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
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More
FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better…
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina Nearing Deal To Buy Syngenta For Record $43 B…
February 3, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. is nearing an agreement to buy Swiss pesticide-and-seeds-maker Syngenta AG for about 43.7 billion francs ($42.8 Read More
Herbicides2015 ASA Trials Demonstrate Valent Fierce XLT Herbicide…
February 2, 2016
Valent U.S.A. today announced that new Fierce XLT Soybean Herbicide ranks in the top tier among growers for length of Read More
Crop Protection Products in storage
Paul SchrimpfCrop Input Selling: Return Of The Price List
February 2, 2016
It was a good 15 years ago, shortly after I first started writing for this esteemed publication, that it all Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More
Chesapeake Bay
StewardshipKeeping A Watch On Water Issues
February 2, 2016
During a down cycle in the market, it’s difficult to think about investing for the long term. For retail businesses, Read More
Young Corn Plants
FertilizerNutrient Considerations For Low Corn Prices
February 2, 2016
Corn prices are low and many producers are asking tough questions about their nutrient management programs. Here are some suggestions Read More