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

Featured Stories
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry Formulation
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
Crop InputsVilsack To Deliver Commodity Classic Keynote Address
February 19, 2015
The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event's General Session, to be held Friday, February 27, in Phoenix, AZ. Read More
Ribbon cutting at 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
Matt Hopkins5 Key Takeaways From The 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
February 14, 2015
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the largest indoor farm show in the country didn't disappoint with the latest in technology and trends on full display. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsCommodity Classic 2015 Sets Attendance High Mark
March 4, 2015
With nearly 8,000 total attendees, the 2015 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in Phoenix, AZ, shattered previous records for the landmark event, Read More
Young corn plants
FertilizerNew Nitrogen Stabilizer From Simplot Protects Fertilize…
March 4, 2015
By using OmniPierce Technology, Eclipse-N from Simplot Grower Solutions coats and protects more nitrogen, increasing nitrogen efficiency and decreasing loss due to volatilization. Read More
Industry NewsOhio Corn And Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean A…
March 4, 2015
The associations truly appreciate the comprehensive approach and diligent work that the Ohio House of Representatives has dedicated to addressing water quality and House Bill 61. Read More
Mahindra Implement
Industry NewsMahindra USA Aligns With Paladin Attachment For Impleme…
March 4, 2015
Mahindra USA will begin utilizing Paladin Attachments as its implement supplier in April 2015. Read More
Crop InputsValent BioSciences Acquires Mycorrhizal Applications
March 4, 2015
The acquisition adds another strategic platform to VBC’s rapidly expanding global biorational business, providing additional tools for the Biorational Window platform being developed with its parent, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation - Plant Nutrient on the Farm Station
Industry NewsNutrients For Life Foundation Launches New Station Prog…
March 4, 2015
This ready-to-implement station provides an interactive opportunity for farms to showcase crop nutrients’ important role in growing healthy crops. Read More
Adjuvants loading
AdjuvantsAdjuvants Continue Upward Trend
March 4, 2015
A dizzying array of developments in crop protection technologies promise to make specialty adjuvants a crucial piece of the puzzle going forward. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Me…
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
10 Tips for Spring Planter Preparation
Equipment10 Tips For Spring Planter Preparation
March 3, 2015
Kinze Manufacturing offers advice on how to ensure your planter is ready before you hit the field. Read More
Industry NewsOABA 2015 LAUNCH Program Recognizes 20 New Graduates
March 3, 2015
Twenty Ohio agribusiness leaders are being recognized as the latest graduates of Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s LAUNCH program. Read More
EquipmentNew AGCO Website Helps Customers Shop For Certified Pre…
March 3, 2015
RoGator sprayers are among the wide range of CPO equipment available through AGCO's site. Read More
Enlist spray Demo
HerbicidesGuiding New Herbicide Systems’ Launches
March 3, 2015
Under careful watch, the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops hit more acres this season. Read More
Eric SfiligojCommodity Classic 2015: Playing The Waiting Game
March 2, 2015
There was plenty of future-talk at this year’s event as companies (and growers) are largely in a holding pattern of sorts. Read More
Industry NewsHighway Equipment Appoints New Director Of Business Dev…
March 2, 2015
Cory Venable, who joined Highway Equipment Company (HECO) in 2013 as OEM Account Manager, has been promoted to Director of Business Development. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
Eric SfiligojWorkforce Worries
March 2, 2015
Finding good employees almost always ranks as the No. 1 or No. 2 problem for ag retailers in our annual CropLife 100 survey. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More