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Voice of the Customer: Six steps to glorious failure

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10th Jan 2014
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Setting up and running a Voice of the Customer programme can be challenging at any level. Getting it right and ensuring that you’re able to drive change, generate ROI and improve the customer experience is even harder.

So why bother? Nobody else is really doing it (despite what they say), and as long as you’re covering most bases and ticking the boxes, you’ll be keeping up with your competitors, which is all you really need to do. Here are six steps to fudging your Voice of the Customer programme, so that you’re free to get on with the rest of your job.

1. Just do it

Planning is overrated. The important thing with a VoC programme is to just get started and tweak it when you get the chance. You can’t measure whether or not these programmes are actually achieving anything, so just start gathering customer feedback and see what happens. Most customers won’t complete surveys anyway, so a scattergun approach works best – use a combination of web, email, telephone and mobile surveys, and you’ll catch most of your customers eventually, and some of them several times. Bonus.

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Start out by really understanding the business goals to which you’re linking your programme. Consider creating a “dream dashboard” containing all the actionable information you’d like to be able to see about your customers, and then work backwards to establish how you can get to that stage. Chances are you won’t get there immediately, but by focusing on the end result, you’ll be able to plan effectively.

As well as planning your dashboard, map the customer journey so that you can identify the key moments of truth and ask for feedback at those stages. You don’t need to question every customer at every stage, but by building up a picture of how customers really feel about interactions, you’ll be able to identify actions that will impact your business goals.
 

2. Ask plenty of questions

Once a customer has agreed to complete a survey, you can get information on all sorts of things; who they are, why they bought from you, what they thought of the service, if they’ve seen your adverts – and of course, if they want to refer a friend. Loads of information in a single hit. Ask everything you can think of and remember to include lots of rating scales which make fabulous pie charts for your presentations.

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Keep it simple. If you’re asking about a particular interaction, keep your questions focused on that interaction, and ensure you’re gathering accurate feedback, and not losing customers through long, complex surveys with dozens of grid questions. More importantly, link your Voice of the Customer solution to other key business systems, such as your CRM platform, so you don’t need to ask customers what they bought or when they interacted with you. Nothing undermines a positive customer experience like a survey that shows you weren’t really paying attention.
 

3. Keep it within your team

Other people spoil things. If you share your VoC programme too widely, everyone will want a piece of it and you’ll lose focus. Keep it closely within your Customer Insight or Customer Experience team to prevent too many cooks from spoiling the broth. If people really push to see results, a quarterly PDF should be more than sufficient.

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Bring in stakeholders from across the company to ensure buy-in for your programme and to gain their insights into the departmental processes that affect customers – directly or indirectly. By building a steering group of such people, you’ll be able to understand what action can be taken in the short and longer-term, and turn your programme into a force for change that is recognised across the company.

Wherever possible, make live data accessible across the business. You don’t need to share everything with everyone, but using tailored dashboards will allow employees to see how what they do impacts customers on a day-to-day basis. You can even use alerts to flag and recognise people doing a great job which is really powerful in frontline areas such as customer service and the call centre.
 

4. Keep the information flow one-way

When customers complete your survey, don’t enter into a dialogue with them – that’s a job for your complaints team. If you start to communicate with customers, the boundaries of who does what will get blurred and it might cause confusion. By all means, forward some comments to the complaints team if you feel so inclined, but your job is to gather feedback, not manage issues around late deliveries or product queries.

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Asking questions creates an expectation that someone is looking at the answers, so develop a follow-up process to deal with customers who have requested it, or who have reported a poor experience. While it’s not always practical to individually contact every customer who was dissatisfied, by linking your VoC programme to your sales or financial systems, you can identify the high-value customers who you need to prioritise in order to protect your relationship. At a higher level, follow up with customers en-masse, by widely sharing the business changes you’ve made based on feedback. This fosters a sense of being listened to, of engagement, and it also helps to create a virtuous circle in which customers want to share their feedback with you, time and time again.
 

5. Present your results annually

Create a big splash with your results by presenting the results of your VoC programme once a year, ideally using a nice long PowerPoint deck and an accompanying printed report. These things have far more impact when you have plenty of pie charts and spreadsheets. It also handily means that any questions with less than positive results can be quietly omitted from the report, avoiding any awkward questions from the audience. Always a good thing!

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Step away from the slide deck! Not entirely, presentations are still a key method for sharing information, but there are many more dynamic and interactive ways to engage people across the company with the work you’re doing in Voice of the Customer. There’s nothing wrong with an annual summary, highlighting key wins and challenges, for example, but to be truly actionable, you need to share live data with the people who it impacts.

In addition to sharing general feedback data, identify a few (or better still, just one) customer loyalty KPI which reflects your business goals and use this data as a rallying point. If you can determine a link between these metrics and financial results, you can really encourage people to focus on the actions dictated by the programme, and prove its value.
 

6. Maintain the Status Quo

Don’t start changing things based on what customers say. You know how to run your business, asking them questions is to help you out – not them.

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Seriously. I don’t think we need dignify this one… do we?! Although it’s worth remembering that there’s more to the Voice of the Customer than just customer feedback. Gathering feedback about customer experience through your frontline employees – contact centre staff, retail employees, customer service teams – can also provide a wealth of insight from people who see the day-to-day interactions with customer first-hand. And such employees also understand which process it is that cause the problems that frustrate customers.

Karine Del Moro is vice president of marketing at Confirmit.

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