Using the Voice of the Customer for Improvement and Growth
“The customer satisfaction survey results are in. Now what?” This should be a red flag if you hear this in your company. Collecting data from customers without effective analysis and a purpose in mind is just listening for the sake of listening, rather than listening for the sake of growth or improvement. Fortunately, an approach exists to aid the transformation of customer insights into action.
Some practitioners may be familiar with the origin of the term Voice of the Customer (VoC) in product development and quality function deployment processes. For them it means a structured approach to defining customer requirements. Retaining core elements of this approach can help turn customer feedback into action. Three outcomes of VoC activities are especially important:
- Detailed descriptions of customer needs;
- Needs grouped into strategic, tactical, and operational types; and,
- Needs prioritized by importance and performance.
Consistent, effective use of these outcomes will transform listening activities into something that be can be used to achieve growth or improvement objectives.
Think of VoC simply as a process for capturing customers’ requirements. It’s market research that delivers organized and prioritized customer wants and needs in their own words. Customer needs are identified using both qualitative and quantitative techniques including interviews, surveys, advisory panels, observation, and concept or market tests, among others. The value of retaining the three key elements is their ability to translate the words and language from different customers and sources into a common understanding and make it actionable.
In this age of empowered consumers, use of the term “Voice of the Customer” has ramped up with the increased attention on the customer experience. These days you will see or hear it applied to almost anything remotely tied to customer information and feedback: from customer satisfaction surveys to sales team anecdotes, online customer suggestions, and help-desk conversations. Listening to customers is a good thing but it can be a struggle to process feedback collected from across their journey or by different departments and use it for a purpose.
Used correctly VoC is an enabler of effective strategy execution. Companies will establish customer listening posts specific to their situation and VoC activities can and should encompass all of them. The key point is that the information and feedback must be analyzed and structured to support a specific purpose be it performance improvement, shaping the customer experience, new product development, or any other. The intended result is the data needed to focus design and implementation of solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations.
Top companies listen to their customers, analyze the feedback, act on what they learn, and monitor the results. Use of core elements from Voice of the Customer origins – identifying, organizing and prioritizing needs from the customer perspective – sets the stage for great benefits to customers, competitive position and profitability. Without effective analysis toward a specific purpose, treating anything that customers say as the “Voice of the Customer” is dangerous since it risks action (or inaction) on complaints and rumor and not what is most important.
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