Category Archives: Voice of the Customer

4 ways Electronic Arts navigated major Tectonic Shifts impacting their Customers


Many industries today are experiencing market and technology shifts in their marketplaces that are somewhat like the clashing of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Industries including publishing and printing, education, telecommunications, media, advertising, health and retail are all facing massive change. How does an organization navigate a techtonic shift?

Electronic Arts Labels (EA), the world’s leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment  faced a techtonic shift in 2007 with the rapid change occurring from retail packaged goods products to new digital delivery platforms. The new CEO at that time, John Riccitello, presented his vision as a burning platform – you are in the middle of the ocean on an oil platform that is on fire. You either hold on and ride it down or you jump off and face the unknowns of a swirling ocean.

In his article titled “Getting into your customers’ heads”, Krish Krishnakanthan finds out what EA had to do to navigate this techtonic shift. To transform from a retail products business to a digital supplier using new platforms such as social networks, mobile phones and tablets.

The key success factors:

1)   Measuring and tracking customer usage of games, external gaming-publication reviews (critical review success is linked with sales performance). For that part of the business with direct sales to consumers, they use technology to measure customer interactions and the lifetime value of each customer.

2)   Changes in the competitive landscape with low entry barriers and the emergence of small game developers has required  EA to restructure its business to give decentralized profit and loss control to product line/brand managers to enable them to compete with specific identified competitors.

3)   Enhanced communication and collaboration between development teams and marketing teams to co-ordinate go-to-market strategies.

4)   Scanning the external environment through consumer blogs and social media to identify new shifts in consumer opinion, competitive plays, new technology impacts on customers and economic forces affecting the market. This has required a culture change by EA. One which centers their whole business around the customer. An adaptive, future focused customer culture has enabled EA to cross the chasm created by the techtonic shift they faced.

Staying on the “oil platform’ would have meant riding the business to the bottom – out of business. Is your industry facing a techtonic shift? If so, check where you stand on “customer culture”. Is it strong enough to be adaptive and resilient to the storm ahead?

5 Reasons why your customers don’t believe you?

customers don't believe you You’d be better off not saying it if you can’t deliver it!

Customer focus is a term both overused and underdone. It sounds good in a mission or vision statement but many leaders don’t really know how to achieve a customer focused culture nor are they doing anything specific about improving it in a sustainable way. Many other leaders may know how to do it, but feel it may not be worth the effort and time required to achieve it.

There are many reasons the leadership of companies talk about it. They believe their customers and employees want to hear the “customer first” story. It sends the right message. Most leaders believe, at some level, focus on the customer is an important part of running a successful business. They understand that without customers there is no business.

So why do leaders of companies talk the talk but do not walk (or run) the walk?

The reality of being truly customer focused – that is, having a customer culture – is somewhat different. It is challenging, particularly when companies have developed habits and structures that work against it.

Internal focus on operations, processes and working in silos create habits that can be hard to change. As companies grow they become more complex, communication becomes difficult and frequently confusing, processes are set-up to maintain quality and improve efficiency and eventually get in the way of doing the right thing for customers. Silos develop and internal politics result in people acting in their own best interests above the customer and the business. These conditions lead to at least 5 reasons why customers don’t believe you.

1. Misdirected compensation

Sometimes people are compensated in ways that work against the best interests of customers. There is no better example of this than the mortgage crisis in the US where mortgage salespeople were incented to sell mortgages to people that could not afford them. This leads to customers not having their real needs met.

2. Short-term focused behavior

Another reason for the lack of customer culture is the short-term behavior driven by an investor focus and reporting of quarterly results. This leads to a focus on profit and revenue to the detriment of customers. An underlying customer culture providing a sustainable business focus will lead to more integrated thinking and reporting based on medium term performance trends.

