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Insight/ Strategic Planning

Customer Experience: A Real-World Plan In Action

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by Tobias Lee
CMO For The Tax & Accounting Business
Thomson Reuters

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Article Highlights:

  • To truly understand the customer experience, marketers need processes for collecting, consolidating, linking, analyzing, and responding to customer feedback, and for measuring results.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys are integrated with CRM software to allow for the seamless creation of closed-loop follow-up activities.
  • Activating a large organization is extremely challenging.

Most of us spend a lot of time talking and thinking about customer experience–the sum of all experiences a customer has with our companies–because we know it’s the key to sustained success in the market.

Many of us, however, do more than talk about it: We strive to bolster the customer experience by digging for insights from customer committees and win/loss interviews, reinforcing our customer-support functions, visiting customers in their offices, inviting customers to our conferences, and reaching out via trade shows and road shows.

The problem in most cases is not a lack of customer engagement. It’s the inability to collect genuinely actionable information from these often disjointed, fragmented efforts and aggregate it all into a comprehensive picture of the customer journey.

To truly understand the customer experience, marketers need processes for collecting, consolidating, linking, analyzing, and responding to customer feedback, and for measuring results. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters is making that happen.

An Intelligent Online Experience
With a firm belief in scoring everything, Thomson Reuters implemented a new infrastructure to help us understand every aspect of a customer’s journey and promptly correct problems when they occur. We streamlined dozens of tax and accounting product sites into a singular optimized one. The new site not only makes it easier for customers to understand the company’s offerings from a holistic perspective, but it also enables our marketing team to do customer profiling, deliver dynamic personalized content, and conduct A/B testing. As a result, the Web site now has the intelligence to serve up content that meets our customers’ needs rather than forcing them to search through dozens of disparate sites to solve their issues at hand.

At the same time, technology has been put in place that allows the Thomson Reuters marketing team to capture intelligence beyond the Web site. For example, we can now link customer touch points, including social media, trade show interactions, inside sales contacts, recent support calls, and survey results. The end result is more informed and engaging customer interactions. Whether the customer has a support issue or is interested in a new product, our marketing, support, or sales person has a deep understanding of that customer’s journey and can make decisions and offer suggestions that reflect his reality.  

A New Twist On The Customer Survey
Despite a plethora of new marketing techniques and media (e.g., social networks) available today, Thomson Reuters has had the most success gathering the voice of the customer with an old-school tool: surveys. But we’ve made changes that not only significantly improve the caliber of intelligence generated by our customer surveys, but also allow us to interact with both dissatisfied and satisfied customers immediately.

Traditionally, B2B companies use anonymous customer surveys to generate directional information about customer preferences and satisfaction. Unfortunately, this approach makes it impossible to correct reported problems because you can’t reach out to an anonymous survey respondent. Therefore, Thomson Reuters decided to update the survey by:

  • asking respondents to identify themselves;
  • including more open-end questions that allow customers to provide feedback on topics beyond those addressed directly by the survey; and
  • fixing problems as they’re reported. For example, a poor customer survey rating triggers an internal customer support ticket that must be resolved in a certain amount of time.

Using technology to simplify the process, the new customer satisfaction surveys are integrated with the company’s CRM software to allow for the seamless creation of closed-loop follow-up activities.

Concurrently, Thomson Reuters created an infrastructure to process customer feedback. Customer advocacy teams, dubbed “Spark Squads,” were created in each business unit to empower employees to make decisions around the customer experience. Composed of cross-functional customer experience champions, Spark Squads analyze survey findings and other customer feedback to determine the top customer issues. Spark Squads then develop action plans to address these issues as well as key metrics to measure the impact. The Spark Squads monitor and report on the action plans quarterly to executive leadership teams–and also share the information with employees. In addition, communications are prepared throughout the year to update customers on the results of the most recent surveys and progress on action plans.

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A Measured Approach
Thomson Reuters has developed a single composite metric to gauge the health of the customer relationship–a score that combines Net Promoter methodology with other relationship measures to deliver an integrated view of the customer experience.

This information currently is used internally, but we plan to share it with customers later this year to be transparent about how the company is performing with respect to products, services, and brands. We also have an active intranet site where employees can see recent customer feedback, interact with customers, and gauge how the Spark Squads are progressing. The intranet site promotes the most active “customer experience” employees and even offers rewards for the most active customer advocates. Sounds simple, but activating a large organization is extremely challenging; these programs have proved to be significant influencers in driving other employees to also engage and contribute ideas to the discussions.

To date, more than 700 employees have made a public commitment to get closer to our customers and to use the feedback they receive in their day-to-day jobs to enhance our internal discussions. The top customer issues are being identified and addressed within our businesses, and customers are responding positively to our efforts to address their issues.

The ubiquitous nature of the Web has enumerated customer touch points and empowered the customer to impact businesses positively and negatively in more ways than ever. While many organizations welcome this notion, not enough have taken the critical step to truly embrace it and develop a systematic framework and process. It’s time to get serious about building customer-centric organizations that are continually monitoring issues, addressing those challenges, and candidly communicating their progress (good and bad) to their employees and customers.

It has often been said that it’s the people who make the difference. In today’s world of sophisticated and automated technology, the definition of  “people” might have changed, but the interactions are as important as ever.

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