By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
While there are a few companies still struggling to grasp the concept that Voice of the Customer is the key driver of service innovation, evolution, and growth; the vast majority have accepted there’s no other path to success. This is important because it’s absolutely clear to everyone paying attention that gone are the days of “build it and they will come” or any reasonable chance of success in creating solutions or making technology investments based on hunches or good intentions.
Today, customer is king – period. In all industries, in all geographies, we are simply living in a time where differentiation and revenue growth depend on being able to deliver experiences and outcomes that your customers need, value, and desire. Attempting to do this without putting their direct input front and center of your strategy is foolish, and most companies I talk with recognize this truth. However, in many cases, that recognition has not yet been matched by an effective means for obtaining and reacting to the customer voice. This must quickly be addressed – the recognition of the criticality of VoC must be married to the proper measures for collecting, channeling, and closing the loop on customer insights. Based on the conversations I’ve had, there are three primary barriers that are preventing companies from making proper use of VoC.
#1: Customers Won’t Engage
“We’ve tried collecting input from our customers, but they don’t respond to our efforts.”
This is the most challenging of the three barriers, because it is most likely representative of a more systemic issue (or issues). If your customers aren’t interested in providing you with feedback or discussing with you their needs and challenges, you first need to examine the customer-centricity of your approach and where you may be falling short in building close customer relationships.
If you feel you have good customer relationships but aren’t having success with them engaging in VoC efforts, I would then move on to review both your method of collecting insights and your follow through on feedback. If your method of outreach is poorly timed, cumbersome to use, or entirely impersonal, it may be that they simply aren’t willing to participate due to those factors. Looking into the most effective forms of customer outreach is worthwhile, and keep in mind that you need to balance quantitative measures of collecting feedback with more in-depth, qualitative engagement particularly when you’re looking to better understand challenges and needs. Along these lines, make sure you think through the matching of input sought versus contact asked. So, for instance, feedback on current operations should clearly be sought from those experiencing your company’s services, whereas input on innovation or next-generation offerings may require someone other than your current day-to-day contact.
Then you move on to considering whether or not you are following through. If you are asking for customer input, quantitatively or qualitatively, and not providing a feedback loop for them to hear or see how their time and effort to engage had an impact, they won’t continue to provide that input. Why would they? A feedback loop is imperative for nurturing ongoing VoC efforts. This is a step many miss because it takes time and effort, but no customer will continue to weigh in – particularly on anything other than a negative experience – if they don’t see the impact their voice is having.
#2: VoC Data is Siloed
“We gather the data through a survey tool, but then it just sits in that tool and isn’t really digested in a timely or effective manner.”
VoC data collected or insight from customer conversations doesn’t do your company any good if it just sits somewhere, unused. But this happens, because oftentimes the measure used to gather the input is lacking in any sort of analytics functionality as well as siloed from the systems used for decision making or customer engagement. The siloed data is often compounded by a lack of clarity on who within the organizations owns VoC and is responsible for ensuring the insights are put to good use.
This type of scenario is particularly unfortunate because you have customers who are willing to engage and are actively doing so, only for their input to be wasted. This leads to the issue of no feedback loop, which means it is only a matter of time before those customers you have weighing in decide it isn’t worth their effort to do so. VoC insights need to be incorporated into your company-wide systems and decision-making processes so that you can ensure the invaluable perspective of those already investing in your company’s success are used to drive it forward.
#3: Action on VoC Input is Unclear
“We gather VoC data, but honestly struggle with knowing what to do with the input.”
I’ve had people tell me that they used to collect VoC input and simply stopped because the data wasn’t being used. This makes me break out in hives! The first step of taking action on VoC data is to choose a tool that helps you to avoid analysis paralysis – one that has functionality built in to help surface trends, decipher patterns, and sift through important points.
The other important aspect of taking proper action, however, is ensuring someone is accountable for making proper use of VoC. With the importance of the role it plays in innovation and company growth potential, this may very well be a specific resource dedicated to a formal VoC program and held accountable for ensuring the input doesn’t sit unused, the proper actions are taken, and a customer feedback loop put in place. Ultimately, VoC should be everyone’s responsibility in some form – whether in collecting it, evangelizing it, creating based on it, or being accountable to it – but without proper ownership, a lack of action is likely. If you aren’t at a point where you have dedicated VoC resources, you need to ensure duties of action are assigned and metrics put in place to measure how VoC is being used. It’s far too precious a resource to waste.