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Following a Six Sigma Approach Towards Customer Centricity

Posted: 01/11/2012
Elena Mircoli Marietti
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Customer Centricity is not a one-time effort, carried out by a small project team and quickly filed away and forgotten, writes Elena Mircoli Marietti. Here’s how to embed customer centricity within your Six Sigma approach.

Customer Centricity is a goal to which most companies aspire and many companies believe they already achieved. The majority of these companies, though, fail to understand that achieving Customer Centricity is not a one-time effort, carried out by a small project team and quickly filed away and forgotten. For a company to be truly Customer Centric, a recurrent validation process needs to be implemented. To better understand this concept, we need to get reacquainted with the definition of Customer Centricity:

"Customer centricity is a strategy to fundamentally align a company’s products and services with the wants and needs of its most valuable customers to maximize profits for the long term. Customer centricity refers to the orientation of a company to the needs and behaviors of its customers, rather than internal drivers (such as the quest for short term profit)". (Wikipedia)

As products and services change, so do the needs and behaviors of people (customers) - in some industries, these needs and behaviors change faster than in others. To become and, most importantly, remain Customer Centric, a company needs to follow its customers’ behaviors, listen to their needs and then re-align its initiatives based on those wants and needs in an iterative and ongoing process.

Where did Six Sigma fit into Customer Centricity?

Six Sigma, generally speaking, is a business management strategy that follows a defined sequence of steps/methodologies and has quantifiable financial targets. To be true to the methodology, we should be more specific and expand this definition by saying that Six Sigma strives to improve process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and so minimize variability. For the purpose of this article though, we’ll only emphasize on the more generic definition described above.

Most Six Sigma projects follow the following five phases of the DMAIC process:

Define

Measure

Analyze

Improve

Control

In the section below, we will describe what steps are included in each phase and how each phase can assist any company achieve Customer Centricity.

Achieving Customer Centricity with Six Sigma

The following chart describes a high level strategy to achieve and sustain Customer Centricity by following the Six Sigma methodology:

Phase

Six Sigma steps

Customer Centricity steps

Define

  • State the problem
  • Define the project goals
  • Gather the voice of the customer

The goal of the project will be to achieve and sustain Customer Centricity.

  • Set up a Customer Experience Board/Committee comprised of a representative for each department involved in driving and developing Customer Centric initiatives in the company (This might include, but is not limited to, Communications, Sales, Marketing, IT, Finance, Product, etc.)
  • Gather customer satisfaction data (from surveys, focus groups, etc.)

Measure

  • Map the current process
  • Collect the data available
  • Map the Customer Life Cycle (from the moment the prospect becomes a Customer, to the moment he/she leaves the company)
  • Review customer satisfaction data and locate "pain points".
  • Obtain list of company-wise ongoing initiatives

Analyze

  • Investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships in the data
  • Seek out root cause of the defects
  • Determine which Moments of Truth*, throughout the Life Cycle, have more impact on the customer
  • Map current ongoing company-wise initiatives against Customer Life Cycle
  • Find out any gaps (Are there no initiatives ongoing for the top Moments of Truth? Is the company dedicating time and resources to initiatives that will not impact customer satisfaction?)

Improve

  • Originate and implement solutions
  • Brainstorm and define additional strategic initiatives for each Moment of Truth missing
  • Prioritize current and additional initiatives
  • Retire unnecessary or secondary initiatives
  • Develop an implementation plan including specific goals, primary owner, targets and quality metrics, and possible risks/issues associated with each initiative
  • Launch initiatives

Control

  • Continuously monitor and assure implementations are still valuable and effective
  • Review quality metrics once initiatives have been implemented and on a regular basis moving forward
  • Continue gathering and analyzing customer satisfaction data
  • Establish new initiatives as needed

*From the Online Business Dictionary: "Contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through a product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm".

TIP:

Don’t forget about your internal Customers. Your employees, your vendors, your providers, etc. are as important as your external customers. Include their viewpoints in your study. This might require a separate data analysis as their life cycle might differ.


Thank you, for your interest in Following a Six Sigma Approach Towards Customer Centricity.