As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we’re going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with Dan Wiersma, who 2000 as Senior Vice President for Professional Services was promoted in 2005 to Senior Vice President for Consumer Service at Sony Electronics. He retired from Sony this past June. He will be joining the panel, “It’s Not Business as Usual: Leading Loyalty amidst a Disruptive Business Environment,” on Tuesday, November 3 in the Creating Uber Loyalists: Cracking the Code on Next Gen Loyalty, Engagement and Advocacy. Download the NACCM:Customers 1st Brochure to find out more about the program this year.
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Hello and welcome to the NACCM: Customers 1st podcast, I’m Jenny Pereira and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Dan Wiersma. In 2000 Dan Wiersma joined Sony Electronics in 2000 as Senior Vice President for Professional Services was promoted in 2005 to Senior Vice President for Consumer Service. He retired from Sony this past June. He will be participating in the panel ‘It’s Not Business as Usual: Leading Loyal amidst a Disruptive Business Environment.’
And with that said, I would like to welcome Dan.
Congrats on your recent retirement from Sony last month. You were the Senior Vice President of Service Platforms for Sony Electronics. Tell us about your tenure there, how did you see service evolve, how did customer needs and expectations evolve?
Dan: Well thanks; I appreciate the invitation to do this podcast today. You know I spent nine years at Sony, responsible for the professional service group from 2000-2005, and then the service platform organization from 2005 until my retirement on June 1st of this year. You know the service at Sony evolved from the traditional break/fix service of the 90s to into more of a integral part, and the overall business in the nine years of my tenure there. I think in the professional side, value added services and manage service became a bigger part of the service in that overall business in that period. Things like remote monitor had long been used in the IT world, and became part of the broadcast and professional world as that market became more digitized. The need for lower costs, outsourced services and networked systems required new approaches to customer service needs. I think on the professional side, that’s what evolved there. In the consumer world, customers networked and applications required servicers to upgrade their capabilities to be able to solve much more difficult and integrated situations as well. Tools like log-me-in became a much more common use for solving customer service issues in a networked world. Not just for PCs but any network-based programs. Customers became much more able to search using the initial web 1.0 approaches, so we had services; we had to provide better support tools to help them find what they are looking for. Drivers became synonymous not just with PCs, but literally every product in the digital world. You know the web 2.0, whatever it is in the future, 3.0, 4.0, changes the game again as customers can now use social networking to communicate with each other with their experiences. So we had to change again with the implementation of some social networking capability, which was just getting underway in my organization when I retired June 1st. So overall, I’d say the expectations of customers increased significantly over my nine years at Sony. Much more information was available to them, they could find out about our products and services. You could not keep things kept up inside any more they became much more available externally, and you had to share those externally. We had to be open, you had to talk to customers, which was a really great thing because they could tell you what you’re doing right and wrong, so it gives you the opportunity to improve what you do and your products and services, assuming you’re listening to them. Of course, that’s what we’re working strongly to do at Sony. So that’s how I saw things evolve in my nine years at Sony.
What’s been your proudest moment at Sony?
Dan: Wow. I’ve had many. But I would say my proudest is working with what I thought was the best team of people you could hope to be a part of in the organization. And I think it’s really part of the company’s success, the people. Everyone in our organization stepped up four years ago when I became head of the service platform. We created a strategy and looking back over that period, by all of the measures we had that related to customers, our loyalty scores improved in every sector of the organization. We adopted the Net Promoter Score methodology, I’m assuming most of the listeners here are familiar with. And we did it not only for service, but for all of the consumer business in the organization, and people around the world in other regions and corporate areas started paying attention to the methodology and started adopting it. I was extremely proud of this since I was the one senior executive leading the effort in the company. This couldn’t have happened without the incredible dedication of the people that I had in the organization. And I was extremely proud to be a member of that team, and that really dramatically improved the customer service of the organization over the four years.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to customer-centricity?
Dan: I’d say paying attention to what customers are saying. In order to do that, you have to have an organization that can listen to when a customer is ‘hot’ and not to loose your cool or critical in really telling you that you messed up and maybe you don’t feel that you did. So it’s really listening to the customer. And this goes back to my previous comment about my pride in the company. It’s really related to the people that I have the privilege to work with in the organization. We train our people to be really good at listening to customers, spent a lot of time over and over and gave them additional tools and capabilities. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars training our employees to be good listeners. It wasn’t always perfect, but our front line people, and our national frontline customer relations team, they were just the best at this. Without them and the support of the organization to that approach, we couldn’t have accomplished the performance that we did. So I’m really passionate about people first in the customer centric equation.
