Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Problem Solving Process - Step 1: Identification

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results -  Albert Einstein

I doubt Professor Einstein had customer experience in mind when he expressed his now well worn quote, but I think it applies just the same.  As mentioned several times in preceding posts, a solid customer feedback system, together with a closed-loop response process, is as essential to your CX activities as establishing a strong aerobic base is for most competitive athletes — in both cases, these are foundational activities.  

The focal point of an effective problem solving process is to go beyond a one-and-done problem fix, and continue probing the issue in order to identify the root cause of the problem, most likely followed by a redesign of a customer interaction in order to prevent the problem from recurring (i.e. stopping the insanity).  In this first in a series of Problem Solving posts, let’s focus on the identification of areas where the company is not delivering the optimal customer experience.

Identify the Problem - Using the Results From Your Transactional Surveys

Over the course of several previous posts, we completed the heavy lifting associated with developing your organization’s transaction surveys.  You’ll recall that a key output of the survey is a trend report.  This simple report identifies the frequency of instances where clients indicate dissatisfaction with a particular aspect of their interaction with your company…typically this dissatisfaction is indicated as a score of 3 or less on a 5 point scale.  In the sample report below from our Transaction Survey, we have a total sample of 500 respondents over the course of 3 months.  You can readily see the three “pain areas” beginning with the 375 customers who scored the Clarity of Instructions as 3 or less.  These under-performing areas are the starting points for the organization’s problem resolution. 

To further support our identification of under-performing customer experiences, we can also turn to the Satisfaction vs Importance report that also is a component of the Survey System that we developed. Continuing to look at Clarity of Instructions, the report indicates that customers rate this as a very important aspect of their experience.

It’s important to note that trends can be identified from a variety of sources in addition to the reporting from your company’s transaction surveys.  If your organization has a social media presence, for example, a similar tracking exercise can be undertaken where you track the frequency of negative mentions for a particular aspect of your operations.  This can be done manually, but if the company has a significant social media exposure, it may be worthwhile to invest in a formal tracking service.  Another potentially rich source of customer feedback is, or course, your company’s call center.  Here again, depending on the volume of activity, it may be useful to purchase a tracking application that allows for the classification and tabulation of customer issues.  The point here is that as your comfort level with issue identification and problem solving increases, you should be adding to your sources of customer information and tracking accordingly.

As the CX Manager, I suggest that you, and perhaps a data or statistical analyst, own the Identification step.  While there may be multiple areas where the company’s customer experience is not performing well, only you likely know what the priorities are in the context of the company’s strategic objectives.  In other words, you’ll likely first want to address those CX areas that have a direct line into supporting one of the organization’s important strategic choices.  Beginning with the next post and Step 2 in the Problem Solving Process, you’ll want to form a Problem Solving Team with a good cross-functional representation of staff from across the company. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Customer Feedback System - Win / Loss Survey

The second of the two recommended transaction surveys that serve as the foundation for your company’s customer experience initiative is commonly referred to as Win / Loss.  As the name implies, this survey focuses on collecting feedback from customers who have either purchased your product or service, or considered purchasing from you, but ultimately decided to go with a competitor.  A good overview of the Win/Loss survey is presented in Analysis Without Paralysis,  by Babette Bensoussan and Craig Fleisher.  What follows is my take on the key points from the book.

What is a Win/Loss Survey?

This method of capturing customer and prospect feedback identifies your customers’ perceptions, and how you compare to your competitors.  Used optimally, it provides an early warning about why your customer or prospect is not buying from you, but has turned to a competitor instead.  As such, think of the Win/Loss survey as a tool that can be used at the initial purchase occasion, and at the “back end” where, in a subscription model, a customer’s service term expires and there’s an opportunity to either renew or defect to another brand.  As Bensoussan and Fleisher state…

“Win/Loss analysis is a unique tool that brings together all the elements of a strategy - customer information, competitors, and your own organization - within the context of the most critical element for a business - the buying decision.” 

What Are the Benefits of a Win/Loss Survey?

Executing a Win/Loss provides your organization with, among other benefits, customer requirements for what constitutes an appealing product or service, and an evaluation of your organization’s sales process.  Wins will confirm your company’s strengths, and losses will reveal weaknesses, threats and opportunities for improvement.

How Does Our Company Execute a Win / Loss Survey?

To derive the most benefit from a Win/Loss, it’s important that the survey is executed consistently over a defined time period (e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly)  This is largely a function of your company’s volume of sales transactions and your research budget.  A couple of questions to guide your thinking on this…

  • How many sales transactions does your company execute in a week or over the course of a month?  Assuming a 10 percent response rate to your questionnaire, and a monthly deployment frequency for your survey, you would likely want to send at least 200 surveys each month.  Over a 6-month period, you’ll likely have over 100 responses, which is a robust sample on which to have sufficient confidence to make any changes to your sale process.
  • Should you limit the survey to specific customer segments?  This approach may be useful in cases where, for example, your company sells a variety of products, and each of these products appeal to distinct customer types.  In such cases, it may be worthwhile to understand why segment A readily purchases product X, but segment B is slow to adopt the same product.

What are the Components of a Win / Loss Questionnaire?

An effective Win / Loss Survey covers the following areas and associated questions.  Generally, a 5-point response scale can be used for most questions.

Sales Attributes 
  • How knowledgable was the sales associate about the product or service?
  • How was the sales associate’s professionalism throughout the sales transaction?
  • Did the sales associate display a good understanding of your purchase needs?  From this, were    appropriate recommendations made?  This question could be a rating or a qualitative response.
  • How pleasant was the experience in dealing with this associate throughout the purchase        process?
  • How easy for you was it to complete this purchase?

2.    Company or Brand Reputation

  • How much influence does the brand / company have on the purchase decision?
  • How would you describe this brand / company?  For this question, provide a text box to capture the respondent’s feedback.

3.    Product or Service

  • How easy was it to set-up and begin using your product?
  • Rate the usefulness of the following: instructional materials, customer support offered online (e.g. frequently asked questions), telephone support from the customer contact center).

The content and extent of your Win / Loss questionnaire will likely be dependent on the complexity of your company’s purchase process.  Generally, products and services that are relatively high priced (e.g. automobile) or of particular value to a customer  (e.g. certain financial services) may require a more involved questionnaire to better understand the various tangible and intangible customer purchase considerations.

Together, the Transaction and Win / Loss surveys we’ve covered over the last several posts are good starting points for building your organization’s customer experience activities.  The customer feedback from these surveys will kick-start the problem-solving process (which we touched on in a previous post, and will discuss in detail in the next), and should establish a couple of “quick wins” in terms of helping you to convey the importance and credibility of CX within your organization.