ISA relies on your input to continually improve

  • By Jim Keaveney
  • May 01, 2016
  • Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

In this month’s column, I turn my attention to the last of our four focus areas for 2016: Voice of the Customer (VOC). I hope that by taking a closer look at these priorities for the Society (the three others are AlignmentLeadership and Globalization), we can better understand their significance and collectively work to achieve them as we move forward this year.

VOC is a term used in business and technology to describe the in-depth process of capturing customers’ expectations, preferences, and aversions. Successful companies and associations need their customers’ feedback to identify opportunities for improvement and develop new ways of providing differentiated value.

Organizations that adhere to a VOC approach will attract new customers and boost customer retention and loyalty. A well-designed VOC program, however, is an investment in time and tools. It requires several steps: capturing the data, analyzing the data, acting on the feedback and continuous monitoring.

For me, analyzing the data can be the biggest challenge and what AG Lafley, former Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, described as being “consumer led, not consumer decided.” The most successful companies carefully listen and analyze, but can filter through some of the “noise” to get to an underlying market need even before it has been verbalized by consumers.

A recent Aberdeen Group report projected a 2% increase in customer care costs for companies without a robust VOC initiative in place, whereas those that do are expected to increase annual revenue by more than 10%. So, in addition to increasing customer loyalty, a well-designed VOC program also makes good business sense.

So—who are ISA’s customers? You—our members—are obviously at the top of the list, along with other stakeholders, including anyone in the automation profession, companies, schools and universities (educators and students), and governments that invest in STEM programs.

And how is ISA performing in terms of its VOC initiatives? First, ask yourself: Do you take the time to provide the Society with feedback and suggestions? If not, how can ISA improve and meet or exceed your expectations? When you do make the extra effort to deliver input, do you feel that your voice is being heard and that your suggestions are being considered?

I think we are getting better in our VOC efforts, but we have a way to go on this journey. We have a presence in social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook), have invested in a blog, (ISA Interchange) and have a great community manager. In addition to our staff resources, our Social Media and Website Advisory Committee is composed of savvy industry professionals that will be helping to craft a more comprehensive and effective VOC strategy.

We’ve expanded our Automation Advisory Council to include powerful voices and perspectives from prominent end user companies, such as DuPont, ExxonMobil, and Procter & Gamble. Our Technical Assembly recently created a Technology Search Committee, whose charter is to identify and evaluate new technical areas of interest to ISA that could drive a new standard, publication, training program or marketing initiative.

As Society leaders, we are trying to improve our strategic planning process by engaging our local volunteer leaders as early and most effectively as possible. At both our Spring and Fall Leaders meetings, we will conduct brainstorming sessions on our 2017 strategic goals. ISA leaders also try to attend as many district, section and division symposia events as possible to get feedback from members, customers and partners.

Personally, I like to hear our members’ stories and their top suggestions on how to improve ISA. We are also trying to do a better job of listening to our volunteer leadership and membership outside of North America. In addition to some language challenges, there are cultural perspectives that are not always clear or easily understood. Are we really listening when the voice sounds different from our own?

We also have started to host quarterly WebEx informational sessions with our broader Society leadership. I’m not sure that the average member gives a great deal of thought about the governance piece of ISA, but we have plans to widen the audience with the hope of getting more feedback. I think that almost every “issue” we’ve had at ISA can be traced back to poor communications. Being acutely tuned to the VOC will be essential to helping ISA achieve its mission in “setting the standard for automation” and enabling automation professionals across the world to work together for the benefit of all.

We really do need your help and need to hear your voice. This is your ISA and we are listening. I would very much like to know your own story (e.g. , why you joined ISA, what matters most to you, your likes and dislikes, etc. ) and your best suggestion on how we can improve. Please share your voice with me at

Jim Keaveney
2016 ISA President