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Voice of the Customer: The six stages of setting up a successful programme

14th Sep 2012
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Karine Del Moro outlines how to lay the foundations of a successful VoC programme.

As Voice of the Customer programmes mature, expectations are rising rapidly. Teams tasked with building a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme today, whether from scratch or as an evolution of an existing customer feedback project, are expected to deliver results that drive business change and generate significant ROI. The reason for this is clear; delivering an excellent customer experience is the most effective way for both B2C and B2B organisations to differentiate themselves from the competition – and a VoC programme is vital to improving the customer experience. 
Successful customer experience management (CEM) provides the insight required to increase revenue through reduced churn, improved cross-sell and the ability to better attract new customers. VoC programmes also help to reduce costs by improving processes and creating greater consistency. Finally, taking a customer-centric approach to every facet of the business drives cross-functional change and makes a real impact on organisational culture.
If your organisation is committed to using customer insight to drive short-term, tactical change, but also to aid long-term strategic planning, the first vital task is to secure buy-in from the executive team. The majority of business leaders believe their company offers superior customer experiences, so use your customer feedback data to demonstrate any areas in which customers feel differently. If you can, build a business case that shows that customers would spend more with you or refer friends if their experiences were better. It’s crucial to focus on financial and operational wins at this stage as it’s easy for customer experiences to be seen as fuzzy and hard to measure.
Once the company’s leaders are on board, there are six key stages that are crucial in building a successful VoC programme.
  1. Define: Agree clear, phased objectives and success criteria. It is imperative to define the key business issues that you need to address – increasing revenue, decreasing costs through operational improvements, driving culture change – at the outset so that you can build a programme that will influence key business and customer KPIs. Otherwise you run the risk of building a VoC programme that simply languishes in a silo.

    Once you’ve agreed the objectives, map the customer journey from the customer’s perspective to ensure that you are listening to them at key touchpoints. It is vital that you understand when and how they wish to engage with your brand. Identify the ‘key moments of truth’ for customers so that you have a clear understanding of which interactions bear the most impact on customer experience.

  2. Design: Ensure that you design the programme to deliver both tactical and strategic benefits, in line with your business objectives.

    Decide what channels your customers will find most engaging (web, mobile, telephone, paper, etc.). Decide on the frequency of interactions that is appropriate for your business: it’s important to take into account both relationship surveys, which analyse the health of the relationship on an ongoing basis (once or twice a year for example), and transactional surveys which are better suited to identifying issues and process improvements at key touchpoints. Ideally there should also be a way to relate relationship surveys to transactional surveys, and vice versa, so that you can identify the critical drivers of loyalty or dissatisfaction.

    Having carefully designed the most appropriate methods of data capture for your business, decide what reporting channels are required and build in closed-loop processes so that you can resolve issues as they occur.

  3. Implement: Use multi-channel data collection to drive high response rates and deliver deeper insight. Identify a solution that will provide a secure and highly scalable way to gather customer feedback, automate alerts, and generate tailored reports that provide stakeholders with live insight.

    Make sure you collect information from all sides of your organisation – add VoC data to ERP and CRM platforms as well as employee feedback systems and external benchmarking data - to ensure that you are able to build a holistic, single view of the customer. What matters here is to gather robust, representative, balanced information, using appropriate and relevant channels and integrating it with your internal systems.

  4. Analyse: Improve business results by analysing data and creating a clear view of the issues and opportunities.

    From a tactical perspective, this means using alerts, for example about dissatisfied customers or poorly performing team members to improve problem resolution and retention, or about happy customers to motivate your employees and leverage positive word-of-mouth. A VoC programme can indeed provide a strong opportunity to motivate employees by showing them when their actions have really made a difference to customers.

    From a strategic standpoint, aggregate data to identify key drivers from your customers’ point of view to help you to prioritise long term investments that will drive business change in a meaningful way. This is the best way to find out what your most important customers really care about.

    In some cases, consider using text analytics to deliver sentiment analysis and categorisation of customer comments which can truly help to make sense out of unstructured customer feedback, often the largest and richest type of data you have access to.

  5. Act: Closing the loop at the individual level with your customers is of course crucial to the success of your VoC programme. It allows you to deliver some quick wins, and is often easily linked to short-term financial benefits. Set up a robust and actionable alerting system that empowers your employees to retain customers, produce leads, cut costs, etc.

    In parallel you need to build the foundations that will deliver long-term results: powerful, tailored reports that give insights on a larger scale, about where to invest, what to fix - in short what you need to know about your most profitable opportunities. Everyone in your organisation, from the CEO to the frontline agent, has a role to play in improving customer experience but this is only possible if they have access to actionable information, at the right time, using the right channels.

  6. Review: Don’t set a completion date for a VoC programme, because there’s no such thing! It’s vital that you review your goals and revise them to keep driving your company forward. Once the quick wins are over, the longer-term gains may seem less dramatic and support for the programme can wane. Be prepared to examine all aspects of this programme on a regular basis, with a cross-functional team of experts, to seek continuous improvements, to re-focus on new issues as they arise and to adjust your business priorities along the way.
Setting up a VoC programme can be a daunting task, but there’s no need to do everything at once. By starting small, making sure you’re getting it right, and taking action when you need to, you’ll learn the lessons unique to your business and will be able to grow and develop the programme more effectively. The ultimate proof point of a VoC programme is change, so plan carefully, implement in stages and make sure that you change your company to the benefit of your customers.
Karine Del Moro is senior director of Confirmit.

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By AliceS
08th Oct 2012 09:39

By analyzing feedback to understand what's important to customers, Netflix could have developed more effective communications strategies prior to announcing the planned changes. They could have also made plans to deal with any negative consequences of their announcements—which might have tempered the negative impact on the company's financial standing.

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