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Seek to reduce variation in customer processess

In order to affect positive changes in a customer’s experience, advocates have to be willing to use their facts to make the case and be willing to hold people and processes accountable.

I recently sat down with a client and got caught up on the progress they are making with taking action on customer information. This particular client has made a big commitment to taking action on the information—especially at the major account level.

The company is a market leader in their industry. They have enterprise-sized accounts located in all the major geographies of the world and have their account managers located near the accounts major operations and decision makers. It is definitely a high-touch, strategic relationship and experience they seek to create.

She talked about the high points and low points of her experience over the past year about how some people were showing success while others were struggling. I ask her why she thought such a disparity existed between the account managers. She thought for a moment, looked at me and said, “It’s whether they decide to follow the process, or not.”

This simple story should be music to the ears of any customer advocate and should give us the confidence to document and show this information to senior management. Dr. Deming taught us to love variation in the metrics and hate it in the processes. This is exactly how we can use the voice of the customer to drive change in our organizations. We factually document variation in the business results or customer-perceived outcomes, track that back to the people, processes and tools that created the variance, analyze it for the best and worst practices and then affect the changes that would result in less variance.

I know you may be saying to yourself, “Yes, I know I’ve had that experience, but the account managers don’t report to me”. This may be true but I guarantee that somebody in your organization would want to know this–especially your CEO.  You may have to ruffle some feathers to get it to the right person, but do it anyway. 

This is the way we make positive change happen for our customers. And, in the process of doing that, we also make our company stronger.  

This post was originally published in Customer Connection January 27, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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