3. Focus on technical skills

Many of today’s professionals are specialists with highly developed technical skills in their areas of expertise. This leads to a narrow focus without a broader understanding of the business environment and how they affect the value received by customers. Some professions even view customers as inhibitors to getting their jobs done – an annoyance to minimize. For example the university academic that laments the fact that they have to teach students rather than focus 100% on research or the surgeon that dislikes having to communicate in person with patients. Others focus on profit to the exclusion of customer interests. When this attitude takes hold in organizations it becomes a significant roadblock to a customer culture regardless of what the mission states.

4. Operating in silos

Functional silos where there is lack of cross-function collaboration and unclear customer “ownership” creates problems for customers. We have all experienced being sent from one department to another by customer service representatives who are not empowered to take ownership of our problem. This leads to customer frustration and then your customer promise lacks credibility.

5. Lack of strategic alignment

When staff do not understand or care about the company’s strategy and how what they do contributes to delivering value to customers. This leads to the customer receiving mixed service and conflicting messages.

Why should your customers believe you?

If you want to regain customer trust in your organization check out our MarketCulture Academy.

How to be insanely service centric – Lessons from Zappos

Customer Culture Car from Zappos

Zappos is renowned globally as a legend in customer service, partially for the e-retailer’s unique approach to customer interaction management. Zappos invests in the call center not as a cost, but as a marketing opportunity

Recently, Software Advice  Analyst Ashley Furness sat down with the company’s Customer Loyalty Operations Manager Derek Carder. He said the company’s whole strategy is to create loyalty through incentivizing ‘wow’ moments and emotional connections. Here are the four KPIs they use to monitor, track and improve performance:

  • Measure Total Call Time, Not Time Per Call

Instead of valuing quick time to resolution or processing high call volumes, Zappos looks at the percentage of a time an agent spends on the phone. Agents are expected to spend at least 80% of their time in customer-facing communications. This measure – called personal service level – is a way to empower the team to utilize their time how they see best promotes customer loyalty.

Reps who achieve this target get receive rewards, while those who fall below the 80 percent line are coached.

  • Quantify and Reward Wow Moments

Zappos measures calls against a 100-point scale called the “Happiness Experience Form.” This is based on answers to the following questions:

  1. Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
  2. Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
  3. Did they address unstated needs?
  4. Did they provide a “wow experience?”

Agents are expected to achieve a 50-point average or higher. Again, agents earn incentives for meeting their goals, while under performers are required to take extra training.

  • Mine for Idle Chats

Zappos monitors “abandonment time,” or periods when an agent has a session open even though the customer already disconnected from the chat.  Carder said sometimes agents do this purposely to avoid responding.

This strategy of looking for idle chats zeroes in on the cause of unproductivity. When agents aren’t productive, customers wait longer. And the longer they wait, the more apt they are to abandon the session.

  • Reward Perfect Attendance and Punctuality

Zappos uses a program called Panda to combat absenteeism. Employees receive a point for every day they miss work or come in late. Staff with zero points in a given period receive a varying number of paid hours off. These hours can be accrued and stacked for an entire paid day off, Carder explains.

The primary take away is that Zappos created metrics that emphasize creating a relationship with the customer rather than rushing them through the call. At the same time, these KPIs still successfully improve performance and make employees feel appreciated and rewarded.

This is what call center metrics look like when they are designed to maximize value for customers, rather than minimize costs for the company…..

Thanks to Ashley Furness for providing great inputs for the content of this post, for more on this story visit her here

Customer Metrics: Measure what matters most to customers

Key Customer Metrics

As business leaders we tend to pay a lot of attention to the metrics important to the business, that is, revenue, cash flow, profitability, growth and so on… but the real drivers of these business outcomes are customers.

So the obvious question becomes what customer metrics should I be tracking to make sure my business metrics continue to head in the right direction?

Well there are a number of key customer metrics that must be considered for every business:

1. Customer Satisfaction

As a first step it is important to track customer satisfaction, this will provide some inputs as to how well the business is performing on delivering what it promises. But remember customers have already paid for satisfaction, they expect to get what they paid for. So high levels of dissatisfaction are an obvious and immediate cause for concern.

