1. Insights from an innovator of customer-focused excellence

    February 24, 2014 by nick.halley
    Originally posted by Christine Schaefer on Blogrige: The official Baldrige blog

    Dr. John Timmerman

    Dr. John Timmerman

    We could all learn a lot from Dr. John Timmerman, senior strategist of customer experience and innovation at Gallup. In his former work as corporate vice president of quality and operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Timmerman helped build ground-breaking practices that strengthened the customer focus of the luxury-brand service organization, which earned two Baldrige Awards in the 1990s.

    In a recent article in Gallup Business Journal, Timmerman points out that innovation, rather than merely incremental improvement, is a necessity for organizations facing rapid change in their strategic situations today. In a subsequent interview for this blog, Timmerman first distinguished “little i innovation” (of processes and products) from “big I innovation” (of the organization’s business model). “Business-model innovation leverages the entire workforce, with everyone in the organization having a role in innovating and moving the organization forward,” he pointed out. “For that kind of innovation, Baldrige [the Criteria for Performance Excellence] provides the best-known framework to help an organization.”

    Following are more excerpts from the interview.


    How do you see the role of the Baldrige framework (the Criteria for Performance Excellence) in supporting innovation?

    To transform an organizational structure there are two different ways of thinking that are interrelated. We can get everyone to be involved in innovating in all of their areas as an ongoing part of their role and responsibility. We can also innovate the business model. And then those two things can also be part of one and the same—in other words, if you’re incorporating innovation as part of your cultural fabric, you can do that while you’re using business-model innovation at the very highest level.

    If a senior leadership group wants to innovate their business model, Baldrige offers an already well-defined framework. [Baldrige] Award recipients provide the best practices for an organization to consider because they are already vetted through the Baldrige examination process.

    In the Gallup Business Journal interview, you make the case that quality is still relevant, stating, “I believe you can have quality—zero defects—without innovation, but you can’t have innovation without quality processes, the systematic and repeatable methods to foster speed and agility.” How might you recommend making the case to business executives to invest in resources related to improving quality and achieving excellence?   

    When people see the term quality, they think of controlling defects and risk mitigation. That’s one side of the definition, having a repeatable process to identify and eliminate defects like Six Sigma. But quality is also about having repeatable processes to foster transformation, innovation, and rapid improvement cycles in an organization. And I think it’s a problem that executives sometimes don’t see the other half of the coin or definition. So when the term quality comes up, I think they default to defect mitigation, which is a repeatable process, but not the repeatable processes in fostering performance excellence and improvement.

    When I look back at Ritz-Carlton, I see that one of the biggest benefits of going on a [Baldrige] journey is that we identified the gaps through the performance excellence framework and then we went out and studied other organizations and saw what their best practices were, which fed our improvement strategies, not just to close the gaps but to become much more competitive.

    I don’t see as many organizations doing that kind of structured benchmarking today as I have in the past. I think they’re trying to glean stuff as everything in the world is moving so fast. So they bring somebody in, a thought leader that already knows the answer, or get it through some knowledge resource. And that’s good, but it may not give you the deeper insights you need. It’s one thing to read the Toyota production process; it’s something very different to go to Toyota and see how it’s applied, because then you get the cultural context.

    And what the Baldrige process allows you to receive when you listen to the [award] recipients is the cultural context, so that you know how to fit in the best practice within the organization. The brilliance of Baldrige is that it puts organizations on a stage where they share not just best practices but also the organizational profile, the cultural context of how practices fit in—not just the good idea but how the good idea fits in within the organization. As a Gallup scientist, I believe that you need to guard against committing an FAE (fundamental attribution error) in trying to apply a good tool to the wrong context. I encourage organizations to complete the Baldrige profile assessment because it gives them the context to assess the appropriateness of best practices for their business model.

    At the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® conference years ago, you shared leading customer-focused practices at the Ritz-Carlton at the time. Tell us about the evolution in the concept of customer focus during your career.

    Personalization has always been out there, but The Ritz-Carlton was one of the first companies to build a platform to do it across multiple sites. The Ritz-Carlton approach was to first create a customer-centric culture, training employees to study what customers are using to understand their preferences. Second, we wanted to be able to delight customers by surprising them versus being merely being preference order-takers. Each facility has a guest relations manager that provides leadership and training to engage employees in identifying, collecting, and delivering guest preferences.

    What are some new developments in the area of customer focus (category 3 in the Baldrige Criteria) by high-performing organizations today?

    The good news is that we’re continuing to make improvements in big data and analytics. That gives us what I call these mega constructs of customer profiles, or psychographics. So I can tell you what all the Chinese 19-year-old males want when they come into a restaurant or when they go buy a car, because I’ve got all this data pulled together from disparate sources. The problem with that though is that it’s a construct so it’s kind of like in The Matrix. And when you really want to dial into customer personalization, you’ll start to see the cat walk by you two to three times like in The Matrix movie; the construct doesn’t always work [at the individual customer level]. The good thing that’s happening is that we’re starting to get a better big-data analytic understanding of what customers want by cohort, by geography, by buying patterns, and so forth. But that has to be balanced with an understanding of what customers want at an individual level. So the companies that are going to be really successful in the future will understand leading trends, those constructs, but they’re still going to be able to leverage big data—that is, leverage global information resources, R=G—and design it to [the level of] n=1.


    Baldrige provides the holistic framework to assess all the dimensions of an organization required for driving excellence.


  2. Working Towards a Citizen Centered Government – Keynote Presentation in New Zealand

    November 13, 2012 by ahmed

    Art Daniels has over 40 years’ experience in managing and developing institutions in the Canadian public service. He is widely recognized as a leader in implementing public sector change initiatives particularly in citizen focused reform initiatives. Art will be giving a keynote presentation at the World Business Capability Congress, 5-7 December 2012, Auckland, www.worldbusinesscapabilitycongress.com and assisting in the Pre-Congress 2-Day Workshop – Achieving Customer Centricity, 3-5 December 2012, Auckland, http://www.worldbusinesscapabilitycongress.com/achieving-customer-centricity

    In preparation for the Congress, Art has answered the following questions:

    Questions:

    1. As a recognised leader driving Canadian public sector change and customer focus reform initiatives, where do you think our public sector could improve?

    In Canada, we established the Institute for Citizen Centred Services in1998. It is a pan Canadian institution where all levels of government share research on the needs and expectations of Canadians as customers of public services. By understanding their expectations, the government has been able to improve their services every year. What they learned is that services could be improved through easy access, timely responses and services bundled around the needs of the customer.

    1. How could improvements be made at a time of decreased (real) budgets and redundancies? Could ‘lean government’ be just an ineffective as ‘bloated government’ but with less public money?

    The recent research in Canada shows an interesting dichotomy in citizen’s expectations of government. As more services are provided on-line or digitally, service results improve as they are more individualized and services are bundled around the needs of the citizen. Services in the past which were provided by a range of government agencies and departments left the customer frustrated. Now that governments are more collaborative and bundling services, the customer experience is more satisfactory. For example, “the lost wallet strategy” means that with one visit to one site, the customer can replace their driver’s license, health card, birth certificate, passport and other identification that had been lost together. This streamlining or bundling of services is part of lean government which is cost effective and reduces service time.

    1. Could any of the successes in Canada be transferred to NZ?

    We are very pleased that the government of New Zealand has partnered with the Institute of Citizen-Centered Services in Canada to provide some of the same research tools used in Canada. In New Zealand, what we refer to as citizen centered research, is called Kiwis Count. They are also using our Common Measurement Tool which allows governments to benchmark their services with each other using common questionnaires.

    1. What are the benefits of your recommendations?

    The benefits of these initiatives has resulted in government service ratings improving from a low of 48% satisfaction in 1998 to 72% satisfaction in 2012 with some services achieving over 90% satisfaction, such as fire services. The move to more digital services has allowed governments to not only improve its services but, also to effectively downsize the public services resulting in savings of labour costs. Routine clerical transactions that were provided over decades by clerks which often took weeks to complete have now been replaced by online services which can be provided instantaneously. For example, from my own experience, is the registration of a small business in Ontario. In 1998, it took 62 working days to complete this transaction; it is now completed online on the same day. In fact, the government guarantees that if they fail to complete the transaction in one day, the service is free.

    1. What culture change, within the public sector, is needed to enact change?

    The culture change which is most required in public service is a shift from a bureaucratic set of processes designed to suit the organization’s needs to a customer service culture where the needs of the customer direct the service. The important shift to a customer centered culture is when organizations move from working independently to collaboration. This is referred to as “connected government” or “joined up government”.

    1. If there was one key message you wish to convey to policy makers and business leaders in New Zealand, what would that be?

    For decades, both businesses and governments have worked in silos but, are now beginning to recognize the need for collaboration in government or strategic alliances with the private sector. Governments are also starting to recognize that partnerships with the private sector in the delivery of services can be more efficient and effective. The “holy grail” for public service reform is meeting the expectations of citizens that services can be co-ordinated around their needs rather than the needs of individual ministries, departments or branches.


