President & CEO
- University of Wisconsin- Madison, B.A., Psychology/Communication Sciences, 1982
- University of Wisconsin- Madison, Graduate Studies, Interpersonal & Organizational Communication, 1983-1987
- 20+ years
- TARP US, Chief Operations Officer
- TARP Europe, Managing Director
- Council of Better Business Bureaus
Professional Affiliations & Distinctions
- Member, Society Of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP)
- Member, Council Of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO)
- Co-Founder, Customer Care Alliance
- Advisory Board, Center For Communications Research, University Of Wisconsin-Madison
- Advisory Board, Communication Arts Partners, University Of Wisconsin-Madison
- Past Chair, The Diocesan Fund For Human Need, Episcopal Diocese Of Virginia
- Member, Advisory Board, 2010, 2011, 2012 Better Business Bureau International Torch Awards
- Past Member, Advisory Board, 2004 Fast Company Customer First Awards
Scott’s creed for creating an extraordinary customer experience is simple: invest in those actions that lie at the intersection of increased customer loyalty and a favorable return on investment.
Over the past 20 years, Scott has been empowering marketplace leaders from all industries to deliver a more profitable customer experience by helping them leverage good science.
As he sees it, good science isn’t about just keeping score or chasing a number. Good science consists in using the voice of the customer to compel those actions that yield the best ROI for improving the customer experience.
Having collaborated with more than 300 companies, worldwide, in nearly every sector, Scott has a well-rounded, results-focused, and practical perspective on how to make the leap from measuring to managing the customer experience.
A social scientist by training – in the disciplines of Social Psychology and Communication – Scott has a special affection for data, applied analytics, and the value of a fact-based approach to engineering a better customer experience.
A pragmatic business analyst by vocation, he believes that the secret sauce for realizing customer experience profitability is motivating managers to translate the voice of the customer into a business case. As Scott often remarks, “data doesn’t take action – people do.” Scott’s forte is helping companies translate voice of the customer survey data into effective, actionable business plans.
An emerging thought leader, Scott’s work and perspectives are routinely featured in the national and international conversation about the customer experience. You might read about his views in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, or Money. Or perhaps you might see his work referenced on CNN, MSNBC, or CBS News.
Scott lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, Ellen, Elizabeth, and Benjamin.
Most memorable professional moment
While there are many, the most memorable are those where I’ve witnessed the voice of the customer become the lifeblood of the company. For example, some years ago I worked with an industrial products client who evolved from a voice of the customer skeptic to a disciple. When they began the journey, they couldn’t even field a customer satisfaction survey because they didn’t know the names and addresses of their customers! Fifteen years later, they have a very credible and sophisticated voice of the customer program; it’s a management tool that shapes their day-to-day decision making. What’s fascinating to me is that while very little about this organization is the same as it was 15 years ago, their voice of the customer program is a constant. For me, this example illustrates the true value of customer feedback mechanisms, especially in today’s marketplace. More so than ever before, companies are in a perpetual state of flux. They change names, merge, are acquired, downsize, upsize, reinvent their product line, partner, and so forth. A voice of the customer program – done right – can be a stabilizing force, providing the necessary institutional memory. It can help a company maintain its identity through customer focus – something that lives well beyond the here and now. When this occurs, it’s both memorable and gratifying.
Most treasured professional accomplishment
They’re less accomplishments than they are fond career milestones. Co-founding CCMC is at the top of any such list. Conventional wisdom says that owning your own company is rewarding beyond comparison. I now know this to be true. Perhaps second among equals is the time I spent as Managing Director of TARP Europe. The exposure to so many multinational companies and cultures continues to profoundly influence how I think about the customer experience, as well as the virtues of diversity of opinion and collaboration. More recently, I’ve greatly enjoyed leading the marketplace dialogue that our National Customer Rage surveys have stimulated. The findings from these studies have provoked a meaningful conversation among the media, scholars, and corporate America about what constitutes good customer care.
If I wasn’t helping the marketplace move from measuring to managing the customer experience, I’d be…
Thirty years ago the answer would’ve been, “teaching and doing communications research at a Big Ten university.” Twenty years ago I might have said, “owning a bratwurst stand outside of Lambeau Field in Green Bay.” Good work if you can get it.
Thank goodness for time, an ally for sure. For the past 20 years, I’ve been living the good professional life. Making a living doing something that I’m passionate about AND having an opportunity to make a difference is as good as it gets. That said, I could probably be persuaded to put in some overtime hours at Lambeau Field.
