Service Excellence

A New Era Of Real-Time Customer Experience Insights

By VJ Manickam Strategist, Total Customer Experience April 27, 2015
Image Source: Zara

Image Source: Zara

Your employees are talking to customers every day. But how do we leverage these personal and frequent conversations to uncover problem areas, discover new product ideas and identify trends? The highly popular Spanish retail chain, Zara, taps into its store managers on a regular basis to understand how customers feel about its products. Managers are trained to ask customers about comfort, style and how future designs may work better to meet their needs. Taking time to listen to its frontline employees is not only the right thing to do, but it has yielded tangible business results as well—it has allowed Zara “to limit failed product introductions to just one percent (the industry averages nearly ten percent) while producing nearly ten times the number of products as its largest competitors” (Source: Harvard Business Review, 2013).  

The concepts of employee empowerment and customer journey mapping (i.e. where does the journey start, how do we collect feedback, how do we identify key moments) are not new. However, the proliferation of cloud and mobile technologies has changed what this means for companies, which you can read about in my last blog.

EMC’s Customer Advocacy team has been investigating the link between employees and customer journey mapping for some time. Our analysis has found that most key moments in the customer journey can be observed, but the real issue is how to capture them. If something is important to a customer, she is not going to wait for an online survey to share her perspective. Rather, she will most likely express her feelings to the person she interacts with most, such as a representative from sales or customer service. Thousands of customers and partners also interact with EMC employees at industry events, including EMC World, which is expected to have nearly in-person 10,000 attendees.

With all of these customer touch points, we need to not only have a scalable program available to capture feedback, but also a streamlined process to ensure that this data is shared with the right cross-functional teams in a timely manner, analyzed for common trends and ultimately allows us to tell the customer what actually happened based on what they told us.  EMC’s solution is a program called “VIA” or Voice Insight Action.  Hosted via a mobile app, this program allows customer facing employees to capture “in the moment” feedback in three categories: improvements, strengths and ideas. EMC’s Total Customer Experience team will pilot this program with customers at EMC World next week and then roll it out to our front-line teams later this year.

TCE2photo 2


The VIA program will impact and enhance EMC’s Total Customer Experience efforts in a few key ways:

  • Increase customer feedback opportunities: By sharing feedback when they want to, customers and partners will not have to wait for a transactional or quarterly survey to provide their comments.
  • Increase employee feedback frequency: Traditionally, EMC has surveyed our employees at specified times throughout the year to get a general sense of customer satisfaction and concerns from their perspective through our “Voice of Field” program.  But many of these people are dealing with multiple customers and multiple people within customer accounts every day. The VIA program allows any employee in the company to capture an important moment that otherwise would have been missed.
  • Increase transparency and information-sharing, both internally and externally: All of the data collected through the VIA program will be stored in a central database where it can be analyzed and acted upon by relevant teams.  Critical moments, positive or negative, can be flagged and reviewed by program managers to drive process, service and product improvements, as well as to help us reach back out to customers to better understand the sentiment, implement a remediation plan if there is a serious issue and provide an update as to how we have acted on their feedback. Having a centralized repository of feedback will allow EMC to map changes over time as well as give customer-facing teams more detailed analysis on what their specific customer accounts may be sharing with EMC teams around the world. This type of customized data will allow EMC teams to have more personalized conversations and demonstrate that we are truly in touch with customer pain points and needs.

I am excited to see what the VIA program can do for EMC’s business. One thing I know for sure is that our employees are critical to ensuring we understand what our customers want and need.  As the Zara example illustrates and what we believe at EMC, taking time to listen matters and it is can make a serious difference to your business results.

If you are attending EMC World, I hope you will stop by the Total Customer Experience booth (#463) to share your feedback with our team members. And if you can’t make the event, I hope you will tell us how you want us to continue to improve through this special online discussion and when your local EMC teams present the VIA program to you in the coming months.

United Universe

About VJ Manickam

Strategist, Total Customer Experience

VJ Manickam is a member of EMC’s Total Customer Experience (TCE) Customer Advocacy team based in Singapore. She is a 12-year EMC veteran, with a strong background in process improvement, including a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. VJ’s mission is to optimize the experience for EMC’s Asia Pacific customers through enterprise-wide alignment with customer priorities.

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