Driving an Effective Customer Experience Using Lean Six Sigma: An Interview with Doug Burgess of Xerox

Doug Burgess

In today’s fast-paced global economy, organizations must be nimble enough to adapt to the ever-changing needs of their customers. As apparent in most firms, what customers value today won’t necessarily be what they value tomorrow. In this Six Sigma IQ interview, Doug Burgess, Senior Vice President, Xerox Corporate Lean Six Sigma, discusses how Xerox uses Lean Six Sigma to drive a more effective customer experience for its customers in order to meet these challenges and produce results for customers’ long term business goals.

How does Xerox define effective customer experience?

An effective customer experience is one of synergy. At Xerox, our Lean Six Sigma team prides itself on working with our customers to define goals, measure current processes, identify inefficiencies and improve and monitor them to be certain developments are long lasting.

It creates a chain reaction. Lean Six Sigma helps our clients, who can then pass efficiencies and a better experience onto their customers. For instance, the Brooklyn Public Library wanted to curb unnecessary spending. Library administrators worked with the Xerox Global Services team to develop a fact based analysis to find the core processes taking place within the library’s patron printing system. Once recognized the team sought to find ways to control the processes and automate them, ultimately leading to a print-for-pay system that provided better services for library goers and more time for library staff.

Xerox Lean Six Sigma has a plethora of tools available to be used for virtually any customer challenge that emerges. As every customer is unique, our team must work with them to customize a solution that will provided long term results for that customer’s business goals.

How has Xerox adapted its use of Lean Six Sigma to drive a more effective customer experience for customers, especially in light of changing customer demands over the last couple of decades?

There is no question demands from our customers have changed over the years, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the customer experience that pushes us to do better, to create better products, and to enhance our service offerings. Everything we do revolves around the customer and easing their pain points.

Lean Six Sigma offers the tools to enable a more effective customer experience by encouraging our graduates to listen to the customer to power decisions on where to focus efforts. The customer is engaged in a dialogue, creating a direct interaction, which allows for an intimate understanding of customer needs. Our team walks the customer’s process to map out pain points—identifying which parts of the process and system are not as effective as they need to be. The combined knowledge of customer needs and current pain points allows the research team to design a solution.

How much influence does customer feedback play a role in process improvement for Xerox? For instance, does customer feedback primarily drive process improvement within Xerox?

Developing lasting customer relationships requires an understanding of our customers’ needs, a tremendous amount of listening and a lot of dialogue. Xerox’s Lean Six Sigma started as a manufacturing tool, but it has been applied to all sorts of disciplines and has proven key to improving productivity, reducing costs and enhancing our offerings. Using Lean Six Sigma tools, we gather customer feedback to improve our offerings to best suit their needs and wants.

For example, Xerox’s iGen4 digital printing press is a success thanks in part to Lean Six Sigma. Xerox turned to Lean Six Sigma methodologies to identify the core challenges facing iGen4 press customers. Lean Six Sigma helped define the goals and outline what customers were facing. We gathered input from potential customers—those new to the digital color world or ones currently running competitors’ equipment, as well as "walked the customer’s process" to observe press operators in action to fully understand their needs. Using Lean Six Sigma and focusing on the Voice of the Customer allowed us to identify what was needed to make iGen4 press not only achieve the highest image quality, but also satisfy customers’ productivity requirements.

What best practices has Xerox developed for collecting customer feedback and breaking down the data in order to improve the company’s internal processes?

Describing our customer focus as a "top priority" is putting it mildly. Voice of the Customer (VOC) is used to describe customers’ needs and their perceptions of our products and services. VOC drives the Xerox Lean Six Sigma strategy because it plays the central role in project identification and selection. VOC data provides the spark that ignites the initial application of our Xerox Lean Six Sigma tools and processes. It’s through the VOC that we upgrade our ability to experience what the customer experiences in using any of our offerings.

The process for moving from "VOC needs" all the way to "Critical to Quality (CTQ) specifications" is approached in five steps:

  1. Identify VOC "strategic value drivers" from our strategic priorities
  2. Collect customer data from multiple sources to confirm customer requirements
  3. Analyze data to generate a list of VOC opportunities. These are identified ways to impact an area of focus (but not yet well defined).
  4. Translate VOC opportunities into project ideas. This further details an opportunity so it becomes more specific.
  5. Set CTQ specification for the project idea (e.g. specific limits, targets, opportunities, definitions, etc.).

We have two broad sources from which to "mine for data": 1) Reactive sources, such as service calls, warranty claims, call center logs, customer complaints, etc. 2) Proactive sources, such as surveys, focus groups, market research, customer interviews, customer/supplier audits, etc.

We then organize and analyze the collected data, using a variety of tools or models. One is the VOC Value-Driver Tree—a systematic method that helps move from an unachievable VOC value driver, through a set of intermediate categories called "opportunities" (which are more specific expressions of customer wants), and then onto breaking down those opportunities into further sub-categories until the original customer value-driver can be expressed as meaningful project ideas.

What are some specific examples of how Xerox has used these metrics to better align process improvement with the customer experience?

Xerox uses Lean Six Sigma throughout the life of a customer relationship to monitor progress, evaluate processes and make improvements where necessary. We are in touch with our clients to understand their changing environments, goals and areas of importance. We also understand that employee adoption is key to achieving results, so we take the time to analyze the daily habits of end users to make sure the solution fits their needs and provide training to make sure they feel good about best practices.

The Xerox Global Services team has been working with KeyCorp to reduce operating costs for the financial services company by $1 million per year over the life of a six year contract. Streamlining the document management strategy and print environment are both sources of significant cost savings and productivity improvement. A Lean Six Sigma-based assessment was used to evaluate employees’ daily work processes to identify inefficiencies, ways to improve productivity and uncover cost savings opportunities. After the evaluation, more efficient multifunction devices were installed and employees were trained to ensure they felt comfortable and understood the full functionality MFPs offer. We also provided training on paper-use reduction strategies. Ultimately, KeyCorp has reduced their print spend by 30 percent. The strategy has also provided benefits in another area important to KeyCorp—sustainability. With reduced paper consumption, decreased power usage and tons of landfill waste eliminated, the responsible print strategy has contributed to green objectives.

The KeyCorp story illustrates our approach to creating the best possible solution—combining superior technology and resources with employee best practices—to meet the daily needs of our customers. We believe a positive customer experience depends on ongoing support, so we’re dedicated to using Lean Six Sigma continually to maintain the optimized processes that give our customers a competitive edge.

What is the number one piece of advice you have for companies that are struggling to meet their customers’ needs, especially in light of today’s global economy?

Listen to your customer. Without knowing what your customers’ individual pain points are, you won’t be able to help fix them; and being able to fix pain points is what creates a loyal customer. In today’s economy, cost savings is no doubt top of mind for your customers, so while they may not have the resources to implement a full DMAIC process to solve a particular pain point—perhaps you can work with them on the first three steps of Define, Measure and Analyze. By offering to conduct a DMA blitz exercise for your customers—you can tackle the problems they’re having with internal processes, or production, and come up with some "quick hit" solutions to get them back on track with a given process and operating more efficiently. Tips like this can create a loyal customer who won’t forget the help provided when times are better and they’re ready to implement a larger scale program.

Interview by Genna Weiss