When the leadership team at global energy technology company FMC Technologies’ Subsea Technologies Western Region set a target in the fourth quarter of 2010 to double revenue and increase profitability in five to seven years, they focused on three areas: increasing market share, developing new platforms for growth and improving execution.
But when the western region’s workforce grew from 12,000 to 16,000 employees in two years, a comprehensive business review revealed customer satisfaction issues such as inconsistent service, late product delivery and client relationship concerns. Thomas Quinn, program manager for FMC Technologies’ College of Leadership at FMC University, and Brian Janak, the company’s director of operations — subsea, began looking for a way to improve its customer satisfaction scores in early 2011.
Quinn contacted Linkage, a global leadership development firm, to help the western region’s customer-facing employees become better strategic thinkers. (Editor’s note: the author works for Linkage). But, as he partnered with Linkage principal consultant Madelyn Yucht, they realized that customer satisfaction scores would only go up when quality of process execution and delivery improved. They also realized they would have to provide training to facilitate continuous improvement in service, deadlines and a solid awareness of the customers’ value proposition. Training was key to drive a companywide culture that strives to deliver flawless execution on time, the first time, every time.
To do that, everyone in the region needed to learn new skills, attitudes and behaviors. Further, the positive effects of the training had to be measurable and have a lasting effect. As a result, they started from scratch to devise a new customer service management training program for the entire western region that would be measured by a simple metric: a Net Promoter Score.
Did They Like It?
A Net Promoter Score is based on the idea that it’s possible to get a clear measure of a company’s performance by asking customers one question: “How likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”
Customers respond on a 10-point rating scale and are categorized as promoters (9 and 10) — loyal enthusiasts who fuel growth; passives (7 and 8) — satisfied, but unenthusiastic customers; and detractors (0-6) — unhappy customers who can damage a brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth. The score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of promoters from the percentage of detractors.
After the company’s business review and anecdotal feedback from customers, the western region’s leadership team realized that customer service issues were brought on by rapid growth. But it was only after Quinn collaborated with the region’s marketing manager, who conducted the company’s first Net Promoter survey, that leaders saw how much their customer service ratings were affected, and how potentially problematic subpar customer service ratings could be to sustaining growth.
The Net Promoter Score is plotted on a bell curve. Subsea’s net promoter score was a bit below average, at -3 (Figure 1).
Can We Change It?
One of FMC Technologies’ core values is based on management thinker Philip Crosby’s “Four Absolutes of Quality.” So when Quinn started designing the curriculum, he said it had to be aligned with Crosby’s theory of quality: create customer success, not just customer satisfaction.
Quinn defined customer success as not only being able to meet customer requirements and add value, but also being able to anticipate and prevent future customer problems. To do that, the training program had to provide the necessary teaching and skills to cultivate an organizational culture where everyone in every job feels a sense of ownership for customer success.
“FMC Technologies’ Strategic Customer Management Program is a collection of highly customized action-learning solutions that are designed to provide constructive insight into the company’s suboptimal customer satisfaction levels, as well as explain the role each member of the organization plays in delivering customer service,” Quinn said.
“The curriculum also teaches and nurtures the specific behaviors that every member of the organization needs to develop to shift the entire organizational culture from ‘Not my job’ to ‘We’re all responsible for delighting our customers.’”
What started out as a way to improve customer service scores turned into a quality management program that facilitated a top-to-bottom culture change. Instead of exposing a few leaders and line managers to generic training and hoping those chosen few could bring back what they learned to their direct reports, the senior leadership team mandated the entire western region — 1,600 employees — participate, and that the project would be managed by the company’s training specialist, Stephanie Ford.
“Having everyone participate not only ensures that the entire region has a common understanding of the problems and the need for a culture shift, it also provides skills and a common language for all members of the organization to interact, problem solve and cooperate across departmental lines to achieve something that can be pretty hard to do — shift an entire organizational culture for the better,” Yucht said.
All Benefit From Training
Since the plan was to deliver some form of training to the entire region with the expressed goal to improve customer service quality as measured by Net Promoter Score, it was critical that associates — salespeople, engineers and project managers — who work closest with the customers receive the most comprehensive training. All customer-facing associates were enrolled in the Strategic Customer Management Program — a five-day customized program that outlined the current state of customer satisfaction and what role each associate plays in delivering customer service.
The immersion learning experience focused on strategic thinking and problem-solving in addition to teaching emotional intelligence skills in communication, relationship building and anticipating customer needs. At the end of the training, all participants left with a customized action plan of what they would do to make a positive impact on quality and customer success when they returned to their jobs.
Through this curriculum, associates learn the hard skills of strategic thinking and anticipating customer needs, as well as softer skills such as how to deal with conflict, collaborate across business units, have effective conversations and build positive relationships with in-house colleagues and external clients.
Quinn and the senior leadership team agreed that real culture change is possible when the entire region speaks the same language and everyone from the senior leadership on down understands the need for change and has been given the same skills, tools and behaviors to make it happen.
All versions of the program for the rest of the organization are based on the same concepts that are the foundation of the five-day program: Creating customer success is an art and science that involves internal and external customers and requires both hard and soft skills.
A condensed, two-day version, Create Customer Success, was developed for managers and associates who don’t have as much interaction with clients as they do with salespeople and project managers, but still need to be skilled at prioritizing, identifying value and building relationships inside and outside the company.
The western region’s one-day Customer Success Awareness program was developed for associates who have no client-facing responsibilities, but Quinn said all members of an organization have clients, whether they are internal or external. Thus, all need to have effective relationships to provide superior quality.
Will They Recommend It?
When the program was launched in late 2011, subpar customer service was a significant threat to the western region’s growth. But after 20 percent of the region’s associates completed the training, and 60 percent of the highly customer-centric associates participated in the five-day course, the region’s Net Promoter Score jumped from -3 to +29 by the end of 2012. Since then, more than 1,000 associates have been enrolled in various versions of the program, and the region’s score has continually improved.
Quinn said he believes the program’s continued success can be attributed to several factors: It builds employee awareness of the state of customer satisfaction and the importance of working together to raise the bar so everyone is working to ensure customer success. It formalizes the process related to strategic thinking and provides tools for associates who proactively seek to understand customer requirements and identify how they can help add value. Lastly, all participants are taught how to build and maintain stronger relationships — with clients and each other — using emotional intelligence.
FMC Technologies’ senior leadership team agrees the effort has been successful. The Strategic Customer Management Program that was originally designed to move the customer service performance needle in one region of Subsea Technologies will soon be rolled out to FMC Technologies’ entire global workforce.
Bill Springer is the senior content editor at Linkage. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.