Applying Continuous Improvement to Service Delivery with Adam Ramshaw

We’re please to host Adam Ramshaw today, a Customer Experience consultant with more than 20 years of experience in helping organizations improve their service delivery. In this article, he shares with us his thoughts on the intersection of process improvement and customer experience and how applying Continuous Improvement to Service Delivery can improve the customer experience.

You can learn more about Adam after the article. We hope you find this interview helpful and that you’ll take some nuggets from this interview and be able to apply lessons learned to your application of customer experience management in your industry.

1. Adam, can you briefly share with the audience what led you, among all the possible areas of business, to focus on the customer experience?

About 15 years ago I was the global head of marketing for a telecoms equipment manufacturer. Part of the role was to provide actionable feedback to the service delivery groups on what customers really wanted. Simple customer satisfaction surveys existed but no really robust way understand what was actually important to clients. I decided that there had to be a more robust and empirical approach and that was what started me down the customer experience track.

2. Can you share with us the best experience you’ve had as a customer? What made it so good?

I can’t pick one experience that was the best but I can say the difference between a poor experience and a great experience is often just having employees think.

Too often staff don’t think about what they are saying or why they are doing a particular thing. This can be as simple as not actually listening to what you are asking and thereby giving you a response that does not solve your problem.

3. Let’s talk about customer service. Historically, customer service has been a cost center in most companies. Can customer service be strategic? If so, how and please share examples of where you’ve seen customer service play a strategic role in a company.

Actually every area of a business is a cost centre: sales, marketing, finance, R&D, logistics, manufacturing, etc. The difference is that many of those other centres have clearly linked their presence to the generation of company profit.

Sales make sales, R&D create great new products, Manufacturing build stuff. On the other hand those areas that have not highlighted the link between their presence and company profit are necessary evils that are subject to continuous downward cost pressure: finance, logistics, yes, and often customer service. In the last 10 years even Marketing has seen the light and is now linking their performance as closely to sales as possible.

Customer service can, and often is, strategic but traditionally they have not invested in clearly linking their presence to company value. This is why there is continuous cost pressure for them.

It doesn’t always have to be this way. One of our customers performs service recovery call backs on customers with low scores in their transactional feedback surveys. Of course, many organizations do this, but the difference is that they have calculated the incremental value that this call drives for the business and discovered that it is higher than the cost of the call. The result is that instead of pressure to reduce the service recovery calls, management are trying to expand the program. Service is a strategic asset to their business.

4. Is the customer always right?

No but they always have the last say and that’s all that matters.

5. In terms of customer experience metrics, many companies use the Net Promoter Score. What other metrics, from your experience, that effectively measure the customer experience?

Over the years we have tested a number of different metrics: Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort Score, Net Promoter Score, complex multi-element scores etc. We have found that NPS and CSat are generally the most effective at translating the score into action. While some of the multi-element scores may be slightly more accurate than, say NPS, in predicting future customer actions, they are much harder for staff to understand and use.

I prefer effectiveness over accuracy every time. NPS and CSAT are more effective and accurate enough to be useful.

6. What’s your view on Detractor Avoidance versus Customer Delight, or both?

I’m not a big fan of Customer Delight because it is very hard to convert into procedures that staff can follow. I think that Detractor Avoidance and upgrading business processes is an easier and more reliable a long term route to success.

Let’s talk about an oft cited example: Amazon. For me, Amazon’s critical success factor has been to make everything easy, all the time, and deliver on what they promise every time. The books you buy from Amazon are not better or different than anywhere else. They don’t delight me by sending me two copies when I order one. However, they are easy to buy from (e.g. 1-click buying) and deliver every time.

7. Let’s suppose you are working with a company that lacks understanding of how the emotional aspects of the customer experience can impact both loyalty and the bottom line – psychobabble would be how the company characterizes discussions around customer sentiment and emotion.

What approach would you take to help others see the value on the emotional and less quantified aspects of the customer experience?

I’ll skip this question — I take the view that everything, even emotional aspects of the customer experience should be measurable otherwise you have no way to manage the process.

8. Tell us about the role of process improvement in the field of customer experience? Are they compatible, how? – would love some examples where you’ve applied the principles of lean to improve the customer experience – keeping company names confidential, of course.

Process improvement holds the same role in customer experience as it holds everywhere else in the organization: it is a critical underpinning of long term success. The trouble is that while the manufacturing group have been using quality system tools for generations most of the rest of the organization, customer experience included, have never heard of them.

To divert a little from your question, this is a critical issue going forward for customer experience. In the past this area of the business has not had any reliable way to measure their “manufacturing output”. As a result it has suffered from a lack of data. Sure, customer experience folks have had plenty of cost measurements: AHT, hourly rates, telecoms charges, etc. However, until tools like SMS and email surveys made transactional customer feedback affordable, there has been no equivalent to the continual measurement processes that manufacturing organizations use to ensure that they are meeting or exceeding specifications.

Now is the time for customer experience organisations to embrace continual improvement and the quality tools that the manufacturing group have been using to dramatically improve delivery.

9. Any final words of advice, or anything else you’d like to share?

Don’t wait until it’s perfect, do something now! Many (most) organizations want to design the perfect system then collect perfect customer feedback and finally do perfect analysis before they will take any action on customer experience. The trouble is all of those perfects never line up. This desire for perfection has to do with not wanting to make a mistake and be singled out but it simply stops improvement.

If you are in a leadership position in your organizations encourage your people to implement change with the best information they have and don’t punish valid, risk managed, decisions. If you support your staff to make informed (but not perfectly informed) decisions some will be wrong and some will be right but you will be moving forward. Waiting for perfection stalls you in your tracks.

genroe, adam ramshawAdam has more than twenty years of experience in senior executive roles with global and Australian organizations. A natural strategist, he has a developed a deep knowledge of customer, financial and data analysis.

As the owner of Genroe, Adam is responsible for all aspects of the business. Founded in 2002 Genroe’s core deliverables are in the areas of customer feedback management and customer experience management. Genroe has helped business to business and business to consumer organisations to better understand and generate higher value from their customers.

Adam is widely respected on the international and domestic speaking circuit for his expertise in customer strategy, Net Promoter®, customer feedback management, data analysis and customer-driven financial modelling. He holds an Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering, as well as an MBA from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

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