Satisfaction is not enough, even highly satisfied customers can and do switch to alternatives so it is important to also look at Loyalty and Advocacy. That brings me to the next question (Fred Reinhold calls the “Ultimate Question“) How likely are you to recommend us? Loyal customers not only bring you repeat business, they also expand your customer base through positive word-of-mouth.

2.Net Promoter Score

The net promoter score is a simple tool designed to identify 3 types of customers, promoters (advocates with strong positive word of mouth),  detractors (negative word of mouth) and those in the middle. The goal is to drive up the number of promoters as a way of driving business growth.

Many of the most customer-focused businesses in the world use NPS, see below a list of the current top 10 Netpromoter scores in the US:

USAA – Banking = 87%
Trader Joe’s = 82%
Wegman’s = 78%
USAA – Homeowners Insurance = 78%
Costco = 77%
USAA – Auto Insurance = 73%
Apple = 72%
Publix = 72% = 70%
Kohl’s = 70%

Source: Satmatrix

3. Customer Value Analysis

This is a more advanced metric specifically looking at the value a customer places on what you offer. Value consists of an equation that includes CUSTOMER PERCEPTIONS  of price,  service and product quality. Customer value analysis looks directly at how customers view your business vs. your competition and provides you with valuable information on what you might need to adjust in terms of both product and service quality, as well as price, to increase market share and revenue.

4. Life Time Value of Customers

I talk about this in some more detail in these two posts:

Part 1: Understanding Lifetime Value of Customers

Part 2: Calculating Lifetime Value of Customers – a simple example

Something not covered however was some of the inputs to Customer Lifetime Value which in themselves are useful metrics:

Customer Acquisition metrics include customer awareness levels, the information sources customer use to make purchase decisions, and cost of acquiring a customer.

Churn (%)  measures how many customers are leaving, that is, customer attrition.  Churn is a commonly used metric related to customer retention. Specifically, this is about knowing how many customers are defecting and why.

Customer Complaints are usually an early warning signal that something is wrong. Most customers will not complain they will just take their business elsewhere. Complaints although often difficult to hear are a gift that can help course correct.

5. Your own Customer Culture

How customer obsessed is your organization? How would you know?

This is the question we received from a CEO of a Global 1000 company a number of years ago. It led us to the development of the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) to answer that very question.

This is an organization-wide metric design to measure the behavior of employees and the level of attention they pay to customers in their daily work.

It is a one of a kind tool that allows you to benchmark your company versus the best in the world, you can check it out here.

What Criteria should I use when deciding on Customer Metrics?

  1. The metric drives business results
  2. The metric correlates strongly with business results
  3. The metric is something you can influence
  4. The metric can be measured accurately
  5. The metric can be measured consistently
  6. The metric can be measured cost effectively
  7. All the stakeholders agree the metrics meet these criteria

Ultimately you want to choose the right metrics for your specific business, they should be tailored to the unique business drivers and business strategy.

Why implement customer metrics?

Tracking customer metrics is important for many reasons, but the most important reason is cultural. It gets everyone on the same page, aligns people across the different parts of the business, and leads to a customer-focused culture of success. You should celebrate wins when a key customer metric reaches a new and important milestone. Choosing the right metrics and celebrating progress against them are incredibly important to building a strong customer culture that can work together and grow rapidly.

What customer metrics are you using?

Maintaining momentum during a customer focused culture change initiative

“A constant trickle of water will wear away the stone that a burst of rain will leave unchanged.”

Maintaing Momentum in Customer Focused Change Initiatives

How do we maintain momentum?

We get asked this question a lot by clients. Undertaking a new customer focus initiative is an exciting and motivating experience. Most people enjoy the opportunity to improve, grow and do things more effectively. The initial kick-off is usually accompanied by a flurry of passion and enthusiasm at the prospect of improving customer interactions.

