How to Check the Pulse of Your Voice of the Customer Program

These days, what business isn’t pushing to become more customer-centric? And for good reason –88 percent of businesses view customer experience as a competitive differentiator. A customer-centric culture is a source of long-term strategic competitive advantage. Culture is the one aspect of a business that cannot be replicated easily by the competition.

To harness this competitive advantage and separate yourself from the crowd, you’ll need to put customers at the heart of your business. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast. You need a structured process for listening to customers, and building a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is like training for a marathon.

A well-designed and executed VoC program doesn’t just appear fully formed — much like you don’t start running a week before the race and expect to set a personal record. You might even think you’ve reached the finish line, when in reality you’ve still got miles to go to reach full CX maturity.

CX professionals pound the pavement at multiple levels: tactical and strategic; leadership and front-line; financial and operational. At any given moment, all these elements are moving at different speeds with unique trajectories to the winner’s circle.

As you consider how to evolve your program, drive business value and keep your key stakeholders on board for the long haul, it’s essential to take a hard look at how your program is performing.

When taking stock of your program’s success, it’s useful to dive into different aspects of maturity. While you may be at similar stages across the board, it’s likely that you’ve progressed more quickly in some areas than in others. Following are the five facets of customer experience maturity that can be used to check the pulse of your program:

1. Clarifying Vision

Trying to prove the value of CX to the entire organization? You’ll have to build a strategy that clearly links your VoC program to key business priorities and your brand promise. So, what’s the trick to creating this connection? Balance, ambition and focus — don’t try to do too much at once!

Don’t forget to think carefully about the phasing of your program: take one step at a time, make sure you’ve got each step right, and tweak your approach when necessary.

Signs of maturity: Haven’t rolled out every stage of your program? Don’t worry. A mature CX vision is about knowing what you’re setting out to achieve and having a well thought out roadmap to get there.

If you have a 12-month plan, consider developing a flexible plan for the longer-term — but stay focused on the overall business priorities, and be prepared to change your tactics as your organization evolves.

2. Tailoring Designs

Your VoC program must appeal to two critical audiences: the business and the customer. To meet the needs of your business, the program needs to be relevant, robust and prioritized. You achieve this by talking to your internal stakeholders to understand what they need from you. It also means being able to align with other data sources and information that are important to them.

For customers, surveys have to be easy and engaging. If customers aren’t compelled to respond and don’t understand what you are looking for, then your poorly designed survey will generate low response rates, and even worse, bad data.

Remember that there are many moments that matter — having quick, easy feedback mechanisms that cater to the preferences of customers (e.g., Web-based, app-based, SMS, etc.) will lead to a more robust and complete view of the customer experience.

Signs of maturity: The design of your VoC program might be a smash hit at the start but can often become an afterthought once the ball gets rolling. A mature CX team stays on its toes and continues to make design changes that suit both the business and customers as the market and expectations evolve.

3. Engaging Across the Business

To drive the right levels of focus and cross-functional thinking, business leaders and the front-line team have to be engaged. You simply can’t overvalue buy-in from your leadership team. Without it, stakeholders won’t take the program seriously.

A high-standing CX champion will motivate the rest of the organization to meet targets, and most critically, make sure your VoC program is assigned enough budget. At the end of the day, executive engagement is all about the money — you’ll need a clear view of the ROI of your program and how CX actions are delivering true business change.

At the same time, it’s the engagement of the front-line team that ultimately will determine the success or failure of your CX efforts. Your front-line team actively drives and manages CX and is the face of your business.

Want to get front-line employees involved? Deliver demonstrable value and communicate! Keep them in the loop: Relay what you are hearing from customers and celebrate successes, so employees understand how their role impacts the customer experience.

How do you share CX insights across the entire business? Break down data silos and make sure the right teams get the right information at the right time, so they can reflect upon insights.

Signs of maturity: When you’re just starting out, activities like customer journey mapping are a great tool for engaging your business. With a map, you can define ownership and provide a clear path forward.

More mature programs have a structure in place to review and amend journey maps. Advanced VoC teams also will have a clear communication strategy that includes elements like role-based reporting, internal events, and social media programs to share results and successes.

4. Driving Action

VoC is all about action at a macro (strategic) and micro (tactical) level. Action at an individual tactical/customer level is more likely to bear early fruit, so shout out those early results! That’s the easy part. The hurdles are when your program matures, and those quick wins have passed by.

This doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish great success in the later stages of a VoC program, but big wins often are more long-term, strategic changes that are harder to come by and take time to implement.

Augmenting the micro-level action with more strategic-level initiatives will lead to more substantive, sustainable change, but it takes time and teamwork to accomplish this.

Signs of maturity: Don’t get tripped up by quantity over quality. A mature program is all about making a true impact. Sure, VoC may have driven a dozen business changes in the first year, but a more mature program will deliver real process re-engineering opportunities. When judging your program, ask yourself: Are the changes you’re making tactical or strategic improvements?

5. Delivering Value

In the planning of your program, you’ll surely set expectations on how you plan to deliver value. There are plenty of ways CX insights can benefit the overall business. Is VoC data helping to reduce your churn rate? Is following up with unhappy customers and resolving their issues increasing revenue?

As your program evolves and matures, you’ll be expected to deliver on those projections and seek out new ways to deliver value across the company.

Signs of maturity: A truly mature program will be in embedded in a company’s culture, and the value it delivers will be unquestionable — but you still should be able to quantify it!

The value of CX should be clear on multiple levels — think financial and operational — that can be reached in the earlier stages of your program. The most mature VoC programs will provide cultural value too.

With companies racing to differentiate on CX, it is essential to measure how your VoC program is performing to separate from the pack. Your strategic vision, program design, level of engagement, resulting actions and the value you’re providing will shift and evolve as your program gains mileage.

As you aim to speed up success, understanding how you’re performing in each area can help you improve planning the next steps for turning your program into a true game-changer that can go the distance for the entire business.

Mark Ratekin

Mark Ratekin is director of CX consulting at Confirmit.

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