2009 1to1 Customer Champion: Barbara Graovac, Vice President of Client Services, Thomson Reuters HealthCare

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

Barbara Graovac says customer centricity has always been her passion. "I've always been inspired by great customer service and great customer experience," says Graovac, vice president of client services at Thomson Reuters Healthcare.

Fortunately for Thomson Reuters Healthcare, that passion took hold in the company last year and resulted in the rollout of a customer experience strategy. "I've been at the organization for 16 years and I knew that we needed to differentiate ourselves," she says. "I went to a conference and it lit a fire under me that I could pull it off."

What she achieved was convincing the company's Innovation Board to provide funding for a pilot to test customer experience improvements and ultimately to deploy an enterprisewide customer experience strategy.

But convincing the board wasn't easy. The Innovation Board evaluates innovative ideas and if accepted, funds them. At the end of 2007 Graovac went before the board with her idea. "Standing up there and presenting a service innovation was a bit foreign to them. I was charged with showing them why we would want to do customer experience," she says.

The board typically only invests in new product releases so was hesitant to earmark dollars to something that it assumed every company offers: an experience. But Graovac tied customer experience to revenue growth, so the board agreed to provide funding for a 100-day pilot to prove why Thomson Reuters Healthcare should invest in customer experience.

The pilot included innovation sessions, customer experience training, and classes on calculating the economics of the customer experience. "Essentially, I was given funding...to prove through hard metrics that customer experience would work in our organization," she says.

In February 2008 the pilot kicked off and she embarked on what she calls a "quest to define the economics of customer experience and to articulate how a change in a client's behavior would subsequently lead to financial success."

To help move that needle, Graovac initiated an education series with groups of customer service reps. "Each week we did something different. There was a lot of discussion and interaction around what customerexperience means," she says.

During the innovation workshops employees described customer pain points and created best practices to solve them. Employees spent time talking about how the organization presents itself as a brand and shared ideas about how to make clients heroes in their own organizations. The reps also shared best practice customer service examples with their clients to reinforce the value of working with Thomson Reuters Healthcare.

At the end of the pilot the company surveyed clients and measured client satisfaction and engagement. Both their satisfaction and willingness to recommend increased. Some clients even invited the company to their strategy meetings.

Those successes led to the funding of the company's customer experience program, which officially launched this year. As part of the launch, every healthcare employee will attend a one-day customer service training seminar. The company will also continue to hold the innovation workshops to get buy-in from every employee. Employees, in turn, can bring their innovation ideas to the workshops.

Graovac says she's excited by the turn of events. "I want to make sure our organization and every person in it is taking the time to be focused on creativity so we're not just meeting expectations, but exceeding them," she says. "I have a gift for understanding what people are feeling during an interaction and leverage that to the benefit of the customer."