Creating Tangible Business Impact

By Michael Wentz

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Enterprises, large and small, require continuous IT operations to manage their financing, manufacturing, back-room operations, supply chains, and customer sales transactions.

However, the technology customers count on to keep their businesses running and the economy growing is increasingly at risk and the operational challenges more complicated. IT systems are increasingly complex, integrated, and interconnected resulting in more applications being designated as business-critical. As a result, companies have lower thresholds for risk tolerance.

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Keeping customers’ technology assetts protected, available, and performing requires not only state-of-the-art products, but also an operationally efficient customer support organization. In today’s worldwide economy, a responsive customer support operation can help strengthen relationships with customers and drive higher revenues.

Often, however, customer support’s contribution in driving business success is not fully recognized. A company that provides enterprise products and services must be able to meet its customer’s service level requirements for business-critical systems.

There are myriad activities and services that a customer support organization can perform to simultanously mitigate their customer's IT risk while making a tangible business impact within their own company. One of the fundamental practices to accomplish this mission is by creating a closed customer feedback loop.

By following industry-recognized best practices for continously listening and responding to customers, companies can develop their customer support organizaiton into a tangible business asset both internally and externally:

  • Collect customer feedback on products and services.
  • Analyze the data.
  • Present results both internally and externally.
  • Implement changes.
  • Repeat the process.
  • Collect

    The first step in the process is to listen to your customers. This should encompass both formal or informal channels as well as a mix of both quantitative and qualitative data to be able to fully analyze customer’s perception of a business’s products and services.

    Formal methods include surveys and focus groups. Most companies have adopted the practice of sending out specific “transaction surveys” within a day of the closure of a service ticket while the memory of the transaction is fresh in the mind of the customer, creating an opportunity to obtain the most accurate information.

    To ensure the objectivity and integrity of the information, the formal data-gathering systems, such as surveys and focus groups, should be administered by a third party.

    While direct conversations with key customers may be non-scientific, it provides rich insights and anecdotal evidence. This informal practice brings quantitative results to life by attaching real-life scenarios and specific customers to survey results.

    The goal of the first round of information collection is to establish a baseline for measuring future growth. A baseline will assist any business in measuring future improvement, or regression, as well as a yardstick for the value of information as a business asset.


    Once the data has been collected, the next step is to figure out what customers are trying to tell the business. By analyzing the quantitative and qualitative data, businesses can begin to develop an understanding of how well they are performing.

    A statistical analysis of quantitative data should be tabulated and translated to develop key performance indicators (KPI’s) and identify actionable items. Customer comments provide clues and often the solutions to action items.

    Do not underestimate the strength of the qualitative data gathered. While numbers may be manipulated to fit a particular interpretation, the customer’s voice is usually the most accurate explanation.

    Combined, quantitative and qualitative data can paint a picture as to how much progress has been made, or how much work needs to be done over the next period of measurement. The analysis is the key to developing a strategy for improvement.


    Once data is gathered and analyzed, the next step is to present the findings, which accomplishes two key objectives to the overall process: Internal reporting creates a process for improvement by creating feedback loop for a self-regulation, while external communications demonstrates to customers that businesses are serious about quality and continuous improvement.

    To increase the level of transparency, top-issue findings and analysis should be published on a regular basis to both to internal constituencies as well as a defined, pre-determined external audience.

    Internally, the results of the data collection and analysis will have several constituencies including support organizations, engineering, product marketing, and executive management. There are several ways to present the findings of the analysis.

    For example, results and customer feedback can be shared at weekly operations meeting, published in a quarterly scorecard, or made available via a real-time operational dashboard. The results can be evaluated internally against goals, and corrective action plans developed.

    Externally, businesses can publish the solutions to the issues they have uncovered on their Web site in the form of “technotes” in their knowledgebase or more in-depth technical articles and whitepapers. As a result, customers who have the same issues benefit from the findings, and businesses show that they are making every effort to listen and act upon the issues raised by their customers to provide quality products and services.


    The key findings and analysis from these surveys should identify the root cause of problems associated with both products and services. Root-cause analysis is essential to developing corrective action or preventive action plans.

    For example, products associated problems can be directed to engineering and documented in a support knowledgebase which can be made available to customers. Creating a feedback loop with engineering resolves and prevents product problems from reoccurring and makes the support organization a valuable asset for businesses’ customers.

    Driving visibility of key issues to the top level is the key to providing quality services and support. It’s vital that discoveries and trends discovered around product and service quality be seen by the C-level to help them stay abreast of customer issues that may negatively impact the company’s bottom line and future. The C-level team can sponsor corrective action plans and champion best practices based off the feedback loop.


    The goal of a customer feedback loop process is to develop and implement a system that will drive continuous improvement and deliver the level of service required to meet end users’ business critical requirements while mitigating their IT risks.

    A continuous improvement process must be become part of the company culture. It does no good for a business to establish a baseline without the intention to follow up with corrective actions.

    Since customer satisfaction drives increased sales and revenue for your company, IT service professionals are obligated to deliver the best possible service in support of their company’s mission.

    If customers feel that businesses are taking their input seriously, and if they continue to see improvement in product quality as a result of the customer support program, businesses can create a tangible business impact that will grow and strengthen their company’s relationship with its customers. By establishing this credibility, IT organization will become a valuable business asset both internally and externally.

    As vice president of worldwide enterprise support at Symantec, Michael Wentz is responsible for directing all enterprise support services offered to customers.

    Wentz joined Symantec through the company's merger with VERITAS Software in July 2005. As senior vice president of worldwide technical services at VERITAS from May 1995 to June 2005, Michael Wentz oversaw all technical support services offered to customers.