Q&A With Tom Feeney, President And CEO, Safelite AutoGlass

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Tom Feeney speak about customer experience at an event in Boston. I was fascinated by his story of how Safelite went from a company that put shareholders first to one that put employees first. The reasoning behind this move: Highly engaged employees will deliver a great experience, which will improve business performance and ultimately make everyone happy (including shareholders).

As it turns out, that reasoning is correct. From 2006 to 2012, Safelite’s sales grew by high double digits, and its profits grew by triple digits. (I’ll let Tom reveal the actual numbers when he keynotes on the second day of Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West in Los Angeles on October 9 and 10).

Despite these impressive results, Safelite is now moving into a new phase of its transformation journey. It’s that multipart voyage toward customer experience maturity that makes Tom’s story a perfect match for our event theme, “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.”

In the run-up to the event, we asked Tom to answer a few questions about what Safelite is doing and how it’s doing it. His answers appear below. I hope you enjoy them, and I also hope to see you in Los Angeles!

Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

A. When I was promoted to president and CEO of Safelite AutoGlass in 2008, I recognized that we had an opportunity to grow beyond being a good company to being a great company. With our other senior leaders, we introduced Destiny 2012, a four-year strategy to become the natural choice for vehicle glass repair and replacement services. This strategy relied on two key concepts: putting our people first to drive performance and creating customer delight that would lead to more referrals and repeat business.

We put our emphasis on our people and our customers because we have a very simple philosophy: Happy employees create happy customers.

Q. What were the first steps your firm took to improve customer experience? Why did you choose to start that way?

A. The first step was to transition from the Customer Satisfaction Index score to the Net Promoter Score. This allowed us to 1) change our internal conversations from satisfaction to delight and help our associates understand the difference; 2) force ourselves into a tougher standard that would truly reveal our performance; and 3) shine a spotlight on what behaviors did or didn’t work in creating customer delight.

Q. What if anything is different about what you're doing now to improve customer experience versus what you did when you were starting out?

A. We’re in another transformative state. We’ve evolved our strategy from “people first, customer delight” to “people-powered, customer-driven.”

The key element to become customer-driven that we’re currently rolling out is improved systems for listening to the customer . . . both happy customers and unhappy customers. This includes data analytics and text analysis software.

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