In this column, I describe the success factors and pitfalls when putting Customer signals management into practice within your own organization. If you’re ready to take action, the column provides you with do’s and don’ts when tackling Customer signals management in your own organization. Because it’s not quite as simple as it might sound…

Create support

One of the most important aspects you’ll encounter is the creation of support for the initiative, in order to truly and structurally learn from the signals provided by customers and employees. In my experience, there are unfortunately no standard solutions. The challenge lies in rendering each and every dialog partner or stakeholder enthusiastic in their own way, and in being relevant to their agenda. In other words: explaining to him or her how Customer signals management can contribute to his or her own success. At this point, you soon become caught up between the eternal short-term versus long-term interests dilemma. But there is hope… There are also enough signals to help achieve short-term success. Both internally and with customers. Start by focusing on these. You actually need to make sure you take two parallel paths: one path aimed at activities related to ‘quicker wins’ in order to create support, and a parallel path in which you determine how Customer signals management can be structurally embedded. As I write this, I can’t help draw the conclusion that the general theme of success factors and pitfalls is quite possibly the somewhat clichéd yet extremely valid adage “Think Big, Start Small”. And this applies to various phases in the Customer signals management process:

Analyze the signals within your possibilities

One of the first anti-Customer signals management comments is generally: “Yes, but our system doesn’t give us the information we need to make the right analyses”. That’s true. 9 out of 10 organizations simply do not have a quintessential CRM system which allows them to relate all customer signals to products, processes, customer groups, etc. But that can never be an excuse not to get started. Simply begin with what you already know. Let’s imagine that your organization has no automated systems in use. Organize a focus group session with employees and/or customers and ask them what can be improved… Believe me, you’ll soon have a top 10 of improvement points, including a number of very nice quick wins.

Work with pilots

As soon as you’ve identified a number of improvement points and the activities required, try to keep things small. Develop a pilot. Select a process, a group of employees, a department, a region and/or a group of customers with which to test the improvement activities before rolling them out throughout the organization.

Make the results measurable

Once you have developed this pilot, make sure you have an effective baseline (zero measurement). How satisfied are our customers with this aspect of service currently? How many complaints do we receive? How many questions are asked, etc. Now implement the pilot and measure the same points again: the 1-measurement. And if it is a lengthy pilot, also a 2 to N-measurement. Measuring the success and particularly also communicating this success throughout the organization is crucial if you are to mobilize the rest of your organization.

Mobilize the organization

Besides creating enthusiasm by sharing the initial successes, you will certainly be benefited by having a pragmatic mind when you plan to implement Customer signals management… Simply begin, for example, with the department which you expect to be most willing. Certainly do not start with the department where you can expect the most resistance. They can be added at a later stage. Make sure you always relate to initiatives within the organization which can support Customer signals management (and vice versa) in order to mutually reinforce each other.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no mean feat. I’m currently working at introducing Customer signals management within a large organization. And as expected, there is a fair bit of trial and error going on. Three steps forward, two steps back (and sometimes vice versa), etc. But when I see how far we have progressed, and how enthusiastic both customers and employees have become, then it’s certainly worth all the energy which we’ve invested along the way.

 

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