These days even product manufacturers are realizing that they need more of a service orientation if they are to succeed; more of a people focus. Lexmark, a provider of printing and imaging products, software and services with a worldwide staff of about 12,000, is making that shift.
In today’s podcast episode, Phil Wright, Lexmark’s Director of Global Customer Experience and Enterprise Excellence, discusses how they are approaching it and what some of the challenges have been.
People Focus Is A Change For Many B2B Companies
Wright, who came from the product side himself, recognizes that helping staff see things from the customer viewpoint instead of an internal process viewpoint can be a major challenge. One thing that really helps is exposing his colleagues at all levels to the voice of the customer (VOC) — the actual words their customers are using.
Even if you don’t yet have a formal VOC process, make sure that any customer surveys you do include an open-ended option for them to add comments, and read those carefully. Wright finds that when staff hear what customers are saying it makes it much easier for them to accept that they need to change the way things have always been done.
Other Customer Experience Improvement Takeaways
1. Customer Journey Mapping Is Crucial
A natural tendency, especially in traditional, product-focused companies, is to look at process improvements from an insider perspective. If we can just get more efficient, the customers will be happy and the company will save money. But if you only look at process improvement from the inside perspective, you may be more efficient but end up with customers even less happy than they currently are.
Once staff start mapping the actual customer journeys, they start to understand why change is so important. Wright found that many staff members had no idea how the whole process worked; they just knew about their part of it. Without understanding the entire customer journey, it is impossible to get all the processes right.
“Customer journey mapping opened a lot of eyes to how complex our business relationship is with a lot of our customers” – Phil Wright
2. If Used to Lean, Compare Customer Journey Mapping to Value Stream Mapping
If your organization is already using a process improvement methodology such as lean manufacturing, they may well be comfortable with the concepts of process or value stream mapping. If you point out that customer journey mapping is a similar concept, but from the customer’s perspective, it may help them understand the importance and be more comfortable participating.
3. You May Be Surprised By What Customers Say
Another great benefit of VOC programs and open-ended feedback: you may be in for a shock from what customers tell you! For example, we all “know” it is better to talk to people using simple terminology, and explaining things carefully so that customers who call in for help understand what you are telling them, right?
Wrong. It turned out that because their customers were typically other businesses, often the person at the other end of a help call was someone who already had a lot of technical knowledge. If you don’t recognize the difference in the callers, you can either confuse those with lower technical knowledge or frustrate those with higher knowledge. A true people focus includes thinking about what sort of people you need to focus on!
4. Start With Places Where You Can Have Big Wins
Often the biggest challenge in a new customer experience improvement program is simply knowing where to start. Many Frank Reactions guests suggest starting with a place where you can have a quick, easy win. Ideally, says Wright, look for a big win; something that will be so obvious and visible that it will make it obvious to your colleagues how valuable customer experience improvement is.
5. Focus on Handover Points
This is not a surprise to anyone familiar with value stream mapping: problems are most likely to occur at points where responsibility is handed from one person or department to another.
Look closely at those points to get some quick wins for your customer experience improvement programs.
“We have so many baton passes that there are so many opportunities to drop it and lose the race”
6. It’s Not All About Dollars and Tools
It is so tempting to keep buying and trying the latest and greatest tools. New ways to collect customer feedback, to share it within the organization, to analyze big data… The list is endless. But sometimes, says Wright, you “need to work on the action side, which is people and process, not necessarily dollars and tools.”
Does your organization struggle with people focus?
Please comment below.