• March 1, 2007
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Vocal Ease

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A CRM strategy that just grazes the surface of capturing the voice of the customer (VoC) has no chance of maximizing its potential. Forrester Research in December 2006 unveiled the report "Voice Of The Customer: Five Levels Of Insight," segmenting VoC initiatives into five areas: relationship tracking, interaction monitoring, continuous listening, project infusion, and periodic immersion. Relationship tracking concentrates on customer sentiments over time to tap customer perception and the propensity to continue a customer-supplier relationship, essentially enabling companies to get a stronger assessment of customer loyalty. Many companies are leveraging the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a pivotal relationship tracking metric, according to Bruce Temkin, Forrester's vice president and practice director of financial services and the report's author. The core of the NPS is customer response to one question: How likely is it that you would recommend the company to a friend or colleague? "Create measurement around how customers feel about you, evaluate over time where it's heading, and then have a very explicit way in which you respond to that," Temkin says. Interaction monitoring tracks the experience of individual interactions. As firms realize the importance of the customer experience as a distinguishing competitive characteristic, creating more pleasing interactions becomes key. Consider implementing tools like postinteraction surveys to measure interaction success. "We want to know what are those key moments of truth--how are we measuring them and what actions are we taking when we find something that's troubling?" Temkin says. Relationship tracking and interaction monitoring are relatively structured approaches--systematically getting data around what customers are thinking--but the underpinning of continuous learning is to regularly listen to customers using less structured methods, according to Temkin. Some of these practices include listening in on calls, reading inbound emails, reading blogs, and visiting retail locations: "These are all about how do we get people in the company hearing what customers are saying in their own voice?" Continuous learning is not a replacement for relationship tracking and interaction monitoring. "It's really about how to augment our structured feedback mechanisms with some less structured, more dynamic types of feedback," Temkin says. The fourth level, project infusion, hinges on crafting a standardized strategy for injecting customer insights into projects that impact the customer experience. To ensure that customer insights are at the front end of these kinds of projects, consider employing design personas, which Forrester describes as archetypes that provide accurate representations of users based on sound ethnographic research practices. "Project infusion is really about how to get that deep understanding of the customer into projects," Temkin says. "For that you have to be able to ask and answer three questions: Who's the target user, what are her goals, and how are we going to help her achieve them?" At the periodic immersion level, employees (including executives) are encouraged to spend time interacting or working with customer-facing staff to gain deeper visibility into the customer experience. "These experiences, which should be at least a half day, provide an excellent opportunity for people to question the status quo," the report states. "By being immersed with the customer, it becomes easier to identify rules and processes that get in the way of delivering a great customer experience." Richard Lutz, Ph.D., a professor/administrator at Quinnipiac University, says that designing an effective strategy for the capture of VoC involves accepting the concept of relationship value. "We're talking about a business strategy that says that we will orient our company toward the needs of the customer in everything that we do."
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