SVP, Customer Experience Innovation Confirmit
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How to secure executive support for your VoC programme

10th Jul 2015
SVP, Customer Experience Innovation Confirmit
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At a basic level, most companies understand that a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme can broadly be seen as 'A Good Thing'. However, it’s also not necessarily 'A Cheap Thing' or 'An Easy Thing'. And, like most things that are neither cheap nor easy, it can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and stick with the status quo. However, the benefits of a VoC programme – financial, operational and cultural - are too great for any business to ignore.

The economic benefits of a strong VoC programme have been proven and documented many times. So why do we find it difficult to secure the resources – both financial and operational? Often, it’s because we’re not using the right language and creating a genuine, substantiated business case.

The fluff stops here.

You need support from the top of your company, otherwise your programme is destined to remain a niche project. Executive buy-in means stakeholders take the programme more seriously, that targets must be met, and that you secure that critical budget.

So how do you get your executives to support you?

Know your audience: Firstly, you need to understand the people with whom you’re dealing. Like everyone else, your executive team will make decisions using a combination of left brain (logical, rational, analytical) and right brain (creative, intuitive). You may woo a few people with grand presentations about delighting customers and delivering wonderful experiences that send people rushing to share their delight on social media, but you’ll win over far more by dealing in cold, hard facts. To ensure that your programme is seen as relevant make sure you align your messaging to demonstrate how it is closely aligned with your corporate strategy.

Commit to return on investment: Identify an ROI model that works for you, and show your executive team the numbers so you can clearly demonstrate the results that your programme can deliver.

You need to link your programme directly to your key business priorities and demonstrate how your programme can deliver success. In the example shown, the top box highlights some common business priorities. By including a few simple variables such as turnover and churn rate, you can quickly start modelling the impact your programme will have.

In the example, if we were to reduce the churn rate by only 10% by following up with unhappy customers and resolving their issues, we could increase revenue by £500K p.a. If we then also targeted our promoters to refer a friend - even with only a 1% success rate -  the programme could push revenue up by nearly a £1M.

This is the sort of language that will capture your executive team’s attention and really lay the foundations, and expectations, of your programme. It may be daunting to set yourself such solid financial goals, but it’s what you need to do to secure the future of your programme.

Check your facts: Customer Experience professionals tend not to be accountants, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the numbers stage, or that you can just guess. You need to be sure that your projections make sense and any assumptions are reasonable, so run everything past your Chief Financial Officer. If the numbers stack up to him or her, then they’ll work for the rest of the senior team as well, and you’ll be well on your way to securing approval and budget.

Commit to a realistic roll-out: It’s important to ensure a balance between ambition, given what you’ve demonstrated to your senior team, and losing focus by trying to do too much at once. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the end game, but think carefully about the phasing of your programme so you can take one step at a time and make sure you’ve got each step right.  When defining your phasing, take the time to define success criteria so you can be clear that you have achieved what you need to BEFORE  moving on to the next stage. Measure and monitor each step as you roll it out against these success criteria, but be ready to be flexible. In our fast-moving world, nothing stays still so we need to be ready to flex our priorities and phasing as long as we stay clear on the end game

Create some quick wins: Once you’re achieved that initial support, you need to maintain it. So as part of your roll-out, use alerts and reporting to make sure that you’re able to take swift action that counts towards the financials you’ve committed to. The upside of the early days of a VoC programme is that you’re likely to be able to identify some relatively simple actions that will have a real impact on the customer experience. Make sure you take all those actions and track the financial effect (immediate and projected) and make sure everyone is aware of the successes. This will ensure that you keep everyone on-board and moving forward. You may need to manage expectations carefully, because wins won’t always be so easy to come by, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t shout from the rooftops early on!

When you have a clear and ambitious vision for your Voice of the Customer programme, it’s tempting to promise the Earth to secure the budget and get started. But that way lies failure. Either, your senior team will know you’re not being realistic and you’ll have damaged your credibility, or you’ll get the budget and fall flat. Talk their language, be clear and accurate in your financial ambitions and take a measured approach, and you’ll be onto a winner.

Claire Sporton is VP customer experience management at Confirmit.

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