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Customer Loyalty

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Posted 2008-03-31 Print this article Print

The software Vendor's Project oasis, code name for a massive ERP overhaul, nearly crippled its ordering system. Refocusing on the user experience and connecting with a hidden class of customers salvaged the company's business. 

Customer Loyalty 

Project Nero didn’t introduce the concept of customer satisfaction and loyalty to Symantec. In 2004, prior to the Veritas acquisition, CEO Thompson and former COO Jonathan Schwartz developed an initiative to measure customer loyalty, whereby the company would continually survey customers to weigh their satisfaction and their likelihood to remain customers. The instrument of choice: Net Promoter, a popular methodology for measuring customer loyalty.

Aisling Hassell, vice president of customer experience and online, runs the program. She had a front-row seat at the Project Oasis meltdown, monitoring the loyalty scores as they sank to historic lows compared with internal and industry benchmarks. Just as Russakow was providing tactical intelligence on problems customers were experiencing in the field, Hassell’s group was supplying insight on the effectiveness of improvements, along with strategic guidance for prioritizing ongoing improvements and new action items.

As Hassell describes it, her group provided Symantec with a “North Star” to follow. “What’s challenging is making a system that keeps the customer in the forefront and building a way to keep the customer voice loud and clear,” Hassell explains. “A year on, the customer voice is loud and clear with us.”

Measuring customer loyalty is no passing fancy at Symantec. The executive leadership committee—which is chaired by Salem and includes division and department vice presidents, as well as CIO Thompson and Parrish—meets every two weeks to review loyalty metrics and identify what each unit manager is doing to improve their scores and efficiency. “It’s really changed the culture and gotten a lot of things fixed,” Hassell says.

Technology may be the engine that drives business, but business is still conducted by people. Understanding the needs, desires and experience of the customer—whether that person is an internal user, a reseller partner or a consumer—is critical to any company’s success and growth.

“Early on, it was all about speeds and feeds, feature wars and functionality,” Salem says. “But the industry has matured to the point at which you now work on many intangibles. How do people feel when they work with your company? How do we do the right things for our customers?”

While the company won’t release its Net Promoter survey results, Symantec reports that loyalty scores among business and reseller partners have improved eightfold in the past year and are now on par with industry benchmarks.

As a result of Symantec’s use of Net Promoter and the organizational postmortem conducted under Project Nero, the vendor has a master product release calendar, formalized interdepartmental lines of communications for IT project implementations and an improved change management process—all designed to ensure there are no slips in the customer experience.

“You think you should focus on the things that drive revenue, but you forget the importance of experience,” Parrish says. “If you believe the methodology, the experience does drive revenue.”

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.
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