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Do B2B Better Excerpt #3: Dow

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 09/27/2022

This blog was created prior to our first annual Do B2B Better 2022 Conference. For information on our upcoming Do B2B Better 2023 conference, check out our event page!

As I mentioned in my last posts, being a Change Maker requires a different way of thinking, so it’s helpful to have guides to show you the way.

In my new book, Do B2B Better, which comes out next week on CX Day, I provide deep dives into numerous real-world customer experience programs and lots of practical tips. But in anticipation of the book release and the daylong Do B2B Better 2022 Conference that Heart of the Customer is hosting October 18 in Minneapolis, I am particularly pleased to introduce you to four exemplary guides through this blog series of book excerpts.

These excerpts explore how these Change Makers and their organizations deploy effective strategies to create measurable business impact from their CX activities.

Today’s Do B2B Better excerpt spotlights Dow, and Jen Zamora’s work there while she was the Senior Director of Global CX and Commercial Excellence. She’s since been promoted to a global change-management role. At this year’s conference, Riccardo Porta, Dow’s Global Director for CX, will be presenting on driving – and taking credit for! – business success.

Meet Jen

As I said, at the time I conducted the interviews for my book, Jen Zamora was the Senior Director of Global CX and Commercial Excellence for Dow. In her more than twenty years with the company, she also held roles in Marketing, Sales, Business Development, and Customer Service.

Jen bleeds Dow red, and her broad background helped her drive change in an organization that’s more than 130 years old – not an easy task.

She started the CX program in 2018, reporting to Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Futter. It would have been easy for her to disperse her efforts across dozens of initiatives, so one of her first tasks was to narrow down her team’s approach to focus on three outcomes:

  1. Deploying a new customer survey process;
  2. Defining and implementing Dow’s Customer Distinction Model; and
  3. Building customer journey mapping (CJM) practices that deliver improved customer and employee experiences.

Indicative of her success, Dow’s business units also elected to invest in customer experience, creating and funding more than 20 roles. They work with Jen’s team, but report into the business units. Jen’s history also means that she has strong relationships throughout Dow. That’s a critical factor, considering the organization’s global footprint.

Based in Michigan, Dow has over 35,000 employees across five businesses. Fewer than half of those employees are in North America. Jen’s relationships are critical as she reorients them to focus on customers rather than operations, where most manufacturing companies focus. She’s become a Dow spokesperson, writing a series of articles on LinkedIn and speaking at conferences worldwide about Dow’s customer experience transformation.

Dow shows value

Jen knew that an improved customer experience links to business impact. But she also knew she’d need proof of that to get leadership on board.

To create the proof she needed, she worked with her data science team. They established connections between Dow’s customer experience and organizational value. They captured the customer experience through behavioral data, as well as survey responses. It took her about a year of surveying customers to have sufficient data to show the connection.

Product ordering and delivery is the most common interaction between a manufacturer and its customers. Given the global nature of Dow’s program, it’s also complex. But now Jen could demonstrate the linkage between on-time delivery and financial results. She used survey results to diagnose issues in the process, demonstrating how failure to meet on-time delivery schedules caused client frustration, documented in lower survey scores and in client comments.

Those lower survey scores were predictive of fewer future orders. Jen established cause and effect: a failure to meet on-time delivery (cause) led to fewer orders (effect). The survey created the connection.

Beyond surveys

Most CX programs point to survey scores. But only a few connect NPS with high-level results such as churn. But even that doesn’t provide any direction on how to improve the results. Change Makers view surveys as just another piece of the data and focus instead on granular connections.

When I interviewed Jen for a Reuters conference, she provided more of her thoughts on loyalty:

“What does loyalty mean? For Dow, loyalty is beyond just the day-to-day customer relationship that we have. Loyalty opens the doors for innovation, for really changing the game with the regard to the extent of value we can bring our customers. You open that door to have conversations about next-generation products. And that ultimately is where we grow. That’s where we innovate with customers on advancing their capabilities in the market.

But we also work together to solve for world problems. And that’s what really gets us excited. It’s great to transact business on a daily basis, and we absolutely need that. But when you start having conversations about sustainability, and things that are really going to change the future, that’s when you and your customers can get excited together.”

Contrast this with a different customer experience leader I interviewed in preparation for the same conference. I asked her what metrics her performance was based on and she responded with “loyalty.” So, I followed up, “Oh, so decreased attrition and increased ordering?” And she responded, “No. Loyalty for us means our NPS.”

For many organizations, a customer’s survey score indicates success, but for Change Makers, it’s about the ongoing relationship with customers and their behaviors. For an advanced manufacturer such as Dow, innovation is clearly an outcome of interest. But joint innovation is relatively rare, and even when it happens, it takes years. So, while this is a big deal, it’s only one outcome that Jen tracks.

Metrics that matter

Jen also considers more routine metrics, such as order velocity and margin—the same metrics her internal customers obsess over: “We’ve been able to prove that improving on-time delivery, as well as its related customer complaint experience, adds financial value through improving revenue, margins, and price in future orders.”

Few companies take the time to prove this linkage. But it’s no coincidence that the companies that can—such as Dow, Hagerty, and UKG—also have thriving CX practices. The proof enables the investment needed to sustain such positive outcomes.

One area that Jen had a keen focus on was per-unit margin. It may seem odd that customer experience can lead to customers paying more on a unit level, but a deeper analysis shows why: When the experience improves, customers’ increased trust leads them to buy newer (and higher margin) products, which increases the average margin overall.

Dow knows that metrics can predict future product margin and order velocity. It is this linkage that proved the importance of focusing on customer experience.

Effectively understanding your data and its linkage to customer outcomes reinforces your change management, showing executives how focusing on the experience will help them boost their KPIs.

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