Taking Action With Customer Measurements

As I read the financial news, much of the buzz is on layoffs, loans, restructuring, and in ag, inventory write downs. I hear talk of workers, but not of customers. So I am thinking, how customers will emerge from the recession? Here are some predictions.

Your customers will be less trusting at the end of this recession than they were, say, 18 months ago. Consequently, many retailer/grower relationships will be re-evaluated in light of the economic pressures we are facing.

What an opportunity to forge ahead and create a sustainable advantage over your competitors! The best retailers will use this time of turbulence to do three very smart things. First, they will focus on rediscovering the priorities of their top customers. Next, they will learn how their customers (and prospects) rank their day-to-day performance on these priorities. Finally, they will use this time of turbulence to realign their company from top to bottom to more effectively deliver outstanding customer experiences.

I have been describing a process called the Customer Experience Monitor that helps companies become more aligned with their customers. Leading companies such as Dell Computer, Harley Davidson, and LEGO are using customer experience measurements to learn what is important to their customers, and then take action to consi

stently deliver outstanding customer experiences. Over the next few months, I’ll discuss strategies to help you take action from your customer experience measurements.

EXECUTIVE
LEVEL
LINE
MANAGERS
 FRONT LINE
Customer Experience as
competitive differntiation.
Manage service
delivery. 
Neutralize Detractors. 
Promote customer
centric culture. 
Create goals for
customer experiences.
Improve relationships. 
Promote customer
centric culture.
Create goals for
customer experiences.
Organizational learning to
create Promoters.
Champion customer focus
in organization. 
Cross functional
collaboration.
Take corrective action.
Use follow-up to "delight." 

Levels Of Action

In most companies, there are three levels where your “taking action” strategy needs to be developed and implemented: General Management, Line Management (Agronomy, Grain, Energy, or Feed) and the Front Line. The diagram shows some areas staff in each area need to focus if you are going to become aligned with customers.

General Management must set the overall direction for creating a customer-centric culture, and hold Line Managers (Agronomy, Grain, Energy, Feed, Equipment, etc.) accountable for improving the customer experience. Most agribusinesses believe they are already customer centric. Compared to companies of similar size in other areas however, many agribusinesses don’t have strategies and processes in place to delivery outstanding customer experiences. If I was an embedded observer in your company for six weeks, what would I conclude? If I did not attend any meetings where the customer experience was the top priority or didn’t hear any initiatives or participate in team meetings to improve customer experiences, I would have to conclude you haven’t achieved a customer-centric culture. More likely, the culture would be focused on operations and products. General Management is responsible for company culture.

Line Managers work directly with Front Line staff to implement your culture on a day-to-day basis. Continuing my embedded observer analogy, I would want to see Front Line mangers not only managing the company’s operations, I would want examples of cross-functional collaboration to improve the customer experience. If I stayed long enough, my manager would review my own goals and progress toward creating outstanding customer experiences.

Taking Action on customer experience measurements typically starts with the Front Line because they have the most contact with customers, and this represents your area of quickest wins. You need to consider the following in designing your customer outreach strategy for the Front Line:
■ Which customers should receive a follow-up?
■ Who should conduct the follow-up?
■ When should the follow-up occur?
■ What should happen after the follow-up?
■ How should the follow-up be handled?

GOAL FOLLOW-UP WITH… REDESIGN SERVICE
Neutralize Detractors.  Detractors.  Begin with most dissatisfied
Detractors (0-3 on recommend
scale). As your process gains mo-
mentum, incorporate all Detractors. 
Optimize Customer
Experience. 

High-value Promoters,
Passives and
Detractors. 

Interview Promoters, Passives, and
Detractors to uncover their percep-
tion of your performance on key pri-
orities. Leverage learning for
improvement. 
Improve Relationships.  All customers.  Listen to Detractors to fix problems.
Listen to Passives to find how to
move them to Promoters. 
Mobilize Promoters.  Especially High Value
Promoters. 
Use feedback from Promoters for
communication to customer base,
employee recognition and targeted
selling. 

Levels Of Sales

Your gold customers represent the top 50% of sales, silver customers represent the next 30%, and bronze customers represent the final 20% of sales. There are Promoters, Passives, and Detractors within each value segment. Neutralizing Detractors is your first priority because of the negative word of mouth and financial harm these customers do. (See my column on “Economic Word of Mouth” at www.croplife.com.)

The chart above links four strategic goals with customer groups that should receive follow-ups once your customer feedback system in place. Suggested service design improvements are shown for each goal.

Next, let’s consider who should conduct customer follow-up in your com­pany. Neutralizing Detractors generally starts with the Front Line. They need clear guidelines from management regarding their latitude for resolving problems. I recommend you have an escalation path to your line managers, or higher for cases where Front Line staff cannot resolve a Detractors problem.

Customer problems often result from dysfunctional processes within the company. Optimizing customer experiences will require root-cause analysis to identify the gaps in your various service delivery processes that cause customer problems. I usually recommend companies develop a cross-functional team with staff from across the company who have unique perspectives on the customer experience and how it can be improved. The line managers in your company are the logical champions of this effort. Describing this process will be the topic of a separate column.

As a final word, I want to make three observations that will help you become more aligned with customers. First, identify your Detractors because they hurt you financially. Your customer feedback process must run all year long. Second, follow up with Detractors to understand and fix their problems. Many times, these problems result from processes within the company that just don’t work for customers. Finally, follow up within about 48 hours of learning about a detractor problem.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
ManagementWashington Visit and Bayer/Monsanto Deal Update
May 26, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discusses a recent trip to DC and the latest news on the proposed pairing Read More
Fertilizer closeup in hand
Industry NewsVerdesian: Striking A Balance Between Yield & ROI
May 26, 2016
Finely tuned nutrient management plans are helping farmers throughout the U.S. improve nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment (ROI) Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Pa…
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More