Why Are You Asking About Your Customer’s Experience?

By Beth Coppinger | August 17, 2021 | 0 Comments

Supply ChainPower of the ProfessionSupply Chain Customer Fulfillment and Collaboration

I talk about customer experience (CX) with our supply chain clients on a daily basis. Inevitably, we wind up having a conversation about what metrics they are using as well as what’s happening with their voice of the customer (VoC) program. Are they tapping into multiple sources for information on customers’ wants, needs and preferences? How are they collecting this data and turning it into insights about the customer?

Some supply chain leaders will gather their VoC data from a single annual survey, and use that as the source of understanding customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the different functions across the company. This is a great start, but driving excellence in CX starts with really listening — and hearing — your customers. This isn’t a once or twice a year event. For companies who excel in CX, it’s a DAILY event. These companies are constantly gathering insights about their customers from a wide variety of sources, and across multiple touchpoints in the customer’s journey.

Learning to really listen to your customers, being able to bring that knowledge into your organization, and then using that knowledge and insights in the design of products, solutions and services — this is core to managing CX. The listening never stops — it grows from listening via surveys to listening via a broad range of channels across a broad range of customer interaction points.

But in parallel with this drive to understand and integrate customer inputs, you must also be sure that you’re embedding the right culture. Because if you’re not careful, you begin to see scenarios like those summarized below:

  1. Distributed by an employee of a large retail chain:
  2. At the conclusion of the journey in a ride-share:
    “I’ve had a ride-share driver get out of his car and ask me to rate him a five and showed me that he was giving me a 5. It’s so uncomfortable.”

Clearly, this is not the behavior that we’re looking to drive in our organizations. It makes our customers uncomfortable, and it keeps us from knowing the truth about the customer’s actual experience.

It always amazes me how powerful metrics are in driving behavior, and how easily they can be perverted with the wrong culture. Consider on-time in-full (OTIF) — a foundational metric for understanding if a customer received the right product at the right time. Simple, right? Not so fast. In my conversations with clients, there are multiple ways of measuring OTIF, and many do not include what the customer originally requested (companies focus on the committed amount) or whether the product or service was delivered on time to the customer request (companies focus on when they commit to ship and deliver).

In the background there are all kinds of exclusions that “don’t count” in the calculation of the metric. So, the reported metric makes the employees look good and might help them achieve an incentive. It also makes the company believe it is providing a good delivery of their product or service. In reality, the customer is highly frustrated.

When used correctly, metrics are a way to measure how well we are executing the strategy. They show where we are succeeding, and where we have opportunities to improve. The goal is to use metrics to drive a continuous improvement agenda — to constantly be listening, adapting and improving the customer’s experience. You can’t do that if people are gaming the system to get a high score.

This means that the focus needs to shift to understanding if your teams are exhibiting customer-centric behaviors vs. driving excellence in managing scores. Everyone needs to be on the same page of what these customer-centric behaviors are — and ensure these behaviors are resonating with customers. In a customer-centric culture, it’s the customer understanding and response that need to be recognized and rewarded. It’s the daily pursuit of improving the customer’s experience — one interaction at a time.

We have several companies in our Supply Chain Top 25 that include OTIF and customer satisfaction improvements as part of their incentive plans. Used correctly, this is a unifying concept in the company. Everyone understands the priority. It drives focus on everyone understanding the customer and creating and aligning on ways to improve customer outcomes. That’s the positive side, and what we need to be sure we hold onto. The key is the behaviors that we, as leaders, are encouraging. Are we embedding the right culture — a culture focused on understanding, adapting and improving?

What does your team believe you value more — the score or the actual customer input?

Beth Coppinger
Senior Director Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain
Beth.Coppinger@gartner.com

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