How to Create Great Customer Amazement Systems

By Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems

How Great is Your Customer Amazement System?

Too many organizations take customer satisfaction, let alone customer amazement, for granted. They will tell you that exceeding customer expectations is important, but what does reality say? When you look at how customer satisfaction is measured (or not measured), are you really measuring excellence?

Too few companies formally define the key requirements of their customers. Even fewer regularly involve their customers in helping the organization improve its processes. Most of the time, you will realize that the customer amazement message is much more ‘talk’ than ‘walk.’ Additionally, we tend to essentially ignore our internal customers – our employees. We often do this to the point where one could consider them to be ‘forgotten customers.’

Do you have great customer amazement systems, or do you assume that you know what your customers want and rely on sales figures to let you know when they are happy or not? Do you believe that internal customer satisfaction is the true driver of external customer delight? Do you mistakenly believe that external customer amazement is possible even when your employees are dissatisfied?

Organizations who are serious about pursuing process excellence don’t take internal or external customer satisfaction for granted. Multiple approaches are used to measure both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Improvement efforts are designed to include key internal and external customers on a regular basis. Additionally, efforts are made at least annually to improve these approaches.

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Who are your key customers?

Who are your key customers? It sounds like an easy question doesn’t it. In fact, the answer seems obvious – it’s the people who spend money for our goods or services. While that answer may be right, a simple answer may not the best one. Any given organization has several types of customers, whether they recognize that fact or not.

Great organizations segment their customers in order to gain a better definition of who their customers are. Some go even further by defining their key stakeholders, Have you defined those groups that hold a stake in the success or failure of the enterprise? In order to raise your levels of customer delight to higher and higher levels, key customer segments and stakeholders must be defined first.

If you really want to get sustained, great results over time, it is important that everyone in your organization knows what key needs of each customer group are. To what degree have your key customer segments been defined? Do you know how customer needs differ in importance between segments? What percentage of your workforce gets to spend time with their customers? Who are your key customers? How do you determine if you are giving them what they really want?

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The Customer Amazement Power System



Top Customer Amazement System Weaknesses

How connected to your customers are you?

I have worked in companies where I did not even know who the customers of the products we made were, other than to know that they were the people that bought our products. As my career progressed however and I had the chance to work in organizations where all employees got to interact with the external customers to some degree, I began to realize the power that comes from having a stronger customer connection.

I also learned that as the amount of contact increases between each employee and each customer group, the level of customer service increases. I saw a direct correlation between the percent of time employees spent with customers and the level of customer service. More time equaled higher service because we could (1) attach a name and face to the customer label and (2) by their reactions we could gain a greater understanding of what their likes and dislikes were.

High performance organizations spend lots of time with their customers. They also install listening posts which increase the percent of time that EACH EMPLOYEE spends with different customer groups. For example, key face-to-face listening posts that are used by most high performing companies include focus groups, planning involvement, product and service development sessions, regular visits to both the customer’s location and in-house, and point of purchase relationship building.

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What do your customers really want?

How does your company decide what products and services its customers really want? Do you use focus groups and surveys? Do you spend time in the field watching customers either buying your product or making purchase decisions that involve it? There are a variety of ways to determine customer requirements, but all too few companies use more than simply their own opinions.

That’s right – many decisions about what the customer wants are made in meeting rooms, simply by reviewing written summaries of customer meetings or discussing what we think the customer wants.

Great companies however use a host of fact-based approaches to create a list of possible customer wants and to prioritize those wants before converting them into product and service features. They recognize that different customer segments expect different things from the products and services they purchase, and they place a high degree of value on using fact-based approaches to determine how these requirements differ.