Letting my hair down…
Having recently become a card-carrying member of the AARP, I feel lucky that I still have some hair to let down! When I’m not planning, getting ready for, or enjoying some kind of family adventure (think road trip here), I’m likely waiting on that national championship year for the Wisconsin Badgers or the next Super Bowl victory for the Green Bay Packers. Good thing I’m a patient person.
More from Scott
It’s all about immersing the organization in customer feedback. Customer-driven companies use the voice of the customer to discern those actions that lie in the intersection of a “good customer experience” and “an optimal ROI.” They go far beyond the platitudes of being customer-centric and put belief systems and processes in place to institutionalize an intentional, formal, and systematic way of acting on the voice of the customer. Their aim is to ensure that the organization is customer-driven not people-, place-, or point-in-time-driven.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty leaders demonstrate three core behaviors that their competitors ought to emulate.
First, they always invest in listening to the voice of the customer. It’s not an every-so-often thing. It’s not a line item in the budget that is subject to veto during lean times. It’s not postponed during a crisis for fear of lower scores. And it’s not delayed due to internal resource constraints. Leaders don’t compromise their voice of the customer efforts to accommodate short-term inconveniences, marketplace conditions, or organizational upheaval.
Second, they’re more at ease with the uncertainty that’s endemic to customer satisfaction and loyalty results. Everyone appreciates certainty. Facts. Unequivocal outcomes. Truisms. When it comes to survey results, for instance, it’s fair to say that it is often a murky and muddled world. Survey results may indeed reveal one or two certainties – things that are essential to creating a better customer experience. However, the vast majority of these data will yield a “maybe.” Companies that consistently enjoy higher customer satisfaction and loyalty performance are more comfortable with such uncertainty. When the results are equivocal, they neither fear nor attempt to discredit the data. Instead, they impose their wisdom of the business and a business case-mentality on top of the data.
Third, customer satisfaction and loyalty leaders are less risk averse than the pretenders. They’re at ease with and demonstrate a greater willingness to take calculated risks to improve the customer experience. Why shouldn’t they be? As I’ve suggested, they possess plenty of data and, when necessary, a maturity to work with the mixed messages that accompany customer feedback. At least part of this mindset – one of being less risk averse – certainly owes to framing their investments in the customer experience in terms of a cost-benefit calculation. Leaders know the costs and benefits of a lesser and better customer experience. As a result, it’s considerably easier for them to connect the dots between what customers need, what must be done to meet those needs, and what the cost-benefit of fulfilling those needs is.
The recipe for optimizing your return on improving the customer experience has three ingredients.
First, given finite resources, invest in the right actions. Discerning the right actions requires that three questions be posed and answered: will it improve the customer experience, what’s the payoff, and what will effective execution cost. Identifying the right actions and couching them in terms of their benefits and costs are the cornerstones of optimizing a customer experience ROI. Reliable voice of the customer survey data and innovative analytics should help in this cause.
Second, set realistic improvement targets. The aim is to avoid formulating “arbitrary” targets that seem reasonable but have no credibility among those accountable for performance. Realistic targets are empirical and tied directly to the specific actions taken to improve the customer experience. By empirical, I mean that they are considerate of past performance (what’s the historical ceiling and floor of the score) and statistical significance (what change must be achieved to realize a statistically significant level of improvement). At the same time, those targets should be calibrated based on the actions taken to improve the customer experience. Aligning planned actions, past performance, and statistical significance is a good framework for establishing credible and achievable targets.
Third, invest in what I call a “customer experience diary” to track the impact of your actions and other factors on outcomes. Customer satisfaction and loyalty levels don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re greatly influenced by the actions taken (or not taken) as well as external marketplace and company-specific events. For example, what industry-specific crises, booms, or events took place during a certain point in time? What company-specific events – like a merger, high turnover, or the introduction of a new product – have occurred? Were all of the planned actions to improve the customer experience fully and successfully implemented? What percentage of the customer base was affected by the actions taken? The idea is to triangulate customer satisfaction and loyalty data, assessments about the effectiveness of actions taken to improve the customer experience, and marketplace or company-specific events. Keeping a diary of successes and failures of your actions and external events that might influence performance helps connect the dots and inform judgments about why scores went up, down, or remained static.
Given that companies have been measuring the customer experience for nearly three decades, you might expect that they’re pretty good at it – that they know what and how to measure it. Maybe progress is in the eye of the beholder.
