Most organizations take an inside-out approach when it comes to customer management strategies. They measure performance and base decisions largely on internal benchmarks and metrics that frame the company’s perspective of what is important to customers.
For Ciena Corporation, understanding customers’ views of the brand and how well it meets their expectations called for an “inside-out/outside-in” approach. The telecommunications network solutions provider’s “One Version of the Truth” initiative compares key internal metrics against customer perceptions to identify misalignments, which are depicted in a visual scorecard that provides the company with a unified view of the customer, says Sandra Fornasier, CCXP, Global Director of the Ciena’s Customer Experience Specialists (CXS) team. “‘One Version of the Truth’ is a visual approach that we take,” she says. “It starts with a tool, but it leads to deep conversation and proactive change.”
It’s a compelling strategy that was recently recognized by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) with a CX Innovation Award—an award presented to companies that demonstrate innovative techniques to improve customer experience and business results.
Closing Gaps Between Internal and External Views
The CXPA award marks a milestone in Ciena’s internal customer experience journey. It started three years ago when Fornasier and her team launched a corporatewide strategic initiative to develop a customer experience vision that would align with Ciena’s brand, culture and long-term business objectives.
As a brand, Ciena is “the network specialist”—it is well-known in its market for product innovation, reliability and quality customer support. “When you’re in the B2B space, you have long, enduring relationships with your customers,” Fornasier says. But, as the saying goes, innovation knows no boundaries—Ciena execs wanted to go from good to best and to truly differentiate the company through customer experience.
To develop a long-term customer experience strategy, Fornasier began to research what made customers passionate about doing business with Ciena. After talking with customers and analyzing past customer data, “we discovered that, naturally, our customers needed us to meet their needs at every turn and to be easy to do business with,” she says. “But there was also an emotional component around value creation. When we create value for our customers—whether it’s from a personal or a business perspective—that has the greatest impact on the overall customer experience.”
The CXS team then began to examine internal performance metrics. “In telecommunications, we measure everything. There are internal KPIs that are dictated by telecom standards, metrics that are dictated by what you believe your customer wants, and how they measure success,” Fornasier says. “But this industry does not stand still. Our business is transforming continuously, and our customers’ expectations are constantly evolving.”
The key challenge was aligning all of the internal functions under one customer experience vision. “We have a very customer-centric culture in which our people always put customers first; however, most of the customer initiatives took place within the functional areas,” Fornasier explains. “Everyone was trying to do the best that they could for the customer, but not with a shared intent. There was no articulated vision of the lasting memory that we want to leave with our customers every time we interact with them and at every touch point.”
Fornasier met with each functional owner to find out how they measured performance for their operations. She discovered that every operation was very keen on understanding how well they were performing. In fact, some areas reported tracking as many as 15 different metrics, she recalls, adding that “we had to have some tough conversations to come up with just one or two metrics that are most reflective of what the customer is experiencing.”
The CXS team then developed a customer journey map that identified all of the key touchpoints along with the internal metrics at each point. After adding the customer perception measures, they found that sometimes the internal perception of how they were executing on KPIs did not align with the customers’ perception. “We needed to understand why those gaps existed so that we could get closer alignment between how we saw ourselves performing and how customers saw us performing,” Fornasier says.
A Visual Approach Prompts Meaningful Conversations
To convey their findings to senior execs and functional owners in a compact and impactful way, Fornasier and her team created a visual scorecard that displayed the internal and external measures for each customer touchpoint.
It had an immediate and powerful effect. Discussions focused on identifying the gaps between internal and external perceptions and determining whether the internal KPIs were still the appropriate measures or if they needed to be modified, for instance, if customer expectations had changed—or whether the business and/or customers’ businesses had transformed so much that the company needed to change its internal measures.
“There was also cause for celebration,” she says. “There were areas where we thought we were doing great and the customers thought we were doing fantastic—and it gave us an opportunity to celebrate those wins, as well.”
The scorecard has been automated over the past few months, but no matter what format it takes, Fornasier says that the priority is making sure that the information gets in front of the functional stakeholders, midline managers and executives on a monthly basis “so that we can identify, as an organization, what we need to do to bridge the gaps and take action on it.”
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