After the initial excitement action and momentum must follow. The alternative is lost credibility and increases in resistance to future improvement initiatives.

We have found a number of key ways to make this happen:

1. Keep the customer focused vision and goals out front.

Customer focused businesses are more successful and more enjoyable places to work. Take this vision of customer focus and keep it top of mind.  Keep it where you will see it every day, where it will always be front of mind.  Write it down, visualize it and gather photos that remind you of this vision.

2. Remind everyone of the customer focused vision.

Keep the customer focused vision out in front of the whole team, so that everyone knows where they are going, and every knows WHY they are going in that direction.  Continually reinforcing the vision for your team will be an important part of maintaining momentum.

3. Maintain Leadership Buy-in and Commitment

Its not enough for only the CEO to buy-in to a major customer focus initiative, leaders at all levels need to be on board. It is important for the initiative lead to spend time with all leaders to make sure the program provides value from each executive’s perpective.

4. Focus on progress

“We’re looking for progress, not perfection.”

Every step towards improving the organizations customer focus counts. The fact there are more discussions happening about customers and what the organization is doing for them is progress. The fact that teams are forming to improve customer insights, develop customer metrics and drive improvements in customer-focused behaviors is progress. Although these activities are clearly not outcomes they do demonstrate progress.

5. Celebrate quick wins and best practices

Identify stories and examples of employees doing things in a customer focused way and share these with the rest of the organization.

  • What new insights into customer behavior are being discovered?
  • How are decisions being taken to maximize customer satisfaction and retention?
  • How is the organization demonstrating how to make the tradeoffs between investing in customers for the long term and short-term profits?
  • What best practices do we already have in place and how can these be shared across the organization?

How do you keep everyone focused on the customer?

Unrequited love – Can we really expect customers to love our businesses?

Clearly there are some customers that really do love the companies they buy from, in fact Jeanne Bliss has a whole book full of them!

However, it is important to remember that what customers really love is how the product you provide meets their needs. What it does for them. Ultimately that’s really what customers care about.

Customers don’t care whether you are doing well, how hard it is to deliver your product, whether you are making money, whether you are number 1…. and why should they?

Yes they want to be treated with respect and they want to know you care about them and the business they are giving you but do they offer that in return?

Does it matter?

Come and join the conversation at the next SVAMA event. Click here to register

How Oracle translates customer insight into revenue

Jeremy Whyte, director of customer feedback and reporting at Oracle, recently wrote about details of Oracle’s extensive “Voice of the Customer” research program.

“Oracle’s 300,000 customers provide a voice into how we deliver our products and services. Through collaboration with customer care and services teams across all lines of businesses, Oracle identifies customer needs and uncovers the root causes of customer issues across geographies and industries.”

At the core of Oracle’s approach is a closed loop feedback system that allows them to capture the data, prioritize, action and communicate it and then track the impact of improvement programs. It sounds simple however, most companies stop after the capture phase.

Making the data actionable

Oracle publishes the feedback via role-based dashboards to tens of thousands of employees. All of this drives a closed-loop process that results in constantly improving operational efficiency.

Connecting satisfaction and revenue

We know through our research on companies that there is a direct link between this behavior in organizations and superior performance and Oracle’s results bare this out.

This fundamental market-driven behavior is how Oracle has fueled its consistent increases in customer satisfaction year after year. This growth in overall satisfaction across Oracle’s expanding customer base has resulted in staggering top line growth from less than $14 billion in 2005 to more than $27 billion in 2010.

Oracle has grown aggressively via acquisition, with more than 50 acquisitions since 2005. Yet its culture and process is so strong these companies are absorbed without losing sight of its customer focus. In fact in a related article on the topic, Vocici’s  founder Jeffrey Henning made the point that customer satisfaction is higher for the customers of acquired companies post-acquisition than it was pre-acquisition.

What is your customer insight strategy? Do you close the loop on customer feedback?