The example tables and lists provided on this web page are intended to give you several examples of how you might want to enhance your current approaches for defining customer requirements. One key improvement you can make is to simply increase the number of times you touch your customers and allow them to touch you back over a given period of time. By increasing the number of customer touches, you are provided with more opportunities to observe them, listen to them, and measure their levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

You can also employ the use of several mechanisms for staying in touch with the customer. In doing, you can obtain data from a variety of sources, compare the results of such research, and look for commonalities across different data collection mediums. The patterns that appear most often reflect the requirements that your customers consider to be the most important. If you do choose to use a variety of approaches, make sure that you pull them all together into a listening post summary table. This practice will help you make sure that you are investing your customer research time and money in the right places.



Exploring Ways to Connect with Your Customers



Example Customer Requirements Matrix



If you are interested in the customer amazement systems and improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at


Do you treat your internal and external customers differently?

One of the workshops that I enjoy facilitating has to do with your forgotten customers – in other words, your internal customers. When you look at the ten power systems in total, you might notice that I do not distinguish between internal and external customers. Defining customer requirements and measuring to gauge levels of customer amazement (more than satisfaction) and dissatisfaction are just as key with this group. I consider both groups to be equally important and essentially the same.

It is true that their needs are different. This does not mean, however, that you should spend more effort, or use better approaches, with one group as opposed to the other. You need to meet and exceed the key needs of both customer types in order to have sustained organizational success over time. Neglect one group, and your performance will eventually falter.

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If you judge customer importance in terms of the time and money that is focused on one group versus the other, I think you will find that in most cases the level of investment is greater for the external customer group. This may seem logical, since the external group gives your organization money. The internal customer group either makes money or loses money for you as well. 

If we are trying to take our organizations to a higher level of performance, we might really want to question this investment difference . I have found that high levels of external customer satisfaction cannot be realized and sustained unless high levels of internal customer satisfaction are realized and sustained first. Do you share this belief?

How do you measure customer amazement?

Most organizations use surveys to measure customer satisfaction, if they measure customer satisfaction at all. When surveys are used to measure customer amazement, it is much more typical to only measure external customer satisfaction. Internal customer satisfaction is often taken for granted.

Customer dissatisfaction is typically measured by tracking customer complaints. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied with a product or service actually make the effort to tell the organization about it. Many estimate this percentage to be as low as 10%.

High performance organizations use a balanced scorecard approach to measure internal and external customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. An example scorecard is shown on the right. Note that satisfaction is measured in four dimensions. A four part survey-based index is used to actually assess satisfaction for both customer groups (survey results from four different questions are averaged).

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Example Customer Amazement Scorecard



Example Customer Listening Posts Matrix

What steps can I take to improve my customer amazement system?

To the right you will see ten steps for improving your customer amazement system. If you are interested in learning more about the customer amazement system improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at

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Creating a Great Customer Amazement System



How can Great Systems help you improve your customer amazement system?

Over the past 30 plus years, I have been involved with designing internal and external customer satisfaction systems in a variety of different companies and business arenas. My experiences have helped me discover value added, simple ways to set up manual and digital systems for measuring customer amazement. I have also found best practices for creating internal employee surveys that are linked to the annual planning process, reducing customer complaints, and helping an organization better define and exceed the key requirements of their customers. Failing to hear from your customers as often as you should is the primary power restrictor for this power system. Finding effective ways to manage and improve the various listening posts that are used will help you achieve higher levels of business performance.

If you are interested in the customer amazement systems and improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at Better yet, give some thought to working further with me to help you improve your customer satisfaction system via these avenues:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out workshop – If you really want to accelerate your organization’s pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. This one day workshop is designed to help each participant (all leaders) define the key processes they personally own, the waste streams that these processes contain, and the measures and actions that are needed to reduce process waste and increase customer value.

How to Improve Your Customer Amazement System workshop – This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals. First, you will learn how to effectively define your key customer segments and the requirements of those segments. Second, you will explore best practice approaches for measuring and improving customer satisfaction. Third, you will make key choices regarding how your leadership team wants to improve your existing customer satisfaction system to achieve better results. Please note that this workshop focuses on both internal and external customer groups. I operate from the perspective that internal customer satisfaction must be improved in order to increase external customer amazement levels.

Keep improving! – Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

Great Customer Amazement  Books!