Is your service organisation looking inside out or outside in?

Aug 04, 2014 • FeaturesManagementNick FrankNoventumOutside in

Field Service News regular Nick Frank returns to his series looking at various case studies from companies he has worked with both past and presesnt to help us better understand best practice in service. This time out Nick takes a closer look at customer satisfaction...

Do Satisfaction surveys or Net Promoter systems really tell you how your customer’s experience your company? When you are satisfied with your car, does it mean you will buy the same brand the next time round?  The reality is that tools such as these are better than no tools at all! They do bring a focus on the customer by employees. . But to really get insights in how customers currently experience your brand in terms of needs, expectation and value perception,  requires  more intimate forms of communication and most importantly a change in MIND-SET.

Industry leading companies tend to exhibit an OUTSIDE-IN approach. They actively search out their customer’s thoughts and act on them. They use more sophisticated methods to capture deeper customer insights. They are mature enough to take on-board comments, which might be negative or not fit their agenda, because listening and action are in their DNA.

The on-stage/back-stage model: 

Typically these companies recognise that customer experience is not just an outcome, but can be designed into the service delivery model. Key is identifying the key factors influencing the customer’s perception at each touch-point. The On-stage/Back-stage model is often a useful tool to do this.

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These are easy ideas to accept, but a recent consulting experience really brought home to me that for many organisations it’s much harder to put into practice.

We were working with several very successful capital equipment suppliers with very similar situations:

  • They want to gain deeper insights into how customers experience their service business.
  • They desired to move to the next level as they moved through a period of service transformation.
  • They want to go much deeper than their own Net Promoter Score / Customer Satisfaction programmes.[/unordered_list]

In one of these projects, we dealt with a division where a significant proportion of the revenue came from the consumables that supported the product. They decided to invest in a programme where they recorded their staff’s interactions at the touch-points and then interviewed various key stakeholders of their customers.

This brought some unexpected observations within the buying process. The buyers recognised and appreciated the company’s knowledge and professionalism.  But they felt frustrated that the Sales people did not bring any value to the table other than taking orders for consumables.  They actually felt let down, which significantly harmed their overall perception of the brand and encouraged them to look for new vendors.  They made explicit statement statements such as  ‘We want a leading Solution Provider and not merely a leading Product provider’.

Don't be defensive - all feedback is useful

The challenge for this organisations was to take the feedback at face value, not get defensive and take the actions needed for improvement. But this market leading organisation struggled to do this. Why?

Often organisations are structured in silo’s with very specific targets, which are not necessarily aligned with customer value. For example, sales people who meet their incentive plan from significant sales of consumables, are not enticed to walk the extra mile and deliver more value, as this could prevent them from meeting their individual targets

  • A focus on short term financial targets stimulates attention on low hanging fruit which directly drives financial results
  • Wanting to Stick to the product related values and competencies
  • Not being able to accept another perspective on the world.

In truth it’s probably a mixture of the above. The moral of the story is that if you are not ‘truly’ open to what your customers need and say, or are not committed to acting on the feedback, you are probably stuck in an IN-SIDE OUT world. It’s hard to innovate for your customers and provide an excellent experience, when you are only focussed on internal issues such as the next quarters sales or your next product’s features.

And we know that the OUTSIDE-IN mind-set is more likely to lead to growth. Recent research shows that companies who push themselves to gain insights into customer experience from a wide number of sources, are more likely to achieve higher corporate growth. But its not surprising that those companies that make this effort have a better understanding of what is valuable to their customers and how to deliver a customer experience that will drive loyalty.

For more information on how to develop your MINDSET and Design Customer Experience into your Service Propositions, why not look at some of our courses on Service Leadership(23rd Sept in the UK) and Service Design.