Reporter's Notebook: CDW Formalizes Its VOC Program

Customer Service
Customer Service
CDW gains insight from listening to customers

At a time when many companies have been struggling, CDW has grown to more than $8.8 billion in sales. The provider of technology solutions attributes much of its success to listening and responding to the voice of the customer.

The company's formal customer engagement program, which began in 1999, includes several elements that work together to gain insight from its one-million-plus customer base and then make service enhancements based on that information. Some of those elements are:

Relevance and alignment: CDW initiated a mechanism that measures the customer touchpoints that matter most. CDW now tracks a single metric that indicates the health of customer relationships.

Information gathering: The company sends satisfaction surveys to different customer groups each month.Additionally, each week CDW conducts a short survey through its customer community to get immediate feedback on special topics.In 2010 more than 75 percent of CDW's customer base was invited to give feedback.

Communication: CDW has made the voice of the customer more visible to its senior leadership.Quarterly presentations are now made to the executive team and board of directors that highlight customer experience strengths, weaknesses, and improvement initiatives.

Team and resources: The sales organization has become an active part of the research process, helping to formalize a customer-segmentation approach, establish research goals, and follow up on customer feedback.This is an important employee engagement tool, because account managers receive performance ratings from their customers as part of the feedback process.

Action: Systems that track customer issues through to resolution are in place. In addition, CDW developed a program that uses its surveys to collect leads from customers on new products and solutions they would like to learn about.In 2009 leads from the survey process yielded a significant amount of additional revenue.

Calvin Vass, senior manager of research at CDW, says listening is important, but so is acting on the insight. "If there's something that we need to follow up on with a customer, it's reported back to the individual sales teams," he says.

Whenever a customer gives a less than favorable rating, for example, an automated system sends off a trigger to the sales manager, who is required to reach back to the customer to resolve the problem.

To ensure the customer-facing sales reps are improving, Vass makes individual scorecards for each employee, which lists their own service ratings, the ratings of the entire sales force, and unstructured feedback from customers.

The next logical extension of the VOC program, Vass says, is to establish a social media tracking process to monitor customers' perceptions of the customer experience. "We're constantly refining [VOC]," he says. "It's amazing how much value we can get from that."