Talking about what makes a great customer experience is easy; putting it into practice is a lot harder than it seems and requires a long-term commitment, Dow’s Jennifer Zamora said at B2B Next this week.

Two years ago, Dow found itself at a crossroads. The multinational manufacturer of chemicals, plastics and other products had just merged with rival DuPont, and employees knew that tremendous change was coming.

That was a wake-up call for us. We had to ask ourselves: ‘Is this how we want to be known to our customers?

Not only was the then-new DowDupont to be split into three companies—Dow Inc., DuPont de Nemours Inc., and Corteva Inc.—Dow also knew that its customer experience had become staid. Rather than fear the unknown of the coming change, Dow used the change as a catalyst to rework its customer experience.

Over the decades, the 127-year-old company’s focus had shifted away from making customer satisfaction a top priority, to keep its plants around the world operating at peak efficiency.

A wake-up call for Dow

The company’s unofficial motto internally was “push the pounds,” slang for maximum production at low cost. In addition, the company’s culture had become one of the multiple divisions operating with their own mindset when it came to customer experience.

JenniferZamora-Dow

Jennifer Zamora, director of global customer experience and employee experience, Dow Inc.

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“There was a joke that our name Dow stood for ‘Do it our way,” Jennifer Zamora, director of global customer experience and employee experience for Dow told an audience at B2B Next. “That was a wake-up call for us. We had to ask ourselves: ‘Is this how we want to be known to our customers?’”

The answer, Zamora said, was a resounding no. Management realized there had to be a new Dow, with new customer experience. “This was our golden moment to stop talking about the customer experience and really do something about it,” she said.

The first step in creating a better customer experience was to make being customer-centric the fourth pillar of the company’s mission. The other three pillars are innovation, sustainability, and inclusiveness. “This was a huge step because for the first time in company history, being customer-centric was a core part of the company’s focus,” Zamora said.

The three disciplines designated to drive Dow’s customer-centric approach are: listen to the customer, improve customer touchpoints, and prioritize customers. By adhering to these three principals, Dow employees are focused on making it easy and enjoyable to work with Dow, and effectively meet their customers’ needs during each interaction, Zamora said.

Tools to improve customer experience

To keep its employees focused on delivering better customer experience, Dow launched a customer-experience website on its intranet, or internal corporate internet network, where employees can learn more about the tools available to improve the customer experience at every customer touchpoint.

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The company also conducted a series of regional customer experience journey-mapping sessions, in which customers from a specific region of the world were invited to discuss problems they experience. Dow decided to conduct the journey-mapping sessions regionally because customer problems differ by region.

“We’ve spent the last year peeling back the onion and identifying customer pain points and finding ways to address them,” Zamora said. “We’ve also focused on prioritizing the customer to make sure we don’t over-deliver or under-deliver when it comes to the customer experience. Our goal is to find the right balance for each customer.”

Surveying customers and distributors      

Dow has also begun conducting an annual customer survey. Customers are placed into groups, and Dow surveys each group, splitting the surveys up among the four quarters of the calendar year. “That way we have a constant flow of information that we can analyze throughout the year,” Zamora said. “We have also found that customers won’t keep responding to a survey if they don’t see changes result from the information provided.”

Since launching the surveys, Dow has seen response rates steadily increase. Plans are in the works to expand the surveys to Dow’s distributors. The company started surveying its direct customers first to keep the process more manageable.

“Changing the customer experience is about having a long-term vision for what the customer experience will be and how you are going to get there,” Zamora said. “We know that achieving our vision is going to take time, but we are committed to the journey.”

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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