Siemens A&D Customer Support increases customer satisfaction through the application of KEPNER-TREGOE methods
“The CS 1 Mission”: Satisfied customers
The buyers‘ market has become a reality. Whereas the biggest challenge in times of flourishing economic growth is to keep up with demand, buyers today have a wide choice of offerings. Often the technological distinctions between these offerings are only minimal; in addition, the Internet era has made prices utterly transparent. Given these market developments, customer satisfaction has become a key pursuit*. The more satisfied customers are, the less likely they will be to take their business elsewhere. In fact, more and more customers are basing their investment choices on a provider’s “customer-satisfaction performance”. Customer satisfaction is a strategic competitive advantage. Today there are many references to the “total customer experience” or TCE. It comes as no surprise that the Siemens Automation and Drives (A&D) support organisation sees customer satisfaction as one of its main goals.
* “On average, a 5% increase in ACSI is associated with an almost 20% increase in the value of common equity” (Source: American Customer Satisfaction Index)
Process-driven problem solving as a critical factor of success
A customer’s satisfaction with the technical support provided by an organisation is essentially contingent on two things: the quality of the solution and the speed with which it is delivered.
That said, it is crucial, of course, to ensure from the outset that the solution offered will actually remedy, conclusively, the customer’s problem – ideally at the first attempt.
The process effectiveness in problem-solving plays a critical role in this context, since support personnel seldom have a complete basis of knowledge and information about the customer situation at their disposal. This calls for a system of problem management which is technology-independent, in other words, process-driven.
Kepner-Tregoe ResolveSM is a system for the analysis of technical failures that enables support personnel to process each respective customer situation in a structured manner. It is a toolbox of analysis instruments with which support staff can isolate the possible cause of a problem and then proceed to systematically resolve the incident at hand. It also establishes a common problem-solving “language” which helps to systemise the documentation of problems and to simplify problem hand-overs/escalations.
Initial situation at Siemens A&D
Technical support for Siemens’ SIMATIC products is an established organisation with a wealth of experience at its disposal and with a background of pronounced service culture. Yet it was still possible to identify potential for improvement in the following areas:
- Systematic assessment of the customer situation as a basis on which to determine the ideal approach for customers
- Description of a clear picture of the problem through exact isolation of its cause
- Establishment of the true cause by means of a standardised and structured method
- Sound proposals for solution which exclude the need to perform unnecessary tests and examinations
- Clearly set out, complete and uniform documentation
At Siemens A&D, it was important to gauge the success of the measures applied, predominantly by monitoring the growing level of customer satisfaction and the declining number of backlog cases - cases in which the time from customer service request to final solution is greater than four weeks.
Implementation of KT Troubleshooting
The 5 pillars which support implementation are:
Troubleshooting training and coaching: A crucial factor of success for the roll-out phase is that the people on location are knowledgeable about the method being applied. To maximise success, technical-support employees received training as KT coaches. These coaches now provide on-site training and are actively involved in and oversee implementation. It is the role of the coach, in particular, which helps to ensure sustainability for the scheme on site.
Definition of triggers: Triggers were defined, to concentrate method application in the areas with the greatest benefit/ROI. Triggers are normally time- or event-related, e.g. “escalation into the next support tier level”. In these cases, the support process is expanded to include a systematic problem-solving process.
Management and team-leader meetings: Any initiative for change (especially if it focuses on changes in behaviour) is doomed to fail if it does not have the support of management. Regular management and team-leader meetings were held to discuss achievements and problems, to set goals and to coordinate measures. This involved doing some persuading and mastering conflicts.
Process integration: In addition to defining triggers, the KT method was integrated into the work flow and into the database used to process customer inquiries. Adapted templates enable the documentation of problems in accordance with the method.
Feedback and controlling: To steer the success of the initiative, compliance with the triggers and the quality and quantity of applications were measured. Newsletters and periodic team meetings were used to ensure regular feedback to management and employees regarding the project status.
We can generally conclude that the analytical approach provided by KT is embedded in the minds of the Siemens employees – customer situations are now systematically examined. The change is also reflected in customer perception. Customer Satisfaction values regarding the quality of the service successively increased during the course of the second half of the roll-out, ultimately reaching an all-time high (see Customer Satisfaction diagram). The same applies to customer perceptions regarding the time required for problem solving. A direct comparison indicates that the average level of customer satisfaction in cases using the KT approach is higher than in situations in which it was not applied.
And what about the long running cases? Backlog declined substantially, resulting in fewer, critical, customer situations and their ensuing “emergency rescue” activities.
The results achieved are the consequence of hard work, with the role of the trained coaches deserving particular mention. They provided a good deal of committed implementation support and assumed a critical role as “champions of change”. This role is not restricted to training and active coaching at the workplace; it extends to the monitoring of results and project communication. With commitment to a common goal by everyone involved, Siemens employees improved their ability to provide the customer with an exceptional experience of support.
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