Three observations seem relevant to me.
First, actionable data must be precise and trustworthy. And – here of late – the “mad scientist” is spending too much time in the customer experience laboratory. Although more companies are measuring, there’s a lot of suspect data out there. It’s a customer satisfaction and loyalty survey frenzy in today’s marketplace. An increased reliance on web surveys coupled with the widespread availability of “easy-to-use” survey tools has decreased a respect for and an adherence to social scientific standards. Rigor in sampling, questionnaire design, and statistical analysis are all too often compromised to “get the survey out.” While anyone can conduct surveys today, not everyone should.
I’m seeing a more relaxed approach to the basic blocking and tackling of survey research – sampling, scaling, question writing, and the like aren’t always being executed with the rigor they demand. Second, in the board room, senior leadership has become increasingly smitten with chasing scores rather than improving performance. The net promoter craze has likely fueled this fire. Third, in the real world, managers held accountable for a better customer experience are thirsting for more actionable data. So, if the litmus test here is “trustworthy and actionable data,” then it’s defensible to claim that many companies are actually regressing in their ability to leverage customer experience metrics.
Second, data are only actionable when they’re positioned as a cornerstone of a business planning exercise; the data should be purposed to direct finite resources to those elements of the customer experience that offer the best return on investment. The challenge here is leadership in the board room. Perhaps owing to paradigms like net promoter, senior management has become increasingly smitten with chasing a score – usually one score – rather than improving the customer experience. While such an approach passes the “KISS” test (Keep It Simple Stupid), the most likely action it facilitates is either confused panic (because managers can’t figure out what to do) or excuse making (about why the score didn’t improve).
Finally, customer satisfaction and loyalty data are not actionable, in and of themselves. Data doesn’t take action – people do. So, “actionable” isn’t a property of the data as much as it is a result of imposing a formal and intentional process of discernment on the data. Data analysis is complex. It shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. It shouldn’t be a private, individual activity. The best analysis – the sort that invites action – is social and interactive. It takes advantage of all the benefits of group dynamics. I think that Drucker had it right. Most of the time we don’t know the “objective” (read the right action to take); we need both data and reflection.
Companies realizing a true competitive advantage based on customer satisfaction and loyalty aspire to and achieve a sustained, positive lift in satisfaction and loyalty over time.
Continuous and incremental improvement in these two key performance indicators over an extended period of time (think years) is the earmark of competitive dominance.
While this may seem cliché, I believe this notion of enduring and incremental improvement is especially warranted in a marketplace that has become consumed by a shorter-term view of competitive dynamics. Whether it’s the results of syndicated studies (think JD Powers here) or an ever-increasing paranoia about social media catastrophes, many companies today are sorely lacking a well-rounded perspective on competitive position; one that balances short-term competitive situation among long-term competitive rank.
As they say, it’s simple but not easy. In my experience, companies that have moved from merely measuring to managing the customer experience have successfully conquered two challenges.
First, they’ve transformed their culture from one that’s score-centric to one that’s performance-inspired. I like Andrew Carnegie’s vision of philanthropic effectiveness as an allegory here; the aim is to engineer “real and permanent good.” Analogously, companies devoted to managing the customer experience value an improved customer experience – not a score. Their objective isn’t hitting a target score tied to an “ultimate question,” but using the data to create a customer experience that yields tangible and sustained competitive advantages. Companies that move from measuring to managing regard the measurement as the means to an end.
Second, they’ve mastered the science and art of telling compelling stories with their survey results. Reliable and trustworthy survey data about the customer experience are necessary but insufficient for driving change. You have to be capable of telling an interesting story. Storytelling breaks down the barriers to using these data and engages the organization in prescribing actions. I often find that when people look at customer satisfaction and loyalty survey data, they typically have one of three reactions. Some see nothing – literally, nothing. Either the data resemble a test pattern or the connection between the survey results and their day-to-day responsibilities for the customer experience isn’t clear. Others – when the results are not so favorable – react defensively. Of course, there must be something wrong with the data since they’re inconsistent with their own experience. And still others, receive the message but ask, “so what?” The best stories are those which reach out to all three of these audiences and break down such barriers. Stories that compel action are those which establish a business case for intentional and discretionary action. They create an economic imperative to act – by quantifying what’s at risk from not taking action – and connect the dots between the survey results, the right actions, and the benefits of effectively executing those actions.