CVS Health Identifies Closed-Loop Feedback as its Customer-Centricity Unlock

Image courtesy CVS

Today’s consumers are asked to rate their experiences multiple times per day. You can hit a smiley face if the airport bathroom is clean and, if not, a frowny face. You’re encouraged to rate the service you received after ordering a product online, getting your car repaired or having your hair styled. At my local supermarket, the self-checkout PIN pad has a note asking if I want to take a two-question survey (I don’t).

Sri Narasimhan

Consumers may wonder what companies do with all this data, or if they do anything at all. CVS Health has made a concerted effort to connect the feedback it collects — the good, the bad and the ugly — with its own associates, executives and the customers themselves.

To support this move toward true closed-loop feedback (CLF), the retailer moved to a single customer experience platform and made NPS (net promoter score) its “North Star metric,” bringing together what had been “different measures and calculations of satisfaction,” according to Sri Narasimhan, VP and Head of Enterprise Customer Experience at CVS Health in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.

The effort was spearheaded with a six-week, multi-pronged initiative designed to remind associates of the importance of customer feedback that led to a 3.5X increase in associate usage of the retailer’s VOC (Voice of the Customer) platform over the course of the campaign, with 6,000 logins in one month from 2,000 different associates.


Narasimhan shared more details about CVS’ CLF transformation and the impressive results it’s generated.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are some of the main ways CVS has changed its CX processes?

Sri Narasimhan: We realized that we needed to create a consistent language for how we discussed customer experience across our organization, and thus we moved to NPS. When we moved to NPS, we took a concerted approach to ensure we had consistent metrics with relevant sub-metrics and created guardrails in partnership with our business unit partners on how to act on feedback.

We started by creating customer experience forums with senior leadership across the organization to drive action on feedback, which to date has resulted in over 100 initiatives focused on improvements. In addition, we made a concerted effort to close the loop on consumer feedback by following up with customers who indicated they had poor experiences. This galvanized the organization to become even more consumer-centric.

RTP: What were the “missing pieces” in CVS’ CX efforts prior to this initiative, and how has the company addressed them?

Narasimhan: We had a lot of well-intentioned work, but it was difficult to prioritize consumer experience without consistent measurement, governance, accountability and executive alignment. After our transformation, we have been able to provide consistent frameworks and insights to deeply understand areas we need to improve and [where we] can surprise and delight.

Beyond that, I think one of the biggest values from the initiative has been creating a leadership focus on customer experience. Everyone at our organization understands NPS, with nearly all our colleagues trained on it, and the importance of being consumer-centric. This message is reinforced consistently from all levels of leadership, and that level of focus has brought customer experience/NPS in line even with financial metrics in terms of importance

RTP: In your opinion, is the failure to use feedback to proactively address problems where other programs falter?

Narasimhan: There is really a two-fold approach to consumer centricity — listening and acting on feedback is one major component, while building the cultural foundation for teams to deliver it is another. It’s important to remember that this approach requires constant evolvement. You must monitor and listen to your employees conducting the outreach to ensure they feel a part of the process and feel empowered to resolve consumer issues, and if it’s a larger systemic issue out of their control, that they have the right process in place to raise it up.

RTP: The CVS description of this program talks about fostering empathy for patients/customers. How important is this to overall CX improvements?

Narasimhan: Fostering empathy for customers is crucial, but also human nature. When you prioritize consumer centricity, you naturally develop empathy for their experiences. Businesses must be willing to listen to customers and engage with them to learn and drive change.

Closing the loop with consumers is critical to showing we’re not just listening to what they have to say, but digesting feedback and using it to improve. We aim to not just close the loop with consumers but solve their problem, get to the root of it and prevent it from happening in the future. That sort of action shows our empathy for the consumer journey — that we’re taking their feedback to heart and making meaningful change to address it.

To date, we’ve made 4 million acts of service recovery, which continues to grow as we continue to define the utopia of CX. Plus, 5 million survey respondents have read about improvements made based on their feedback, with over 80% of readers saying the content was valuable.

