Why you need an intelligent Voice of the Customer Programme

Intelligent VoC

“If I had known being nicer to our customers was going to work so well I would have done it years ago.” Michael O Leary, Ryanair

With the exception of the newly converted Michael O’Leary, for most people the concept of customer centricity is not new. It would be rare to find a business owner that didn’t claim customers are at the heart of their business. The best performing businesses are now, however, making customer centricity their mission, launching customer-first approaches endorsed by senior managers that scale across the organisation and empower employees.

The current imperative to create a customer-centric mind-set is down to two game-changing phenomena: customer choice and customer control.

The connected customer has more choice than ever and is acting on it: if dissatisfied, one or two mouse clicks and they can take their business elsewhere. Customers are also taking control of the conversation about brands. In the past brand owners had both the reach and power to broadcast messages of their choice. Nowadays, customers have a virtually unlimited, instant ability to communicate and share their experiences with other, globally. One bad experience can quickly amplify and end up with significant reputational and revenue loss. One of the best-known customer experience breakdowns was United Airlines response to damaging musician David Carroll’s guitar during a flight. Carroll wrote a song and created a music video about his experience which has, to date, been viewed 15 million times. Interestingly, after a few rocky years, United Airlines are finally reported to be making a customer service comeback.

The advances in technology that have empowered customers are also making it easier to know them better than before. An intelligently designed Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme will now allow a whole organisation to see, sense and act on the experiences and desires of every consumer, at every touch point, in real time.

The best VoC programmes are designed and mobilised based on a shared understanding of customer journey, and with the clear intent of communicating the results and using them to engage and motivate internal and external stakeholders and to inform decisions.

In our experience, however, many Irish companies, at the start of a journey to customer-centricity, adopt a more adhoc approach to bringing the voice of the customer to decision making.  Here’s four questions which might help you determine if your VoC programme is fit for purpose:

  1. Are you measuring what matters?

    In our rush to speak to as many customers as possible, we can trip up over what we measure: the actual customer experience or our impression of that experience. Here are some things to watch out for:

    Which customers? With limited resources you may sensibly decide to prioritise measurement of most valuable customers. It is important that users of the information understand whose voice and whose experience you are measuring.  Is it the voice of one customer cohort or all of your customers?  

    Which parts of the journey? Companies need to pay attention to the entirety of their customer journey. Miss an important moment of truth and there’ll be a big gap in understanding.

    What matters? To date customer experience measurement has tended to concentrate on more operational issues like timeliness and ease of doing business. But exploring the emotional aspects of a customer experience is far more predictive of business outcomes. 

  2. Are you using the survey function as little as possible?

    Yes, you read that right. We recommend that you ask your customer as few questions as possible. Don’t seek to find out what you already know. But do use the data you have collected already through operations or social media to tell those untold stories that say so much.

  3. Are you using VoC to help you engage with customers personally?

    One of the key advantages of VoC is that it can motivate and empower employees, specifically front line workers, to treat customers as individuals not as numbers.  We  strongly recommend clients consider a service recovery loop in their VoC programme if they can honour it.

  4. Does VoC help you engage and motivate employees and partners?

    To win the hearts and minds of customers, your first have to build the enthusiasm and commitment of those who serve them. The most successful organisations share their customer experience metrics with their employees and service partners. Strong dashboards, vividly and accessibly charting how each player impacts on customers’ experience, are a key tool for uniting all partners.

We all need to hear the voice of the customer in our businesses.  But it is in how we understand and intelligently use of the outputs from VoC programmes that will make the difference: creating consistency across partner delivery, uncovering segments that need attention or with the potential for upsell, enabling evidence-based, agile decisions, empowering employees and, ultimately, providing the great customer experiences that lead to measurable impacts on retention and growth.

And so, back to Ryanair, where profits at the ariline are at all-time high since they introduced their Always Getting Better customer experience strategy.  O’Leary has said,

“We have to keep learning and listening to our customers.”

They do indeed – and so do we all.

Clare Kavanagh
Managing Director, W5 (CCXP)

Article published Marketing.ie May 2016

Published: 09 May 2016

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