Customer Experience is the key to Operational Excellence Success

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A September 2015 survey of 150 Operational Excellence (Op Ex) professionals found that 38% of respondents listed Customer Experience (CX) as their number one priority in Op Ex.  That’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that nearly 4 out of 10 Op Ex professionals recognize that CSX is central to Op Ex success. The bad news is that 62% – don’t. 

There’s no doubt that Op Ex success also relies on other factors such as leadership and culture. But if an organization doesn’t put customers first – they may find themselves optimizing to a decreasing share of the market.  Op Ex professionals will recognize the importance of focusing on customer experience as it has been part of the lean movement since 1988. 

There are some compelling reasons to integrate CX with OpEx. First, CX attracts more management attention than Lean six Sigma. There are about 50 Chief Customer Officers among Fortune 500 companies.  That’s about 10 times more than there are Chief Process Officers. Next, when you compress cycle time in creating value for customers – you simultaneously drive down cost. Then, it’s the right thing to do – it requires cross functional collaboration – and far more fun than just focusing on cost reduction.

If you wish to place CX where it belongs, then consider emphasizing the following:

  • Build a high level customer journey map and take the time to discuss how various departments need to collaborate to create value for customers.
  • Measure what’s important to customers. This often involves key metrics around the timeliness and quality of the products and services provided such as on time delivery, variance to promise, and on first time right answers to inquiries. 
  • Develop a series of high level process models that depict how the organization creates value for customers at key touch points or “moments of truth.”
  • Have fewer projects. Use the above information to launch a few high impact process improvement projects. 

In building the customer journey map it’s important that it be developed from your customers’ perspective, not the organization’s – and that it’s a living document that is shared and actionable – not by just a small team, but by cross functional teams and well-known throughout the entire organization.

In measuring what matters to customers, be sure to measure just the critical few factors. Many organizations attempt to monitor far too many KPIs. Note that customers increasingly expect:

  • Perfect order delivery – when promised, complete, error free
  • Perfect new product introductions - when promised, complete, error free, works right first time
  • Perfect response to inquiries – prompt, complete, error free, right first time
  • Zero variance to promise – information and service delivered when promised

Further, note that while many firms pay lip service to improving customer experience, the leading firms appear to emphasize the following: 

  • Communicate the importance  of customer experience to all stakeholders 
  • Align customer experience strategy with corporate strategy 
  • Monitor and communicate customer experience metrics and connect rewards/recognition to customer experience metrics 
  • Train new and existing staff in customer experience skills 

Leading firms also appreciate the importance of avoiding the following pitfalls in linking CX to Op Ex:

  • Persisting in an traditional inside-out view and not exploring an “outside-in” view
  • Slamming in technology solutions without first understanding the customer view and the process view
  • Making changes to organizational structure before understanding the customer view and the process view
  • Slow pacing 
  • Inconsistent management attention often characterized by involvement at the outset followed by varying levels of participation   

The momentum for increased focus on customer experience appears to be increasing.  A recent survey of over 237 CX professionals found that: 

  • Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their customer experience efforts had a positive business impact in 2016. 
  • Eighty percent of respondents believe that customer experience will be more important for their companies in 2017 than it was in 2016, compared to the 3% who think it will be less important. 
  • Forty-nine percent expect to see an increase in their customer experience staffing levels this year. 
  • Spending will likely increase most on voice of the customer software and text analytics. 
  • Respondents plan to focus most on Web experiences and customer insights and analysis. These recent findings represent compelling evidence for Op Ex professionals to embrace CX and integrate it into their thinking and actions.  


i   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shingo_Prize_for_Operational_Excellence 

ii  http://www.ccocouncil.org 

iii Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management, Harvard Business Review, 2014

iv  https://experiencematters.blog/2017/02/21/report-state-of-the-cx-profession-2017/ 

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