We learned in our last blog post that nearly 90 percent of companies are going to use customer experience to compete with each other, and with an increasing amount of CEO’s starting high-growth companies with a customer-focused mindset, you really don’t want to fall behind. Here’s why:
“Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have become a strategic asset for most forward-thinking and customer-centric CEOs, CMOs and customer experience leaders,” says Chuck Schaeffer, Go to Market Leader at IBM. “VoC benefits include faster customer resolutions (with fewer hops and escalations) and improvements in customer experience (CX) as evidenced with such metrics as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer loyalty. Financial benefits include increases in customer spend, customer share and customer retention.”
While this seems perfectly logical to listen to the people buying your products, why then, is the idea of a Voice of the Customer program only becoming reality as of late?
“Customer-centric” is a mindset and management style rather than yet another business buzzword. Customer experience is being prioritized by leading companies like Zappos, Southwest Airlines, USAA, and Nordstrom — and with good reason. As one of today’s most important benchmarks, managing feedback effectively and consistently not only fosters better business results but yields continued success. Any of the companies listed above are synonymous with an excellent experience, and position themselves as leaders in such.
Customers in nearly every market are simply more informed than in the past — over 80 percent of consumers conduct online research before buying –the key connection with an actual person (and relationship building point) has been moved from before they buy to after. With the majority of consumers preferring this DIY-research pre-purchase method, it makes good business sense to then focus efforts within an organization to do everything possible to creating (and sustaining) a delightful experience post-purchase and beyond.
Word to the wise: don’t begin a VOC program if you’re not prepared to act on the information. It’s always best practice to gauge the readiness of your organization. Always keep in mind that the message you’re sending your customers with establishing a program is highly contingent on how quickly you act on the data and information they provide. Put simply, the faster you act on the information, the happier the customer as it tells them you are listening to the feedback they are providing.
In an era where we are saturated with information and data, strategies to cut through the noise are fundamental for long-term business growth. The insights provided by a customer-centric program are designed to specifically capture feedback that will directly improve your products and business is the most efficient means of staying market relevant.
In our recent ebook, we discussed the top five benefits of building a VOC program. While there are handfuls of industry and business-specific benefits, these are the ones we have found to be common denominators:
Voice of the Customer Program Benefit #1: Service Improvement
Use real customer opinions to augment existing services and communication strategies. Basing any changes off actual expectations improves overall customer satisfaction.
It may have taken Nordstrom over a century to become the right hand to providing great service, but many look to them today as the leading success story in using customer feedback to improve service. Some details they have learned to incorporate over the years, according to a former employee, most likely stemming from the customer’s themselves include:
- A Nordstrom salesperson rarely points at items. They are more likely to walk a customer to where the item is rather than directing you.
- When a customer completes their purchase rather than handing their bag over the counter, the Nordstrom employee walks it around the counter and hands it directly to the counter.
- If you call Nordstrom, you will get a human being in less than two rings.
Voice of the Customer Program Benefit #2: Brand Management
Deeply understand how customers interact with, perceive, and understand your brand. With a constant pulse on your brand status, you can keep is reputation in good standing while growing market share and customer loyalty.
By providing a direct line of communication that is monitored and well-managed to customers decreases the likelihood they will take to your brand’s public social media networks to express frustrations, which can be highly damaging to your reputation and public appearance — which definitely matter. For examples of how big of a deal keeping a good standing reputation is, research some companies that have tarnished ones such as Volkswagen, BP, and Wells Fargo.
Voice of the Customer Program Benefit #3: Product Development and Innovation
By keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your customers, products can adjust accordingly. This kind of feedback can then be used to grasp new trends and future development.
Developing products with a clear understanding of exactly what your customers want and willing to pay for it is crucial to success or failure.
Let’s take a look at two examples: Porsche Cayenne and Chrysler’s Dodge Dart. Both models were launched in the early 2000s, yet we likely only see one of these still on the road in the latest offering: the Cayenne. Why?
The product team over at Porsche underwent exhaustive customer research and surveyed target customers on every single feature the car might possibly have and gauged their willingness to pay for it, Harvard Business Review reports. With Cayenne sales of around 100K vehicles a year, it’s a great example of getting the product right by tapping into those who will eventually buy it.
But yet, the story changes for Chrysler. They were trying to target an entirely new segment of buyers with their reintroduction of the Dart, a model from the 1970s. They went from product development straight to engineering, totally forgetting that the car should be defined by their end-user, not by the company. The only thing the Dart is now known for is being one of the biggest product flops of 2012.
Voice of the Customer Program Benefit #4: Marketing Efficiency
Your customers are your best form of marketing. If they’re happy, they will shout from the mountains. Nurture these relationships so they are at the center of marketing efforts.
It’s been said that marketing and customer service go together like peanut butter and jelly.
“Your customers respond better to what you do for them rather than what you say you’re going to do, and this is exactly why outstanding customer service needs to be part of our marketing strategy,” says Greg Shuey, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist for Stryde, a Utah-based digital marketing firm.
Just as you would rely on your marketing team and their efforts to bring in new leads that convert to long-time customers, connecting those tactics within existing customer relationships creates a higher chance of getting returning business from there — between 60-70 percent of a chance.
Making your evangelist customers deeply involved in marketing campaigns and regular contribution to materials like your company’s blog, case studies, testimonials or videos not only is easier on the budget, but potential customers trust existing customers to tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly. In short, integrating customers in every marketing effort is the best form of marketing any company can ask for.
Voice of the Customer Program Benefit #5: Market Fit
Listening to customers will help you understand how effective your go-to-market strategies are. VoC will provide you with deep insights into adopter stage and the demographics of your target markets.
Connecting this benefit with benefit four (Marketing Efficiency) can be seen as constantly testing the waters to see if they’re too hot, too cold or just right. Launching a new feature or entirely new product to a group of beta customers allows you to get early-on feedback (see benefit three), and test how effective (or not) your strategy is for hitting the right market at the right time with the right product.
While voice of the customer programs seems like a lot of work, they can be totally customizable and scalable to meet your business needs and overall project objectives. And when done correctly, it can mean a world of a difference when distinguishing your company from the competition.
For more VOC program tips like these along with a step-by-step strategy to build an effective and sustainable program, download this guide to learn more.
How to Build a Successful Voice of the Customer Program (Ebook)