New Wisdom for Voice of the Customer

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Voice-of-the-Customer is central to most customer experience strategies. Find out what the customer thinks and increase the number of voices in favor of your brand. The excitement of hearing from the customer is usually high, at least the first couple of rounds. Then trends are established and one of three things usually happens: (a) the trend is in the “safe” zone, so everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes about their business as usual, (b) the trend is in the “danger” zone, so someone gets assigned to fix it, or (c) someone is assigned to figure out how to link the trend with revenue.

Listening Overload: Over time, voice-of-the-customer (VoC) managers find themselves measuring more listening posts (surveys for various types of interactions the customer has with the company) and wondering how to get more people in the company engaged in caring about and acting on the customer feedback insights. And those who were assigned to study VoC and revenue sometimes find compelling linkages, and otherwise find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Maxed Out Managers: In most companies, survey management (online/phone questionnaires, journey map research, advisory boards, communities, focus groups, ethnography, etc.) has taken on a life of its own, and it’s all-consuming. The enterprise feedback management (EFM) systems that promised to free-up so much time, compared to the old manual methods of collecting and reporting customer feedback, have instead fully consumed managers with real-time VoC dashboards in the effort to reach out to negative raters and convert individual customers to brand evangelizers.

Dwindling Confidence: With all of this preoccupation, customer experience managers admit that they have not yet thought out how they can get more mileage from the VoC investment, yet they know there’s a lot of potential, especially regarding the bigger issues that are chronic concerns for customers. And Forrester’s State of Customer Experience Study revealed that while 90% of executives sensed the importance of customer experience management, 86% of them did not expect to see business results from it.

Shift to Actionability: Here’s new wisdom for VoC – and for your overall customer experience strategy – and it’s not too late to change: shift your attention to actionability plans.

In the table below, the business value is much higher for the New Wisdom approach. The Traditional Approach requires a constant treadmill of resources, and does not provide sufficient actionable or compelling insights to move the needle. If we adopt the New Wisdom approach, we will certainly see an increase in the percentage of executives who have faith in seeing strong business results from customer experience management.

Divert Funds from Fixes to Value-Creation: The New Wisdom approach allows your company to prevent recurrence of issues for your entire customer base. At the same time, it enlightens the entire employee base to better anticipate customer expectations and reactions. As a result, funds that were previously eternally tied up in broken things may instead be diverted to new-value opportunities that are in-sync with customers.

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Think Big: Start your new year with a fully thought-out actionability plan. This is not aimed at those critical few groups who are culprits of the worst survey scores. This is not aimed at one-by-one fixes. A fully-thought-out actionability plan engages every work group across the company to own and proactively manage their ripple effect on customer experience.  Workshops, change management, collaboration, and organizational learning will be involved. This is an important step toward outside-in influence that’s better than skin-deep. It is an important step toward true customer-centricity and growth-building customer experience transformation.

Make your actionability plan horizontal and compelling, no longer vertical and optional. Establish a cadence for reviewing customer comments in cross-organizational workshops, following through on action plans, and communicating progress to your entire customer base.  Make it everyone’s goal to prevent recurrence of customer hassles.

lynn org chartTo support your actionability plan, modify your VoC methodology. Shift from the trite list of questions about your company to a list of questions about the customer’s expectations. Omit questions about things you already know. Include questions about moments of truth and things that can shape your strategic planning, hiring and promotion criteria, policies and processes, and other places in the company that could be better aligned with customer experience insights.

Revise your customer experience staffing. It is better to invest in customer experience improvement facilitators to oversee the new wisdom process, rather than find more places to monitor VoC. The New Wisdom process builds customer experience ownership among employees across the company, weaving the VoC actions into their daily work, and weaving the VoC insights into the company’s fabric.

Customer experience facilitators should be well-versed in the basics of market research, change management, quality improvement techniques, and facilitation skills. This way they have what’s needed to provide value to business unit champions in each product line, region and major account team, and support function.

A crew of three or four facilitators is sufficient for most companies. In addition to interfacing with the business units, the customer experience facilitators should be driving internal branding of customer experience excellence: embedding VoC insights into criteria for hiring, promotion, performance reviews, organizational reviews, and all the rituals and processes and policies across the company.

Business unit champions may manage customer experience understanding and improvement within their business unit, along with other responsibilities such as quality or operations.

The C-team should see themselves as part of the customer experience management team, with oversight and active contributions by each C-team member and their respective organizations.

Actionability and action are the watchwords for new wisdom in customer experience management.  Take the opportunity of the new year or new quarter to make the needed shifts in your VoC methodology and customer experience strategy to get on a profitable growth track with the New Wisdom approach.

Main image: Zigazou76

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