Every day, your customers interact with your company in some large or small way. This interaction may occur when that person uses your product or service. They may also engage with your company through a social media channel or by speaking to one of your employees. The voice of the customer describes both the spoken and unspoken expectations your customers have about these interactions.
If you are like most companies, you are probably working hard to gain customer feedback about these experiences in some way. It is important to constantly monitor customer feedback and measure the experience your customers are having with your company.
The most commonly understood definition of the voice of the customer (VoC) is to capture customer expectations. Market research, focus groups, email surveys, and data reports are all methods you can use to gain this information.
All of these methods may be helpful in capturing the information you are looking for. However, they may not be enough to help your company improve customer satisfaction.
The Benefits of a Voice of the Customer Program
A free report from the Aberdeen Group researched the value of building a voice of the customer program. They found that simply implementing a VoC program alone is not enough for businesses to be successful. In fact, a poorly managed voice of the customer program is just as ineffective as doing nothing at all.
However, this report also found that an effective voice of the customer program can improve customer satisfaction and improve the company’s long-term financial gains.
This report also showed that the companies that successfully used a VoC program had revenue gains that were nearly 10 times higher than their competitors.
This report did find other key benefits to implementing a successful voice of the customer program. Companies that implement top-notch VoC programs also:
- Had 55 percent higher customer retention rates
- Had 292 percent higher employee engagement rates
- Saw a 23 percent decrease in yearly customer service expenses
A successful voice of the customer program is the best way to systematically listen to your customers and act on the information they provide you. The problem is, some businesses don’t understand how their customers interact with their business or what their perceptions are.
Because of this, it is nearly impossible to meet manage the overall customer experience or improve your company’s performance.
5 Tips to Create a Successful Voice of the Customer Program
Every day, hundreds of companies will send out surveys, organize focus groups, and solicit feedback through various social media channels in hopes of gaining valuable customer feedback. Customer feedback can allow businesses to improve the customer experience and begin delivering desired business results.
According to the Gartner Group, 90 percent of businesses understand that they will have to compete with other companies, not over the products or services they offer but on the level of customer service they are delivering. However, creating a voice of the customer program is not easy and creating one that is effective is even harder.
So what does it take a create a successful voice of the customer program? Here are five tips that will take you a long way (and save you from wasting time).
Honestly assess your company culture
When I was in college I worked as a front desk employee at a local community center. On Saturdays, we opened the front doors at 7:30 and there were usually members waiting outside for at least 15 minutes before we opened.
One exceptionally cold morning in December, I had finished all of my work by about 7:20. So I asked the building manager if we could let the members in early so they wouldn’t have to stand outside in the cold. He refused to let them in because the “rule” was to open the doors at 7:30.
Most companies will claim that they are completely focused on their customers but most of the time this isn’t true. So this means you really need to do an honest assessment of your company’s culture. Are you putting your customers last so you can follow some arbitrary company policy?
Companies that are not focused on the customer experience will rarely be able to deliver anything more than average service. They don’t empower their employees to be flexible to meet the needs of their customers. To truly achieve success with your voice of the customer program, you must be focused entirely on improving the customer experience.
Hire and train the right employees
If you want to be a part of a company that puts customers first, this starts with the employees you hire. After all, your employees will help create your company culture and how your business will be remembered.
Look for employees whose values and personality fit with your company’s mission. Skills are important and you want your employees to be familiar with your company’s products. But they also need to know how to build relationships, listen to your customers, and respond to their requests.
And most importantly, empower your employees to bend the rules occasionally to help out the customer. Don’t require a manager’s approval for every single issue that arises.
Gather customer feedback whenever possible
A good VoC program requires a lot of data. This means you need to look for opportunities to get feedback from your customers whenever possible.
Social media provides a great opportunity for this. Have a dedicated employee whose only job is to monitor and track engagement with your customers on social media. Even negative reviews are a chance to learn something and find a way to improve your relationship with your customers.
And customer feedback is useful for learning about more than just problems. It is also a great opportunity to learn what people like about your business and what things they want to see more of.
If you choose to rely on surveys, it is important that you provide open-ended questions to your customers and listen to their responses. This will help you understand the customer’s objectives, frustrations, and ideas for success.
In can be helpful to have certain employees try to see the process from the customer’s point of view. Those employees can look into the areas that are problematic for the customer and recommend possible changes.
Measure the results
Most companies have some sort of voice of the customer program in place and often times, these programs will fall short in delivering real change.
To make your voice of the customer program successful, you will need a way to measure the results. Over time, this data will begin to tell a story that you can use to help your company makes changes.
Resist the urge to just point to customer satisfaction metrics and move on as these can be misleading. Look at performance metrics like the Customer Lifetime Value or customer retention as these demonstrate a clear return on investment.
There is nothing more irritating than being asked for your feedback only to discover that your feedback was ultimately ignored. Don’t start a voice of the customer program that you aren’t prepared to follow through on.
Continue to monitor and track your progress over time. This will help you see areas where you are making improvements and areas where work is still needed.
Most businesses understand that customer feedback is essential to helping them improve their product or service. According to a report by Forrest, 60 percent of companies have some kind of formal voice of the customer program in place.
By proactively implementing a voice of the customer program, businesses can improve their products and services and keep up with customer demands. You can do this through a variety of ways including direct feedback, focus groups, online surveys, and complaint logs.
By focusing on the expectations of your customer, over time your company will improve your products and see a greater return on investment.
Has your business implemented a voice of the customer program? What strategies did you find helpful and what strategies fell short? Let us know in the comments!