Successful Voice of the Customer programs collect insights that drive decision-making, promote customer-centricity, and generate return on investment. Organizations have now widely adopted such programs, but their level of maturity differs vastly when it comes to the way they manage customer experience.
Those companies who have been running a solid, even best-in class, VoC program for a few years run the risk of ultimately “hitting the wall”: results no longer impress, goals appear met, and excitement dwindles. But a VoC programs never ends, so what happens next?
The following three strategies present methods for pushing past the VoC plateau and developing a customer experience strategy with staying power.
- Tie VoC to clear business goals and get board-level buy-in
Develop your VoC program with business issues in mind. Defining at the onset – and continuously re-defining – what the business wants to achieve (increased revenue, reduced costs, customer retention, for example) will help a VoC program sustain itself and avoid stagnation.
Once you’ve identified these business goals, cross-functional buy-in at the board level is critical.
VoC isn’t just an “initiative,” it must be the way your company does business day-in, day-out. To ensure long-term results, this mandate has to be embedded at all levels of the organization, starting at the top.
A mature VoC program should deliver value to every part of the company and each department should be empowered to provide input to keep it relevant and effective.
Tips: Maintain executive engagement by ensuring that board members take ownership of each project with accountability to regularly present progress to key stakeholders. Identify VoC “champions” across your business. Ensure these people not only drive enthusiasm, but are empowered to make decisions and take action.
- As VoC matures, re-calibrate expectations and goals
Companies tend to set fairly conservative VoC goals and expectations at the beginning, mostly due to the absence of proof points. By correcting a few faults and fixing the main drivers of customer dissatisfaction, these organizations often experience unexpectedly high rewards for their efforts. This success stimulates the creation of higher expectations and goals for the next several years, which continue to produce powerful results.
The later stages of VoC maturity prove more challenging. The goals and expectations remain the same, but the results tend to be somewhat less dramatic. Rather than operate by the same goals established at the onset, use this opportunity to recalibrate expectations and set a new VoC course.
A successful customer experience management program needs to constantly adjust its targets according to changing factors, both internal and external. It is a never-ending game that requires a keen understanding of the market landscape. By doing this effectively, you can keep your VoC program fresh and evolving with the business.
You also need to maintain a good balance between tactical actions that deliver quick returns, and strategic improvements. The latter address systemic issues that are much more complex and require cross functional action, but will drive the long-term success of the program.
Tips: Review the feedback you’ve received from customers and use it to identify areas you’ve not yet addressed. Set goals around these areas, and you’ll know they will still make a tangible difference to customers. Ensure goals are achievable – a 10-point improvement in year one, does not mean you should expect the in same year two!
- Don’t Stop! DANGER AHEAD!
Congratulations! You’ve created a healthy VoC culture. You’ve fostered a community of brand advocates among your customers, who are spreading positive word of mouth to their friends. Feedback is circulating efficiently throughout your organization and you finally have solid proof points, metrics, financial and historical data to validate your efforts.
Only now, it suddenly becomes harder to justify incremental VoC spending. When the dramatic returns start becoming less dramatic (because you already did all the hard work!), your CEO might ask, “Should we still invest in this?”
This is the danger zone and the point at which many companies start regressing. Old habits kick in and VoC starts slipping back into an “initiative” and not a way of life.
Keep in mind that if you stop, you are not standing still. You are actually going backwards because all of your competitors are going forward and your customers’ expectations are constantly changing. Remember too, that after creating an active VoC program, your customers now expect you to listen and react to their feedback, so failing to do so is a significant backward step.
Tips: Build on your VoC champion network. Ensure they have the support they need to drive the continued success of the program. Develop an ongoing “VoC Success” program to keep employees involved and engaged. VoC should affect everyone in the company so create a way to share individual successes through recognition and rewards programs to ingrain the process in day-to-day life.
In summary, VoC can be compared to a weight-loss program. Quick wins are easy to obtain at the beginning, and cutting out a few bad habits will yield significant change. However customer-centricity is a way of life – not a crash diet to fit into a new dress or suit. Once organizations with mature programs have reached a “healthy” state, the hard work is to maintain and foster this culture in the long run, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs along the journey.