You’ve Defined Your Brand’s Flaws and Foibles — Now You Need An Effective Corrective Action Plan

Much like your annual New Year’s Resolutions, the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) comes into play after you’ve taken stock of your brand’s faults and failures. After all, you’ve gathered business intelligence, implemented data analytics, and embraced the benchmark process throughout the past quarter, so you’re completely in-tune with what works (and what doesn’t) across your company. Now, however, it’s time to grab that metaphorical hammer so you can knock down what’s beyond repair and rebuild what needs to be fixed.

Whether you’re responding to direct customer feedback, or identifying weak spots within your strategy, corrective action plans empower your brand to restore customer service to its full potential. In return, these measures will ultimately influence your company’s preventive action plans, as you will be able to look ahead and remain aware of any problems that might be lurking underneath the surface of your present strategy.

According to OpenEI’s definition, both corrective and preventive action plans consist of improvements made to an organization’s processes in an effort to eliminate causes of non-conformities or other undesirable situations. “It is usually a set of actions that laws or regulations require an organization to take in manufacturing, documentation, procedures, or systems to rectify and eliminate recurring nonperformance.” While corrective actions are implemented in response to customer complaints, unacceptable levels of product non-conformance, issues identified during an internal audit, as well as adverse or unstable trends in product and process monitoring, preventive actions are implemented in response to the identification of potential sources of non-conformity.

But what goes into creating an effective corrective action plan exactly? Follow these five steps as you draft your strategy:

1.  Define the problem.

Before you can tackle the problem, you must define the problem. Be sure to remain clear and concise so all parties involved are on the same page. Once you understand what’s wrong, you can then begin to make it right. Determine what’s happening and how it contradicts your intention. From here, your team can develop a road map that leads your brand back to its ideal destination. If you can name the issue at hand, you can ultimately find its solution. Be sure to listen to your customers constantly, as they will be your most reliable source for insight into the issues that arise during their regular interactions with your company.

2.  Establish accountability.

Once you’ve determined the problem and developed the solution, you must establish accountability among those who are tasked with rectifying the issue. Each party must know what they’re responsible for in this scenario and how their actions contribute to the greater good of the project in question. They need to know the value of their role in detail to ensure that their performance remains consistent and strong. These team members must understand how to operate independently and jointly in order to comprehend how their specific role feeds into the bigger picture. By assigning small, more manageable tasks, you also empower more employees to become invested in the company’s overall success, as they now have the capacity to impact its future CX strategies.

3.  Create quantifiable solutions.

There’s no way to prove your actions will have the desired impact if you don’t create solutions that can be measured over time. You want to fix the problem for good, after all. However, companies have been known to implement changes they assume will remedy the issue, only to find that the problem persists. They neglect to map their approach and assess their progress. They believe they know what’s best and what will work even though their prior failures prove otherwise. Thus, when you finally decide to put the CAP into action, you need to understand which key performance indicators (KPIs) you plan to observe and measure so you can regularly evaluate its impact on CX.

4.  Set attainable deadlines.

While problems certainly don’t adhere to any sort of calendar, your solutions should. When you choose to implement your solution, you must also set up a timeline in order to measure your corrective action plan’s effectiveness. Some issues might take longer to resolve than others, so your deadline must allow your team enough time to address the problem and implement the solution. Each solution might also require multiple steps on the path to complete implementation, so your employees might benefit from a series of deadlines that afford them the freedom to proceed with diligence and care. Deadlines serve as check-ins, essentially, so these instances will provide your team with ample opportunity to examine its progress and realign their approach, if necessary.

5.  Monitor progress regularly.

Because the aforementioned deadlines give you and your team numerous opportunities to review your progress, everyone involved can easily monitor the solution’s success in real time. While it’s important to establish the baseline concept for the solution to your problem, the hypothesis driving your team’s work might not prove accurate over time. Customers can be unpredictable and how they react to your response might not be what you expected. Thus, it’s critical to continually monitor how the changes you’ve enacted are performing under the scrutiny of those for whom it was intended all along. How you feel about the solution and how customers feel about the solution don’t always align, so your CAP must account for their perspectives at every stage.

Create a Customer-Centric Account Strategy

Sure, customers share behaviors, preferences, traits. They have similar opportunities and face similar challenges. But no two customers are the same. Each has its own unique set of needs and business models that share their expectations of working with suppliers and vendors. Consequently, you cannot exceed each customer’s expectations if you treat all customers the same.

CRMI’s CEMDNA Playbook Strategy includes four approaches designed to help you understand the needs of each major type of customer. This will allow you to create a CEM strategy designed to success with each customer type. The process is meant to leave nothing to chance in your interactions, regardless of which touchpoints you use to connect with customers.

Segment the customer base: Determine which are your key accounts, your strategic accounts, and your marginal accounts. Key accounts typically comprise 20% of a customer base, but deliver 80% of revenue. These are accounts you’ll want to retain, which means ensuring that you consistently exceed their expectations. Strategic accounts are priorities, as well. They may be brand names or are in new markets you want to develop. Retaining these customers requires delivering a high level of service and support.

Marginal customers deliver limited value. They aren’t strategic, but do provide a revenue stream. Don’t overinvest in service and support for these customers; instead, consider self-service options. And if they’re unprofitable, you may be better off without them.

Segment key account contacts: Key accounts are a company’s “bread and butter,” so it’s worth taking the time to understand the players within each key account. Determine who, within each key account, is a decision maker, recommender, and influencer. This is vital because each will have different needs, goals, and expectations. Knowing this information will help dictate the appropriate level of service and support to correctly and consistently meet those expectations.

Build 360-degree alignment: Compare your perception of the customer experience against customers’ actual experiences. Survey and interview customers and customer-facing staff on their perceptions and experiences. (It’s best to hire an independent third party to obtain “unvarnished” feedback.) Combine the results with existing surveys to see where there are gaps in service delivery versus expectations. This will help you evaluated where you fall on the CEM maturity scale.

Create action alerts: Customer interactions and customer feedback often reveal unexpected revenue opportunities or unforeseen issues. Responding as quickly and efficiently as possible is essential to exceeding customer expectations in these situations. Being proactive—for example, using CRMI’s Action AlertsSM—can help get to resolution faster. Action Alerts include a full description of the situation and a predetermined escalation procedure, which allows an employee to act on the alert as quickly as possible.

Partner for profit: This methodology is designed to encourage key accounts to think of you as a value-added partner. The objective is to establish an ongoing, proactive relationship with your most profitable customers by consistently communicating the value of the products and services you provide. This approach typically results in retaining and growing key accounts and generating new business referrals. The goal of this approach is to help your customers get the most from your products and services.


Download our Account Management Strategy Infographic


Account Management is one of 12 elements that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.