At last week's Conference Board Customer Loyalty conference, Sony Electronics Senior Vice President of Service Platfom Dan Wiersma asked attendees how many of them owned Sony devices. Every hand in the room went up.
So why would a company like Sony, which has so many customers, look at customer-focused initiatives to drive loyalty? "Customer loyalty is the pathway to long-term sustainable growth," he said. Even a company as successful as Sony can't rest on its laurels as competitors flood the marketplace. "Technology is still important, but the customer experience is critical."
In 2006 Wiersma joined with Chief Marketing Officer Mike Fasulo and Jay Vandenbree, president of Sony's consumer sales group, to jointly fund a CRM and customer loyalty plan. The vision was to improve the customer experience at every possible point to increase loyalty and create business results.
Wiersma and his team, working with loyalty consultancy Synovate, developed customer surveys based on Net Promoter Score (NPS), asking customers if they would recommend Sony products and Sony as a brand. He also added questions such as, "Would you be willing to shop Sony first," "Would you buy Sony even if others are discounted," and "Would you be willing to buy only Sony products?" Then they asked consumers why or why not.
While Sony sells primarily through retailers, it is able to identify and connect directly with customers who shop at its 40 Sony Style direct-to-consumer stores, as well as customers who have registered their products or called into the contact center.
The company also began measuring customer satisfaction during service interactions, such as repairs or calls into the call center. Customer verbatims after a service call were recorded and analyzed. "We deployed an integrated measurement system across the enterprise, with internal service KPIs," Wiersma said. "Improvements in any of these areas make a difference to loyalty."
Presentation makes a difference
Sony discovered that customers have very high expectations of quality across the customer experience, from the products themselves to the packaging. "In some cases the packaging inside the box was just a pile of papers," Wiersma said. "Customers expected something more sophisticated and organized from Sony."
In another example, Sony discovered that customers shopping in a Sony Style store consider it a high-end experience. They wanted a nice box and bag for their purchases, so they could walk around showing off their purchase [?a the very recognizable Tiffany's blue bag.] As a result, in November the company redesigned its Vaio computer box and reorganized its packaging. As an added touch, each box now contains a thank-you card from Vaio's senior general manager, containing his direct phone number and email address.
These are just some of the first steps in Sony's loyalty journey, Wiersma said. While the Vaio product group has been very aggressive with its loyalty strategy, some other groups are a little slower to take action. In addition, Sony plans to start working with retailers to identify and interact with the majority of Sony consumers who remain anonymous.
Wiersma hopes to keep internal momentum going with assigned "loyalty leads" for each business unit to help support the loyalty strategy. Sony has also set up an internal website called Customer Experience Excellence, where every employee can view loyalty data such as customer verbatims, survey results, and business unit action plans. "It gives employees the opportunity to leverage their capabilities and compare themselves to other business units," Wiersma said. And since money talks, 40 percent of Wiersma's service group's employee variable compensation is tied to customer metrics like NPS and customer satisfaction. He hopes to expand that to other business units' compensation plans.
Sony's ultimate strategy is about changing the customer experience by changing the corporate attitude toward customers. "Nirvana is to make this instinctively part of what we do as a business," Wiersma said.