Cola USA. The American Management Association published his book, “Strategic Customer Service“, in May, 2009.

John will be presenting at the ASQ 2013 Service Conference. He holds a pre-conference workshop on Sunday, October 6th WKSP01: Using the Voice of Multiple Customers (VoC) to Drive Quality: Be Easy to Do Business and Monday the Session M04: Beyond the Buzzwords: Using Data to Enhance Loyalty and Service ROI.

P.S. On Tuesday afternoon, I have the honor to be presenting at the same conference, Session T06: Lean Service Design.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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