Voice of the Customer Isn't All Talk

Customer Service
Customer Service
CDW drove hundreds of millions in revenue by listening to customers.

Many organizations ask customers for their feedback. CDW is one of the few that actually takes action on what it learns. Doing so has bolstered customer loyalty, increased satisfaction, and added hundreds of millions in revenue in 2009 alone.

Meeting customer needs is priority number one at CDW. In fact, the B2B technology solutions provider attributes much of its success to its dedication to listening and responding to customers.

CDW's customer strategy is encapsulated in its Customer Loyalty and Experience Program. The comprehensive approach includes such elements as multiple feedback channels, closed-loop responses, staying close to active customers, unearthing sales leads, and tracking loyalty as a key metric. CDW uses an extensive voice of the customer (VOC) program to capture and track customer satisfaction, as well as issues and opportunities.

According to Calvin Vass, senior manager of research at CDW, its VOC program is quite unique. As part of the program, the company will invite about 75 percent of its customer contacts to participate in one of its various surveys in 2010. Customers who are most engaged with CDW are invited quarterly, with the goal of hearing from each customer twice in one year. The survey aimed at these customers has several objectives, which include measuring customer loyalty, uncovering problems, and identifying sales opportunities.

"Were [surveying] customers two times if they're really engaged with CDW and we think that they have a lot of feedback to give us," Vass says. "The size of the program takes people back when they hear how many surveys and request for customer feedback were sending out, but how it's integrated into many of our processes is what is really unique."

"Hot alerts," for example, are an essential part of the company's VOC process. These alerts allow the company to take immediate action on a request or issue a customer cites in a survey response. "If a customer says they have a problem, it's automatically directed back to the team that can make a difference," says Vass. "The fact that customers were listened to is a huge positive for them."

Surveys sent out in 2009 identified thousands of customer problems that otherwise may have gone undetected and led to attrition. Each was flagged to receive a personal follow-up from CDW's quality assurance team and was tracked through to completion.

The company uses hot alerts to follow up on sales opportunities, as well. Surveys also provide customers with information on products or services they might be interested in. Hot alerts notify salespeople of clients who expressed interest as a result. This drove hundreds of millions in additional revenue for the company last year alone.

CDW uses the insight it gathers to ensure that customers have the best experience possible, as well as to track loyalty and its relation to business performance. The company tracks performance on five customer experience areas that most influence customer loyalty: account managers, billing process, delivery, product offerings, and website. In the case of account managers, CDW learned through its surveys that one of its most valuable assets is a personable and knowledgeable account manager -- customer loyalty is highest when account managers receive high scores from their customers. Customer surveys provide feedback on each account manager; twice a year account managers participate in a specialized development and coaching process. As of March 2010, almost all surveyed customers rated their account manager as "excellent" or "very good."

Additionally, through a series of questions developed by Walker Information, CDW's customers are grouped into one of four categories: truly loyal, trapped, accessible, and high risk. This methodology showed that in 2009 CDW's truly loyal customers had average annual sales that were two times than that of their high risk customers.

Extending VOC's impact

CDW works hard to stay close to active customers, but is focused on remaining engaged with less active customers, as well. Recently the company added a brief survey directed to these customers that is cost effective and less complex, but has important goals. CDW is using the survey to learn how the company can provide a better experience to these customers, as well as to encourage them to do business with CDW more often. As of June, thousands of customers provided feedback who normally would not have been invited to do so.

CDW's online customer community is an additional component of the company's VOC program. Working with Communispace, CDW asks a select group of customers to provide frequent feedback so the company can get quick input on special topics that support its business strategy.

Acting on customer feedback has made an impact not only on satisfaction, loyalty, and sales, but also on many other aspects of the business for CDW. For example, its VOC surveys have helped improve the company's data quality; information like an updated role or title is transferred to its customer database; this allows the company to better interact with and respond to customer needs through more relevant product offerings, marketing messages, and the like. "All of the feedback we're getting is so specific," Vass says, "[it] drives operational improvements."