  3. Service Excellence Initiatives in Europe

    November 16, 2011 by

     

    Many counties have established frameworks to improve customer service. These are often called “Service Excellence Frameworks” and are usually derived from Business Excellence Frameworks such as Baldrige and EFQM.

    To achieve high levels of service excellence organisations need to focus on areas beyond customer delight and customer experience, areas such as service leadership and service planning.
     
    Research was  conducted by Jurgita Adomaityte to explore the penetration of Service Excellence initiatives in 34 European countries.

    In summary, the findings were:

    • 26 Service Excellence initiatives in 17 countries
    • 17 Countries with no Service Excellence initiative
    • 11 Service Excellence Awards in 9 countries
    • 10 initiatives were limited to certain sectors such as tourism and call centres

    To read the full results table click here.

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR.com


  4. Value creation selling helps your customers succeed

    September 11, 2011 by
    value

    Ram Charan, author of “Leaders at All Levels”, describes [1] a new approach to sales that revolves around helping customers to succeed. He calls this value creation selling (VCS).  Successes should be measured in terms of how customers benefit from your help.  The ability to create value for customers will differentiate an organisation from its competitors and attract a fair price paid in return from the customer. Value creation selling includes the following practices:
    1. Understanding the customer’s business by devoting time and energy to learn about it in detail:
      • What are their goals?
      • What financial measures do they employ?
      • How do they create market value?
      • What key factors differentiate their product or service from competitors? 

    2. Utilising new capabilities and tools for learning about how customers go about their business and how you could help them improve.  Staff from key departments must also highly familiar with these customers.  Share information about customers with key personnel and collaboratively decide the best ways to help the customer win.  Build new social networks which lead to frequent interaction among people from differing functional backgrounds.
    3. Knowing your customers and the customer’s customers. Tailor solutions to satisfy your customers' markets by discovering:
      • Who their customers are,
      • What they want,
      • What their problems and attitudes are, and
      • How they make decisions.
      • In order to devise unique offerings for your customer work backward from the needs of the end consumer to the needs of your In order to devise unique offerings for your customer work backward from the needs of the end consumer to the needs of your customer.

    4. Value creation selling generally requires longer cycle times to produce an order and to generate revenue. Therefore it requires patience, consistency and the development of high levels of trust with customers. Two-way information exchanges will be far deeper and lead to increased credibility.
    5. Redesign recognition and reward systems to encourage the behaviours needed to make the value creation selling approach more effective.  Members of the sales team in other functional areas must also be recognized and rewarded in proportion to their contribution.

    [1] Charan, R., (2010), Profitable Growth, Leadership Excellence, Vol 27, Iss 11, pp 3-5, Executive Excellence Publishing, Provo,

    Neil Crawford
    BPIR

    Members can read the full article by clicking here


  5. Tips for Customer Service

    July 22, 2011 by
    customerservice

    Poor customer service including, indifferent attitudes, lazy or sloppy service and lack-lustre follow-up are extremely damaging for an organisation’s reputation. Brand value and sales stand to be lost due to poor credibility and loss of trust. Tessa Hood, managing director of Changing Gear, offers the following important tips [1] for delivering strong customer service:
    1. Never compromise on the service offered to customers. They trusted your organisation when they purchased your products or service. They will feel let down whenever that trust is not respected. 
    2. Gather feedback from employees concerning ways to improve customer service. Staff will appreciate their expertise and contributions being valued. These contributions often closely match the expectations of customers.
    3. Monitor and document customer services challenges, actions taken, and results achieved. It is helpful for customers to understand the successes that have been achieved on their behalf  and also for managers to acknowledge excellent results achieved by their teams.
    4. Ensure that staff appearances are of a high standard. Good first impressions are very important.
    5. Actively listen to customers. Keep eye contact and engagement with customers while striving to be absolutely authentic.
    6. Encourage staff and teams to develop wider networks. Networks can enhance and organisation’s reputation and lead to new prospects more economically than via advertising.
    7. Utilise the power of online branding. Use high quality content and links.
    8. Develop a strong people brand. Put a face on the organisation that both clarifies its brand and makes it stand out from the crowd.

    [1] R11102 Hood, T., (2011), Powerful service, Director, Vol  63, Iss  11, p 20, Institute of Directors, London

    Members can read the full article by clicking here

    Neil Crawford
    BPIR