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How do you determine best next steps from a Voice of the Customer project?

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4th Oct 2015
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The ultimate aim of any Voice of the Customer programme must be to take action. As CX professionals, we need to ensure that we’re delivering insight that will have a real impact on our businesses and ensure that we generate ROI from our programmes.

But do the changes we make always need to be big, strategic items? Do we have to be redefining key business processes? Creating a bottom-up reshuffling of our teams?

What about the smaller things? The more tactical items that will impact people – our employees and customers on a day to day basis? Often, these are simpler changes to implement and will have a bigger impact than you might expect, and critically will ensure that improvement in CX is owned by everyone in the organisation not just a designated group.

A useful way to look at the huge range of actions that result from a VoC programme, and which directly impact the customer experience, is with that old classic: rocks, pebbles and sand.

Which means what, in this context?

  • Rocks: These are the biggies. The new billing system. The organisational restructure. Mostly, we’re talking about processes that will take months, possibly years, to implement and which will have a massive impact on the business.
  • Pebbles: These are the smaller initiatives that can be managed within a team or function or cross-functional items that bring together, for example, sales and marketing teams to drive improvement in a particular touchpoint or engagement. These are elements that drive the sense of community around your Voice of the Customer programme.
  • Sand: This is about the behaviour of individuals. The small changes that may not seem like much in themselves but which directly impact customers and which build to generate sustained improvement. For example, in the call centre, what changes to an agent’s approach to a customer query or complaint might have an impact?

One of the reasons this is such a useful approach is that it enables employees across your company to understand that the customer experience is NOT ‘Somebody Else’s Problem’. By demonstrating that small changes have a real impact, you can encourage staff at every level to take accountability to make changes at their level of influence. One of the main reasons we need to take this multi-layered approach is that the rocks, those big pieces, take so long to achieve. While their impact may be huge, we just cannot wait – we also need to look at what each of us can do today.

If your Voice of the Customer programme, ideally linked with your Voice of the Employee programme, of course, is telling you that a new IT system will deliver ROI and impact the customer experience – go for it! And in 18 months’ time, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of your new system. But in the meantime, while your CIO is beavering away on that, the rest of your employees can all play their part too.

The role of clear and timely data is critical here. To enable change – even at the pebbles and sand level – you need feedback and robust insights that help you make the right decisions about what change to implement. To achieve this, you need to ensure that you’re capturing customer feedback at all the key stages in the customer journey, and bringing them together to provide a coherent view of the overall customer experience. By bringing all your data together, you can begin to see the common threads that underpin multiple experiences – and that’s how you find your pebbles. Where a single approach or process affects several stages of the customer journey, then changing that single element will have a multiplied effect. Often, different teams are unaware of the wider role that a process plays, so by bringing these teams together, you can create cross-functional teams who can build a more effective approach.

It’s a similar process with the “sand” elements. At this level, you’re asking people to change their behaviour, which isn’t always a comfortable thing for them to do. So ensure you’re using data to provide a rationale for the change. And remember that you’re not dictating specific change. Rather, you’re empowering employees to make decisions about their behaviour so they can impact the customer experience at their level of influence. Knowing they are trusted to make such decisions can provide a huge boost to employees who, even on the front line, don’t always fully appreciate the impact they have on the customer experience.

Insight, again, plays a huge role here. Empowering employees to make changes to the actions they take is one thing, but you need to provide robust and timely feedback on the impact that change had. If it was successful, ensure they know about it and recognise them for making a positive impact, and of course share what you’ve learned so you can replicate the change elsewhere.  However, when something hasn’t worked well, use data to explain why it didn’t work and search for new approaches that might be more successful. Small changes might not seem like a huge thing, but particularly with the huge role of word of mouth via social media, even a small change can have a big impact on your reputation – and bottom line.

And who knows, by the time you’ve worked through all that sand…the new IT system might be ready!

Claire Sporton is VP customer experience management at Confirmit.

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