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How Thermo Fisher Mines Customer Feedback to Improve Service

CIOs who look toward the future know they must gain expertise in creating lasting, mutually satisfying relationships between their companies and their customers. Among the winners of our 2012 CIO 100 awards, Thermo Fisher Scientific stands out for a project that does just that.

Thermo Fisher, a scientific equipment manufacturer with $11.7 billion in sales last year, is trying to become a company that's easy to do business with, says CIO Ina Kamenz, whether you're buying a high-end industrial centrifuge or a case of glass pipettes.

Kamenz says Thermo Fisher can be perceived as complex, having made over 50 major acquisitions in five years. "The risk is [that] customers don't like to do business with you," she says.

The company's main method of measuring customer satisfaction was too simplistic, merely asking, "Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?" So three years ago, the IT group and some non-IT colleagues began to come up with ways to get more telling feedback from customers. The company built an analytics system for calculating a Customer Allegiance Score, or CAS, based on answers to a brief survey sent to customers within 48 hours of one of seven types of interactions, such as order fulfillment or technical support. The system, which runs in the cloud, gives Thermo Fisher continuous feedback to guide how employees behave with customers, she says.

"It's a great use of enterprise technology to create a better connection with customers," says CIO 100 judge Martha Heller, an executive recruiter and CIO columnist.

Because selling a mass spectrometer to a research laboratory differs from selling a serum to a pharmaceutical startup, the CAS system must collect information from a number of Thermo Fisher businesses, which don't all gather the same data. So IT built a tool called CAS Prime, based on Microsoft's .Net, that works with various ERP, CRM, sales and call center applications and creates XML files that can be cleaned up to remove data errors and duplications.

The CAS is also used to accelerate global growth. For example, the company wants to expand in Asia, where scientific research is well-funded and widespread. Carefully studying CAS results reveals how Thermo Fisher can satisfy local customers. "You're learning what you're doing, can improve immediately and continue to grow," Kamenz says.

In Japan, for example, CAS surveys revealed that customers of high-end scientific equipment wanted to be notified of even small changes to their orders, even if they didn't affect the final product. When Thermo Fisher changed the workflow process to include sending alerts about manufacturing changes, allegiance scores climbed 20 points, Kamenz says.

The CAS project achieved full ROI within six months of being deployed and continues to grow. Customers share more information in surveys as trust builds between them and the company. "The more you fix the problems customers bring up, the more they tell you."

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99. Or read her blog, Strategic CIO.

Read more about customer relationship management (crm) in CIO's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Drilldown.

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