Second, I’m really passionate about the measures and the analysis of the measures to tell you what to do. In the past, we had a lot of measures but we didn’t pay much attention to the measures and what they were telling us. We began establishing a regular monthly customer experience meeting with our entire management team, and that included not just the operations level, but human resources, IT, admin, literally everybody in the organization and their supervisors to focus on the measures and the action plans that we needed to use to improve the customer facing performance. People knew I was really serious about this and came well prepared to address the issues and implement changes. Some of them came quickly, and others took time. And quite honestly we did some experimentation. And people were excited about the idea of trying new things without feeling that if they didn’t work, they were going to be punished for them. I applauded all of the efforts that they did on a regular basis and we learned from that over four years, and we continued to improve our results as part of that process. So the people and measures are two key things that I was incredibly passionate about in terms of customer centricity.
Where do you think companies go wrong with delivering the best service to their customers and how can they overcome that?
Dan: I think, and maybe this goes back to a little bit of the history in some respects in regards to the service organizations and maybe depending on who you are and what company your in. This may be right or wrong, but I think many see service as an expense. Especially, in my experience, those product-centric companies don’t see service as a value-added opportunity to delight customers. Not only can companies fix ‘busted stuff’ but they can also gain valuable customer feedback that the product people can use to improve the quality of the products and the customer experience. I don’t think companies take advantage of ‘rich data’ that is available to them via the customer service groups in using it to improve the overall customer experience. At least at Sony, we were probably the organization that got more one-to-one face customer information than any other group including the sales and marketing organization. So that information is really rich in customers telling you what’s going on. And I think the concepts of Net Promoter Score, when used deeply; provide you the opportunity to use that information. I think we proved it, at least in one product area within the company made significant progress by using our data as well as some of their own to really focus on some of the customers and solve some real customer issues at the sales, marketing, out of the box, service experience level. It defiantly panned out. I think companies may go wrong as not thinking of service as a significant part of the data repository for customer information and use it to help them improve their business.
You’ll be speaking at the NACCM Customers 1st event on Leading Loyalty amidst a Disruptive Business Environment, how do you get the whole company to embrace loyalty as a strategic business initiative?
Dan: It’s not easy. Even with our successes, there’s always some resistance. And one way, the way that I’ve found that most initiatives of any type get traction is to the top executive or executives in the company, believing in what you’re doing, and in this case, believing the loyalty of customers is really critical to the business success. I was fortunate and Sony was fortunate because the president and the chief operating officer of Sony Electronics saw this value and made it part of the overall strategy and action plans for their total business. And even with that, not everyone reached out and embraced it. And for those that did, the results came clear and improvement was evident to everyone. I think in what I call the new economy, the one we’re moving into, I believe in order to maintain success, you have to have the loyalty of customers, which means not just products but also content, networking and service, they all have to play together to take care of customers because they’re all an integral part of what the customer purchases. And I think NPS is a great tool, it’s a concept around loyalty as a measure but it’s also a process that you can use to look across the entire organization and focus on improving your customer loyalty, and I think that’s one of the key things on my mind in the changing business environment you have to think much more broadly than what I call silent.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Dan: Just one last thing, which I’ve talked a little bit about in this discussion, but it’s something that over my nine years and even before that, I think there’s some key tenants for success in the service business. And the first one as I’ve already articulated is make sure you have your people in your organization empowered, and feeling like they can make decisions and helping them understand what the strategy of that organization is in getting that focus together. Empowered workforce is empowered people. I think secondly is really focus on your customers. Make sure you have enough performance data and metrics and use the information to really help develop what you need to do to keep your customers loyal as far as the service goes. Operational efficiency and effectiveness. And then last one comes as part of the business but it’s also part of the process, and what I call is shareholder satisfaction or profitability. I think without those other three before them, it’s hard to make the last one successful without your people being excited and your people working closely with customers and making your operation as efficient and effective as you can. I think that’s my final comment from an overall direction from a service perspective. Probably those are tenants that would withstand the overall test of time whether it’s the overall new economy or old economy.
We’d like to thank Dan Wiersma for speaking with us today and a very special thank you to our listeners. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/customerworld.
See you in November!