RTP: How much of a benefit has it been for associates to feel like they’ve helped improve customers’ lives?

Narasimhan: The benefits of our colleagues making a positive difference in people’s lives is monumental, not just for our customers but for our colleagues as well. We have videos, particularly from our CVS Specialty patients, of emotional situations that some of our patients have been in, and we can see how our representatives have helped them navigate those situations. You can hear the patient talk about how meaningful their interaction with our representative was and the impact they had.

This is a positive cycle to be a part of, perpetuating that feeling of being a part of a patient’s life and a differentiator in health care. These interactions develop and create your brand, mold how you are thought of as a company, so it’s crucial to make sure colleagues are tapping into their positive intent.

Right now, we are focused on creating a mindset where our colleagues are excited to come to work, help the consumer and provide them with a good experience. When there’s positive energy in the store, and employees are supported and heard, they’re happy. That’s something you feel and want to be a part of as a consumer.

Organizations should be putting the same amount of focus on employee experience as they are consumer experience because, in the end, the employee is responsible for the consumer experience, and a positive consumer experience is less likely with an unhappy employee at the helm.

RTP: What’s been the impact of this focus on closed-loop processes for CVS’ customers?

Narasimhan: Closing the loop with all consumers (both detractors and promoters) confirms that their feedback is being taken to heart and acted upon — increasing their sense of loyalty to the organization. We want to address good and bad feedback because we collect valuable information from both. Consumers are full of ideas and improvements — you will miss a lot of key insights and impactful relationships if the only focus is addressing pain points.

We reach out to promoters to thank them for their feedback and understand what makes their experience exceptional. We’ve found that this step delights the consumer (who was not expecting a response at all), and the business also benefits from deeper engagement with loyal consumers, leading to positive word-of-mouth and increased referrals. By also closing the loop with every detractor, we’ve seen that 75% of consumers who received CLF outreach are more likely to recommend in the next survey, and 55% of detractors move to promoters.

As a result, we’ve seen a direct link to improved medication adherence, fixed operational challenges, improved accessibility to health care for our consumers and more. We are aiming to make it as easy as possible to interact with CVS Health and the U.S. health care system overall.

In addition to CVS Specialty actioning on survey data, they have also created a Patient Advisory Council, where Specialty patients can meet with leaders from within the business unit to discuss how to improve the experience. These are patients who have volunteered to share their thoughts and opinions with leadership and, in return, hear from our leaders on what we intend to do to improve the experience. It’s providing a level of transparency between those we serve and the leaders making decisions that we have frankly not had before.

RTP: How does this initiative reflect CVS Health’s overall customer-centricity?

Narasimhan: Our CVS Specialty engagement campaign was just one piece of a much larger puzzle, and not our first program, nor will it be our last, to conduct closed-loop feedback. It showed us that consumer-centricity works, and the engagement campaign helped drive awareness of our CX program, which is continuing to grow. We saw positive results with the implementation of closed-loop feedback, and we were able to deepen relationships and provide personalized support to patients because of this campaign.

This standard of service really starts at the top level of leadership all the way down to our frontline employees. Our CEO, Karen Lynch, came into this organization committed to making CVS the most consumer-centric company in health care. Then, she brought in Chief Customer and Experience Officer Michelle Peluso to ignite and drive this vision.

Our colleagues fully embrace these efforts, with many volunteering their own time and expertise to help advance the program. These are CVS employees that want to be a part of the solution and improve the experience. Volunteers include active pharmacists who have dealt with specialty medications and individuals at their most vulnerable when they are sick or caring for a loved one, which puts a different perspective on the closed-loop process.

Our colleagues focus on addressing the issue at hand and ensuring resolution, not just closing the alert and adding it to the tally. They are determined to find the root cause of issues and escalate to their peers and leaders the best way possible, which drives systemic change in how we address feedback.

Featured Event

Join the retail community as we come together for three days of strategic sessions, meaningful off-site networking events and interactive learning experiences.



Access The Media Kit


Access Our Editorial Calendar

If you are downloading this on behalf of a client, please provide the company name and website information below: