Using the Voice of the Customer to Drive Organizational Culture Change

Reg Goeke

Last month I shared some top line findings from the recent global IQPC study into the drivers of Business Process Excellence (BPE) initiatives. As noted there, the BPE survey revealed that the evolution of Business Process Excellence appears to parallel the evolution of the Six Sigma methodology, with about 10 percent of the responding companies still focused on decreasing defects or cycle times (Generation 1), 30 percent focused on cutting costs (Generation 2), and about 40 percent of all respondents reporting that they are evolving toward Generation 3, shifting from an internal focus on defects and costs to an external focus on customer satisfaction, value, revenue growth and market share gains. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Primary Purpose of BPE Initiatives

One of the more interesting findings, however, was that nearly 20 percent of respondents reported that the primary purpose for their BPE initiative was to change the company’s culture. Recent discussions with representatives from Xerox, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, and Shaw Industries have suggested that perhaps the culture change being sought by companies using BPE for that purpose was to break down the functional silos within their organizations, and to shift from an internal to an external perspective on the business. All three of these company representatives explained that they use value stream mapping in order to identify impediments to value delivery, and that the process of mapping value streams requires inter-departmental engagement.

Managing Across the Customer Experience to Break Down Functional Silos

Value stream mapping, or VSM, differs from simple process mapping in four critical respects (click on image to enlarge):

Value Stream Mapping

  • Value streams begin and end with the customer — the the external customer — the one who is actually paying the bills
  • Value stream maps must explicitly include customer "touch points," also known as "moments of truth," "transactions," or "channels," depending upon your industry
  • Value stream maps should reveal all "hand-offs" between and among functional areas, or departments, across the entire value stream
  • Value stream maps should make it possible to transcend the notion of internal customers, providing everyone in the organization with a "line of sight" to the real customer

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Value Stream "Swim Lanes"

External Customers versus Internal Customers

One of the most potentially dangerous concepts to enter the lexicon of the business world is the concept of "internal customers." Promulgated largely by process improvement practitioners, this concept was the predictable outcome of a focus on individual processes within the organization, rather than a focus on entire value streams which begin and end with the actual customer — the one who is ultimately using the product or service you provide. The danger of focusing on internal customers lies in assuming that these "customers" (employees) actually understand the needs of the "real" customer, and what their role is in addressing those needs across the entire value stream. The quickest way to dispel that myth is to have those "internal customers" identify and quantify those factors that are critical to quality and value to your external customers, and then compare that list to one generated by those external customers themselves. This can be the first important step in shifting your organization’s culture from one that is internally focused to one that is externally (customer) focused.

The Importance of Identifying Customer Touch Points

Many organizations involved in value stream mapping intuitively understand the importance of the external customer but still fail to make explicit those key "moments of truth" — opportunities to add or subtract value across the entire value stream. Identifying those customer touch points as they actually occur is essential to the integrity of the process. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Customer Touch Points

This is your opportunity to explicitly identify those touch points, to identify who is initiating the contact, and to identify the internal department or functional area with which contact is being made. This also represents a terrific opportunity to actually engage customers in the mapping process to be sure that you’ve identified those touch points correctly.

Multi-Functional Engagement in Value Creation and Delivery

Ensuring the delivery of superior value at each customer touch point is the responsibility of many different departments across the organization. Mapping those various responsibilities — and the interactions across functional areas — represents a tremendous opportunity to break down those organizational silos and individual fiefdoms that exist within every organization. Each of the company representatives I met with saw this as a most important and desirable culture change within their own organizations.

The key to maximizing this opportunity to change the organization’s culture is to be sure that the very people who are doing the actual work within each department are the ones who are doing the actual mapping. By listing the actual departments on the value stream map, and engaging key personnel within each department in the mapping exercise, employees in different functional areas will begin to understand how their work impacts employees in other functional areas. (Click on image enlarge.)

Multi-Functional Impact on Value Streams

Maintaining "Line of Sight" to the Customer

The one department in most organizations that has the worst time maintaining a line of sight to the end customer is the IT department. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called upon by IT professionals to help quantify the Voice of their Customer — namely, other employees and functional areas across the organization — rather than to help them understand value from the perspective of the end user. But once IT professionals become actively engaged in mapping a value stream, they become much more aware of their own role in enabling the creation and delivery of superior value to end users, and their entire perspective is likely to change. (Click on image.)

The IT Interface

This is often the first time that IT professionals are given the opportunity to understand the importance of knowing what the critical-to-quality factors (CTQs) are from a market perspective, and how their role impacts the delivery of quality. With that realization comes a new thirst for customer feedback on the utility of the organization’s information systems in creating and delivering superior value.

Of course, mapping the value stream is only the first step in actually improving those processes that will have the greatest impact on delivering superior value. The tools of Six Sigma Marketing will allow you to use the actual Voice of the Market (VOM) to identify those processes within the value stream that you should be targeting for improvement. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Using the Call Center to Close the Loop on Organizational Culture Change

As call centers evolve into becoming more proactive in listening to the Voice of the Customer, more and more of them are re-allocating resources to the purpose of outbound calls rather than just accepting inbound calls. The key challenge for those more progressive call centers lies in identifying those customer touch points that they should be tapping into proactively. This market-driven approach to value stream mapping will enable call center managers to (a) identify those processes that are being targeted for value enhancements, and (b) identify those customer touch points, or "moments of truth," that they should be monitoring for customer reactions. This closes the loop on culture change across the organization.

Companies using this approach have been unanimous in observing that this type of value stream mapping provides an entirely new perspective on the customer experience. And several companies reported that they are already engaging employees and customers in mapping their value streams collaboratively. This puts real teeth into the notion of using Business Process Excellence as a vehicle for organizational culture change — the kind of change that can create and deliver superior value to your targeted customers!