April 13, 2015

Guest blog post: Customer Experience Management as a tool for people with grey hair

Matti Ketonen

Vice President, Supply Chain Planning, Metsä Board

Younger generation may be the leaders in adopting new ways of working or new tools for – not just CEM – but for anything. But the truth is that ease of use is the key. In my experience easy tools such as WhatsApp, Yammer and Instagram are equally eagerly embraced by all generations as long as the purpose of the “gadget” is clear and the use is straightforward without “unnecessary” complications.

The advantage of the tools in public domain is often that they are created for a relatively small application area without need to either integrate with other systems with structured data or manage several work processes. It doesn’t harm that perhaps “the big brother effect” is felt less or ignored in these contexts.

Use of “social media” tools is voluntary, often fun and rewarding as feedback is readily available. These are factors that help in the adoption. It is easy to say that this should be the case with tools in the workplace too. But how do you measure that people have used these tools “enough”, the quality of the work is “acceptable” and the value added is positive. The underlying question – I suppose – is: “How do I get to know what I do not know”. Only then you can start doing something about “not knowing”.

These are the main challenges for using practices familiar in social media in industrial work:

  • How to make the tools easy to use but still integrate with other solutions?
  • How to structure the data models in ways that support decision making?
  • How to keep the internal processes intact but open to receive additional information?
  • How to measure payback? Is there one? Should you measure?

I know it is almost a worn out expression that we should start with the customer. What do they need or want, what are we willing to deliver and then how are we going to perform.

  1. By clearly defining the intended service to the customer we can start looking at the processes how the delivery process of both products and services could be built.
  2. Traditionally this leads to a multitude of internal business processes that are needed to cover all necessary activities. In modern world these processes should start to deal at least with the interfaces to the external world but ideally would include the important external processes as well.

Processes are, of course, the basis for the tools and rules that we use to run the processes.

Bringing customer to the center of all activities creates the scenery for the adoption of CEM. There is an increasing amount of information about the customer that would be useful in all steps of the above development process. Sooner or later this information will become, not just good-to-know, but necessary to know. When developing future services many aspects of customer needs have to be taken into account but there is very little we can do with unstructured data about all your customers. Somehow you will have to create a structure either before the data is collected or before it is used. The same applies – perhaps even more necessarily – to the applications where this information will interact directly with the existing processes.

customer in the center of everything

Again, existing system design practices readily support the structure definition before the collection while new (yes it is still new) possibility of storing infinite amount of data would facilitate “saving all of it in case we need it later”. But the structure! Where does it come from? Your answer is: big data. But still! Someone will need to understand the context and what to look for.

I guess there will be willingness – also in forest industry – to invest in CEM if the following questions can answered:

  • How (exactly) is the immediate customer experience going to be better? Can we anticipate their questions and be prepared? Can we shorten the interaction time or reduce contact frequency (yes we love our customers and want to chat with them but time is money)?
  • How do we need to structure our offering to facilitate self-service? Ordering? Follow-up of deliveries? This with the fact that products tend to become more complicated to specify and services are a different animal altogether?

How do we ensure that better understanding of customers leads to increased effectiveness (note: effectiveness not efficiency, see Oxford English dictionary if needed) not just need to customize and fragment the offering? After all budget airlines have somehow managed to structure their services from a limitless amount of available combinations.

Read also Jaakko Vilén´s blog post: Will younger generations lead the digital change in the forest and paper industry?

Matti Ketonen is a supply chain professional in Metsä Board. He has been working in and responsible for various parts of the supply chain – including customer service - in forest industry since 1997.

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