Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Developing a Customer Experience Strategy - The HealthScan Company Case Study

We’ll use this fictitious case study to create our CX strategy.  The development of our plan will build on the various CX tools and concepts presented throughout the preceding posts on this blog.  Our strategy will be designed in the context of the following brief case study about a mid-size manufacturing company.  While the setting of the case is business-to-business, the approach used in designing the strategy can also be applied in a business-to-consumer context.  

HealthScan is a mid-size manufacturer of various medical devices used in surgical procedures by doctors around the world.  The company’s direct (revenue generating) customers include hospitals and large medical practices who purchase the various diagnostic and surgical instruments used to treat patients.  Particularly in the case of hospitals, there are numerous “indirect” customers who have varying degrees of influence over the purchase decision.  These include financial managers and accountants, as well as paramedical staff including nurses and therapists.  From a customer experience standpoint, the needs and viewpoints of all of these stakeholders need to be taken into account during by HealthScan’s sales and service staff.

 With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, HealthScan has over 300 employees, mostly engineers and technicians, in Switzerland, and maintains regional sales offices in Chicago to serve its North American customers, while its Asia-Pacific base is in Melbourne, Australia.  
Established in 1935, the company is privately owned, with a controlling interest held by the founding family.  Forty percent of the private shares are owned by the employees, who also each receive a vote on selected organizational matters.  While HealthScan has been consistently profitable since inception, the company’s operating margin has declined by two-percent in each of the last three years, and market share for three key product lines has eroded by over five-percent during the same time period.  

While a couple of competitors have introduced new products at lower price points to compete directly with HealthScan’s offerings, senior management does not think this is the primary reason for the fall off in performance.  Anecdotal input from global account managers indicate that customers are increasingly unhappy with both the process involved in purchasing the company’s products as well as with the quality and availability of service for devices needing repair.  HealthScan has always been an extremely product focused on company, and consequently, the formal collection and analysis of customer feedback has never been established.  Indeed, over the last two-years, four major clients have elected not to re-purchase replacement devices from the company, electing to go with competitor products instead…in the absence of a formal customer feedback system, this came as a complete surprise to HealthScan management.

In addition to these customer issues, HealthScan management was also dealing with some staffing concerns.  Over the preceding 18-months, a couple of senior engineering managers had left the firm and convinced a few of their staff to follow them to competitors.  Employee loyalty is a cornerstone of Swiss businesses, so such turnover is unheard of in most established companies.  Given its good reputation, management was surprised when it subsequently experienced a fair amount  of difficulty in attracting new staff for these roles.


Concluding that changes needed to be made in key facets of HealthScan’s operations, the executive team implemented a series of strategic choices.  One of these involved a renewed focus on customers, and to enable this, the company established a new customer experience management role and began recruiting suitable candidates.  With this brief case as background, the next series of posts will focus on the development and execution of a customer experience strategy for HealthScan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Customer Experience Strategy - Audit: Part 2

Picking up from the previous post, let’s assess how the company fares in the nuts-and-bolts delivery of the customer experience.  The majority of customer touchpoints are delivered through some type of process.  To get a handle on the organization’s process orientation, consider the following audit items…

4) Current Customer Processes 
  • Are customer-facing processes documented?  If so, is the process reflected from an internal point-of-view, or from the customer’s perspective…the latter is typically represented using a journey map. (LINK to post)
  • Continuing with the process documentation, what’s the level of detail?  If journey maps are used, are they fact-based and include customer feedback such as survey scores or comments?  Does the documentation capture the end-to-end “ecosystem” that includes both the customer perspective  and the accompanying internal steps, policies, data, and vendors that collaborate to support the journey?
  • Who “owns” the customer-facing processes?  Are changes to a process dictated by management, or do front-line staff have discretion in making modifications?
  • In terms of ongoing process management, how much of an influence does customer feedback have in dictating ongoing changes (i.e. are process changes driven primarily by internal operational needs, or do changes stem from the identification of trends in ongoing customer feedback)?  
  • Overall, how would you gauge the organization’s commitment to the Continuous Improvement?  Are there, for example, recurring reviews of customer feedback, and is this customer information applied to gauging the effectiveness of the process?  And, for bonus points, are processes developed using a Lean approach…that is, is there a constant focus on executing the experience as efficiently as possible with a minimum of non-value add (the Lean term for this is “waste”) steps for both customer and internal staff?  Future posts will focus more on integrating Lean methods and customer experience.


The great management sage, Peter Drucker, is reported to have said, “…culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The importance and prominence of an organization’s culture is magnified in a customer experience context.  That’s because, at its essence, customer experience is about ongoing change and a commitment to continuous improvement.  Consequently, CX thrives in companies where management and staff are open to new ways of doing things and maintain an inquisitive mindset.  These five questions can be used to shed a light on the fit between organizational culture and the potential for CX success…

5) Organizational Culture
  • How open is management to receiving staff input and recommendations for improving the customer experience?
  • How often does management engage directly with customers (e.g. face-to-face discussions; taking calls in the customer service center)?  How frequently does management review results from customer surveys, social media comments, or any other form of customer feedback?
  • What was the most recent meaningful change in how the organization engages with customers and/or employees?  Was this change internally motivated, or did it come about because of a competitor move (i.e. did the company “want” to make the change, or was the change “forced” upon it)?
  • What key performance indicators does management regularly track?  Are customer-related metrics such as satisfaction or likelihood to recommend included in this tracking?
  • How much discretion do employees have in dealing with customer issues (i.e. within reason, can staff determine how best to respond to a customer’s concern or complaint)?

The suggestions provided in these most recent two posts should serve as a foundation for conducting an audit of the CX “basics” in your organization.  With the audit as a starting point, future posts will now focus on the development of a customer experience strategy.