Customer Satisfaction

Experience vs. Service

The Hudson Bay Company [HBC] is a really good case study for modernizing healthcare. Why?

The retail customer is becoming the healthcare consumer. In an era where the retail customer is becoming more knowledgable and empowered with choice, HBC is struggling and stores will likely close.

After attempting one transaction with HBC, I told a healthcare colleague that the company is in for a rude awakening as Amazon expands operations throughout Canada. 

1/ Lack of Customer Focus: They’ve tried to be things that they are not [ie. competing in the luxury market] and failed. They clearly don’t have a strong grasp of their customer and what their customer expects of them.

2/ Product over Experience: HBC is still focused on what to sell rather than curating the experience for their customer. Companies thriving in the modern era of retail are doing so by focusing on the entire customer experience rather than simply curating product. 

3/ Ease of doing business: Retail consumers expect the payment system to work for all their transactions whether online or in person. The more friction there is with the purchase process the more likely the customer will go elsewhere.

Healthcare service companies are also in for a rude awakening if they don’t get these three things right.

Structure to Win

Organizational structure is the foundation for how people communicate, collaborate and perform on the job and affects overall performance of the company.

Most people talk about organizational cultural as being one of the key principles of creating a great company but structure is equally important. Culture is a function and reflection of the structure.

Leading companies use the customer’s voice to align the organization, foster teamwork and create products that meet the customer needs.  Most have adopted a matrix structure and assigned people from functional departments to cross functional teams responsible for managing products and/or services.  Moving more expertise to the front lines gives the product managers and/or general managers respectively the timely support needed to solve problems, develop solutions, create new products or processes and enhance service that meets the needs of their customers.

Many companies operate with a weak matrix structure meaning the company is structured according to function [aka: functional silos] rather blending resources from the different functions into cross functional teams.  A functional structure helps develop expertise, systems and processes needed to enable staff do a specific job well, but are weak structures for promoting collaboration and enhancing customer focus. In fact, functional structures are thought to tilt the organization away from the customer which is never a good thing.

Granted there are challenges with every organizational structure and matrix structures are no different.  Studies of cross functional teams have reported that 75% are dysfunctional.  Getting people to work together is no easy task.  However, there are a few learnings from leading companies that can help make cross functional teams more successful in any organization.

People: Functional managers need to assign people who have the knowledge and experience to contribute to the cross functional team and the people assigned need to be open to working with others that think differently than them.

Support: Functional managers need to support the cross functional teams and evolve their method of monitoring, developing and supporting their people working outside the department.

Rewards: Functional managers need to be rewarded for supporting the cross functional team and the success of the team.  Broader metrics that reflect the company goals should be more heavily weighted in their compensation structure.

Developing an organizational structure is not a one and done type of exercise. Structures need to evolve to help the organization outperform in good times and be resilient to changes in the economy, industry and technology.

The changes underway in healthcare are a good example. With healthcare becoming more consumer focused, healthcare provider organizations should be adopting a matrix structure of cross functional teams to support and develop their service lines. The main role of a service line manager is to help build the business – similar to a Product Manager or General Manager in other industries. Speaking from my own experience working as an interim Service Line Manager for a prominent teaching hospital, few have the direct support needed.  Most have to manage from the middle with influence as their main method to get the information and resources needed to do their jobs well.  Granted influencing others is an essential skill for any manager but influence alone can limit management effectiveness especially in a weak matrix structure.

Structural changes should also be made to help employees be more efficient and productive with their time so that they have time off from work to live healthy, happy lives. If people are routinely working more than 8 hour days, is it a function of the culture, structure or their job? It would pay to find out.

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

– Peter Drucker

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success.  She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.

Customer Satisfaction

Listen to your customer and make everything else easy.

To help shape our goals and resolutions for the year, a friend and I have been posing questions to each other such as “What is your purpose?, “What do you want to experience in life?”.  This week he asked me “How do you define good customer service?”  This coming from someone who exemplifies customer service.

Something must have happened during the week because before I could even respond, he started to share his thoughts and ideas.  He started with having people well trained to do their jobs, listening to the customer, empathizing with the customer if there is a problem and when possible, solving the problem for the customer.  He continued talking and eventually focused in on the importance of listening and connecting with the customer.

We didn’t have time to finish the conversation and left off with another question…Is it possible for a company to achieve 100% customer satisfaction?  If it is possible, how do you do it?  

Four of the key principles for achieving 100% customer satisfaction as well as management principles and processes used by leading companies who are getting it right more than their competitors are summarized below.

Get it right or make it right with the customer:
Pleasing every customer is a challenge for most.  Entrepreneurs and innovators have learned or are learning that you have to “get out of the building” and talk with customers about their problems, get their input on how to solve the problem and understand how they value the solution.  Talking with the customer before developing a product or service helps companies get it right the first time.

Making it right for the customer does not necessarily mean owning their problems or mistakes.   Apple is probably one of the best examples of shared responsibility.  They own their problems but not the problems created by their customers.  If you’re wondering how they do that and leave the customer feeling satisfied, just sit in one of their stores for an hour and listen to the interactions with customers who have dropped their iPhones in water.

Make it simple and provide a great experience.
Designing a product or service that is simple is not easy.  Technology companies are adopting Agile processes that make it easier to speed the iteration cycle and enable product enhancements that are meaningful to the customer.  However, speed and responsiveness to the customer helps but does not always translate to a beautiful product that provides for a great experience.  It requires talent and time to get the design right.

Live your values.
Few companies have guiding philosophies that are memorable to both customers and employees but there are a few standouts.  Southwest returns love to the skies for their customers, Apple thinks differently and disrupts industries with amazing products and Google does no evil by respecting people’s data.  Without even seeing the actual values, you can kind of imagine what they might be for each of these companies and the type of behavior that would be expected of all employees.

Value the customer’s time and chances are they will pay up for the product or service.
Apple is probably one of the best examples because they sell more computers than all the other competitors combined even though they are not the cheapest.  They simply make owning their products easy by making them easy to set up, easy to learn and easy to get support when needed.  Most of us cannot afford to be without our computers or devices for long.  Everyone including the people in the store must get it because their products and service are designed to keep us computing, searching, connecting, listening and sharing or in other words, enjoying their product 24/7.

In summary, achieving 100% satisfaction requires listening to the problems, ideas and solutions valued by customers and then making everything else easy for customers and employees so that they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  It is no easy task but looking at Apple, the results are worth it.

Are you wondering how this ties back to my friend, our questions and why I have concluded he exemplifies customer service?  When I asked him about his purpose in life, he told me that his purpose is simply to make people happy.  He is not a push over.  He cares about people, listens to them, empathizes with them and when needed or if he can, does little things that make a big difference for his customers – and his friends.  In short, his actions in business and his personal life are aligned with his purpose.


About the Author: Shannon Smith is a management consultant, strategist and innovator with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success.