Everyone should, at this point, know that your customers are your most valuable commodity. In a quick economy, businesses can falter in as little time as it takes for a match to go out. In fact, Fortune 500 companies have declined from a median age of 75 years to just 15 over less than half a century.
Your businesses’ longevity relies on your customers. Because of that: everyone in your company should care about your customers. Not just what’s in their wallets, either. Every team should rely on key metrics about how your customers are feeling and how it relates to them in order to make their day-to-day business decisions.
Did you know that only 49% of business decisions are made using quantitative information and analysis? Over half of businesses still use subjective factors such as gut feelings or personal opinions to determine how to better serve their customers. Even worse is that most companies aren’t satisfied with this performance:
only 46% of businesses rated their data functions as working sufficiently and to their satisfaction.
It’s hard work, but providing every team with visibility into the voice of your customer has value. It reduces customer churn, creates vocal internal advocates, fosters enduring relationships and increases your customers’ lifetime value. It encourages team members to listen, act in the best interest of the customer and continuously try to improve the overall customer experience. Let’s talk about how you can do it.
Ways to organize your Voice of the Customer (VOC) program
Research from Forrester suggests that there are a few different ways that you can go about organizing your cross-company VOC. They have seen companies with higher customer focus primarily operate in a center of excellence model:
- Decentralized reorganization of your current patterns
- Centralized reporting
- Center of Excellence
Basically, you can use a third-party tool to create one spot for metrics, you can reorganize your currently decentralized metrics, or you can create a whole new dashboard that incorporates metrics from a number of key sources all in one spot. Let’s break down the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Having your VOC decentralized across many different business functions is helpful because everyone knows exactly where to find the metrics that are relevant to their team. However, it makes it difficult to correlate metrics, uncover true meaning and insights from raw data, and to find unique stories about how your customers feel. It can feel tempting to leave things as they are, rather than putting in a ton of effort to centralize data, but in the long run, the effort used to centralize data will help with future analysis.
This method means that, instead of being spread out across your organization, VOC metrics are all centralized in one service or software. This increases the amount of opportunity for correlation and metric comparison. It also means, though, that some metrics that might not be key or integral to understanding your customers’ perspectives are readily available for everyone to see.
The downside to including all of your information in one place is that there can be a tendency to be distracted by unimportant numbers. When you have everything right at your fingertips, it can be tricky to figure out which metrics to focus on to have the biggest impact on your business objectives.
Center of Excellence
This method combines the best of both worlds: your teams still get to keep all of their metrics in their respective tools that they’re most familiar with, but your company benefits from a uniform dashboard where key insights and correlative metrics can be presented. This helps because it means that your teams still know exactly where to go when they need specific metrics, but your organization has a key place to look for company-wide customer metrics that affect everyone, as well as the impact these metrics are having on the broader business.
The downside to this method, though extremely powerful, is that it can take a lot of effort and work to get off of the ground (read on though, it's worth it!). Depending on the state of your current systems, you’ll likely need at least one committed employee, a dedicated analyst or data scientist and a whole company committed to getting better. Though it is the hardest of all of these 3 methods to tackle, it’s the best for your company and your customers.
How to be successful
No matter which way you decide to go, you still need your team to be successful. There are a few key steps towards success when implementing a VOC program:
Find someone to be the leader of the initiative
Find one person who is going to spearhead the vision of your project. While they don’t necessarily need to be involved in the day-to-day work of implementation, they should be involved in decision-making and planning. This is the glue that will hold your project together, and the person that will drive communication of your project to the rest of the teams within your company.
Designate a group of “steering” individuals
Along with the person who is serving as the engine behind your initiative, you should have a group of individuals doing the steering. These should be people selected from each of the individual teams that make up your company. They should already have some ownership over the metrics that their team delivers. This committee will be responsible for figuring out which metrics and correlations belong in the VOC, how frequently they should be pulled and updated, and what the best ways to display them are.
Determine a clear vision of what you want to deliver
Every company will have different needs and expectations for their VOC visibility. Start by determining what resources you have and can dedicate to making this project a success. By understanding what your business wants to achieve and how much effort can be allocated to the initiative, you’ll get better insight into whether you should implement a centralized method, decentralized method or center of excellence initiative for this project.
Voice of the customer programs are great at collecting layers of data from customer surveys and other collection sources, however without an effective customer insights team, actually making sense of it becomes problematic. We have written an article about how to build a world class customer insights team.
Then, start to figure out which correlations and metrics are going to be the most impactful for your team. It may also be valuable to determine which methods of presentation your company resonates with most. Displaying a series of raw data is not going to be nearly as impactful or relevant as charts or graphs may be.
Communicate your internal marketing plan
You will need to market this internally as a valuable process for hitting business objectives and demonstrating how each team plays a role in that. To do so, you’ll have to understand what each team can learn from VOC metrics or a center of excellence. Once you’ve got that sussed out, use that information to market this tool and get buy-in while it’s implemented. The more you talk about it, the more opportunities you have to learn about what people really want and need.
Oftentimes engineering teams are pretty far separated from what the customer actually feels about the product they are building. Boosting the visibility of your VOC helps members of these teams understand the impacts of the work that they are doing.
Product, Support, Success, Sales
These are your customer-facing teams. They likely already have a good handle on many of the metrics that will be populating your VOC strategy, but it never hurts for them to see them cast in a new light or correlated with new, interesting metrics from other teams.
Marketing can use VOC as a means of creating better content, targeting their marketing even better, and generating a deeper understanding of each of their customer personas.
Can you truly run a company without understanding how your customers feel about you? Probably not effectively. Your executive team benefits from a VOC for the purposes of road mapping and gaining deeper context into key company metrics.
Your HR team members are like marketers, but for your company instead of your brand or product. If your customers are excited by your product, more people will want to work for you. Your HR team can use quotes from your customers to directly influence candidates.
Your VOC is the best way to boost the effectiveness of your internal teams and grant longevity to your company. Don’t let your product become irrelevant. Customize your VOC strategy to work well within the means of your company and for your company’s needs—everyone is going to be a little bit different. Most importantly: ensure that you’ve correlated key business metrics. Your VOC isn’t going to be as valuable if you just regurgitate the same metrics everywhere else, they need to be correlated to tell a meaningful story in order to have the most value.
Everyone wants to do customer insights right but they're setting themselves up to fail if they rely on tools that automate what humans already do manually. That's just automation and isn't true innovation. Customer insights teams today are allowing technologies to reveal the areas that need the most improvement.