Stephen Covey’s books and teachings have helped many people with a simple, memorable structure for personal challenges, change and development. The sad news of his death served as a prompt to dig his book off my bookshelf and take a quick refresher on the 7 habits.
Reading through his clear, direct and straightforward writing for the first time in many years I started to think about how the habits apply to customer experience professionals and the Voice of Customer services that we run.
If you haven’t read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, then stop reading this and get hold of a copy straight away. If you have read it, then I’d love to hear your ideas on how those habits apply to VoC. My brief thoughts are:
- Habit 1: Be Proactive
Take the initiative in your Voice of Customer programme. Don’t sit passively waiting for a customer to spontaneously provide some information – ask them! With more mobile phones in the UK than people, grab the channel and seize the initiative. Go on – text a customer today!
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Stephen talks about creating a mission statement, and having clarity of your goals and values. Does your VoC programme have a mission statement? Do you have clear measurable goals that enable you to prove the value of VoC to your business? Preferably a value measured in £’s on the revenue or profit lines (or both).
- Habit 3: Put First Things First
Use the goals from Habit 2 to prioritise your VoC programme. If your goal is to reduce customer churn by 10% then there is little point in targeting your VoC at your most happy customers. If your goal is to find out how you can improve your service then ask that first – not buried halfway down a huge list of less important questions. In fact, Habits 2 and 3 combined push towards very short VoC surveys – work out what you want to achieve and ask that. Don’t bother the customer with everything else.
- Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Strive for mutually beneficial solutions – so your VoC programme must include a live, real-time process to alert your front-line staff to issues so they can contact the customer and do something about it! The customer will benefit (I said, you listened, you took notice of me) and you get the valuable insight into problems and the chance to turn the situation around.
- Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Listen – and give yourself and your organisation a chance to be genuinely influenced by what your customers tell you. This means that your VoC needs to be open, available and based on free-format unstructured feedback (recorded comments, texts, emails etc) rather than scales, scores and check boxes. This Habit also challenges all of us on the questions that we ask – do we use empathetic questions in our customers’ own language and style, or are we stuffed full of corporate speak?
- Habit 6: Synergize
Recruit your most delighted customers to be part of your team. Whether that is involving them in long term product and service development, or equipping them as advocates to recruit more new customers at a lower cost of acquisition than your sales team will ever achieve, grit your teeth at the Americanism, and synergize through your VoC!
- Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renewal of mental, physical and spiritual resources fits well in a book about personal development, but can it apply to a Voice of Customer programme? As a customer experience professional, take time to step back from your own programme and look at the options and alternatives. Perhaps your capture channel is getting stale (are you really still using paper comment forms?!).
Read some good quality white papers or publications about alternative questions and measures. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you rip out your carefully crafted and deeply embedded NPS, CSat, CES or Customer Tracker score, but do look at the alternatives to encourage good critical thinking – look for the strengths in alternative solutions, and use that as inspiration to see how you can build and strengthen your own programme.
I hope that this prompts you to get hold of a copy of Stephen’s book and read it – he writes far more powerfully than I do and his ideas have inspired and motivated people across the world. We should all strive to apply his principles to our own profession, and build Highly Effective Voice of Customer solutions – please comment/post below and let me know how you apply his Habits to your VoC.