It’s impossible to reach your company’s full growth potential without a written, tactical, Voice of the Customer (VOC) strategy as part of your business plan’s daily operations. Without it, any success or growth you’ve experienced is average or slow and limited by assumptions and luck. VOC growth of just 5% can increase profits 75%.
What is VOC and what is a VOC Strategy?
- Voice of the Customer is what it sounds like; customer feedback. It’s collected through surveys, reviews, phone calls, focus groups, etc.
- VOC Strategies are defined goals with actionable plans to reduce customer pain points and improve their “happiness” in doing business with you. Goals vary but the basic tactics are: Why you’re collecting the data; who will collect the data and how; measuring the data; interpreting the data; reporting and communicating the data and to who; reviewing areas to improve; prioritizing improvements; developing tactics to complete the improvements; sharing completions and successes. Repeat. Every day. Never stop.
The two reactions I get most when speaking with business owners about gathering customer feedback are:
- We have very few customer complaints so our customers are happy.
- A lack of negative customer feedback is a deceptive and costly representation of customer satisfaction. 72% of dissatisfied customers remain silent to avoid confrontation. Nobody needs more stress in their day.
- Some owners and managers may fear negative feedback for many reasons. Some may have private agendas and fear disruption. Some people may fear being seen as the cause of customer dissatisfaction or feel their integrity is under attack. Some may feel they’re providing great service and fear finding out otherwise. Some purposely avoid being listed on review sites fearing bad reviews.
These fears cripple company growth by creating “silo mindsets:” operating independently without realizing how their actions intersect with other’s actions to affect the customer’s experience. This is especially true for people who are not customer facing.
Emotions drive this so it’s essential to build bridges with communication and unify silos to uncover root causes of customer pain points. The goal of a VOC strategy must be conveyed as finding the source of customer’s pain points everywhere they come in contact with the company (touch-points.
To encourage honest and open dialogue, communications must convey it’s not about finger pointing. Managers must check their egos at the door to discuss the ultimate goal of company growth, which can also lead to personal successes.
To foster ongoing manager and employee engagement, constantly and consistently communicating goals and “wins” is key for VOC success. Involve them with their suggestions to eliminate customer pain points. Front line people have great insight and ideas. They’re usually an untapped treasure.
To further foster engagement, share all success stories with all employees.
Share success stories and improvements with your customers, too. It is deeply satisfying to a customer knowing their feedback really mattered and resulted in positive change. Strive to change their perception that you are indifferent, which drives 60-75% of YOUR customers to your competition.
How to gather VOC feedback varies from industry to industry. What works in one may not in another. I’ll be posting some industry specific methods in another blog, however, you should find methods online by searching on surveying customers in your industry. Note: Email and online surveys have the lowest reply rate, around 3%. Phone calls can be a challenge to connect but still have the highest reply rate and provide the most valuable insight.
For smaller companies, a VOC Strategy does not have to complicated or expensive (outsourcing is a cost effective option). The Net Promoter Score (NPS) was designed as a simple yet effective way to measure customer happiness and discover areas to improve. It must be used, however, with other metrics (KPI),i.e Customer Retention Rate, Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Churn Rate.
Some improvements may be as simple as changing a process while others might require more resources. Prioritize by what you can change today, the small wins, then ROI for more complex, costly improvements.
Customer Journey Mapping is another tool used in concert with a VOC strategy. Think of it as a timeline that begins when the customer first becomes aware that they need a particular service, and why and what emotions may be involved. The next step in the journey is what led them to you. A website? A referral? Was it a glowing referral or an “eh.” What was their experience, their emotions? This mapping continues through the sale and post sale service or issues. It’s priceless to understand your customer’s experience at every step of their journey, how it made them feel and how to make them happier.
Bill Gates said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
If company growth and increased profits and margins are your goal, your number one task is to dig deeply for complaints, issues and “merely satisfied” customers who easily switch to a competitor. The latter are “Passives” (see Net Promoter Score) and make up 50-65% of your customers. Transforming just 5% into “Promoters” can increase your profits 75%! To achieve this, only one person knows what you need to do: your customer. So, talk to them! Now!
Authored by Gerry Criscenzo, President, Founder, Advanced Service Knowledge
I love what I do! I am passionate about helping companies deliver an exceptional customer experience. I am so sure that I can help you, I offer a no risk guarantee. Ask for details. I am available for consulting, keynote speaking and training. Read more