Creating a Direct Connection to Customers

Customer Service
Customer Service
Dennis Fitzgerald, vice president, customer satisfaction, Yaskawa America Inc., architected an approach to identify and act on individual customers' concerns.

Manufacturers that sell through distributors rarely get direct access to customer input. Dennis Fitzgerald sought to change that for Yaskawa America, a maker of industrial controls and automation systems. As vice president of customer satisfaction for the company's drives and motion division, Fitzgerald led the introduction of a new approach to customer interaction.

Doing so enabled the company to increase its insight about both customers and internal processes. Fitzgerald sold Yaskawa's board of directors on the change, emphasizing that increases in customer satisfaction lead to added loyalty. This, in turn, helps the company retain its current customers while continuing to acquire new ones.

Additionally, Fitzgerald stressed the importance of supporting the new customer-centric approach with CRM software, so the company implemented SAP CRM. The tool helps Yaskawa communicate directly with end users, allowing the company to answer their questions and track incidents, as well as provide leads to its sales force. Although the company always had a support line in place, it was never monitored or quantified. "We were talking to 50,000 people every year, but they never had a distinct voice," Fitzgerald says.

The CRM application allows Yaskawa to identify not only who calls, but also where they bought their product. Moreover, it gives the company contact details of end users, who could then be included in Yaskawa's customer satisfaction surveys, increasing survey replies by 50 percent. Additionally, the company can trace all customer comments back to the particular associate they interacted with, as well as understand whether there is an issue with a specific agent or a problem with the product or process. "We're able to nail down the root cause [of any issues]," Fitzgerald says.

Under Fitzgerald's watchful eyes, Yaskawa has also reengineered its contact center, using automation to reduce customer wait times and increase first-call resolution. He is now working on overhauling the repair area to ensure that customers are listened to and their expectations are met.

Furthermore, Fitzgerald has helped to motivate employees to be more customer-centric by championing a revision to their compensation. Yaskawa now links a percentage of employees' bonuses to client satisfaction. He says this led to a jump in engagement from employees, who can now see the value of their input and actions. He is also moving employees around the company to make sure that people with more customer-centric knowledge are integrated within different areas of the organization. Fitzgerald's team moved field services people into technical phone center roles and vice versa, based on employees' ability to communicate with customers or resolve issues in the field.

Fitzgerald strongly believes in promoting positions from within and strives to ensure that employees have opportunities to improve their career. "People who have a solid reputation for taking care of the customer, as well as good work ethics, have better opportunities within the company," he says.

Fitzgerald asserts that in a tight marketplace, having a good product is not enough; customer centricity is the main differentiator: "If we have more people focused on the customer and on satisfying him, we differentiate Yaskawa's product enough to maintain our customer base and grow faster than our competitors."