Don't Doom Your VoC Strategies

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I've always enjoyed the unexpected ending of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Throughout the film, Indiana Jones relentlessly pursues the Ark of the Covenant, risking life and limb to keep it from the Nazis. Through a series of dramatic twists, Jones secures the Ark and safely returns it to the United States, where he is assured by a U.S. bureaucrat that "top men" are carefully examining this important artifact. However, contrary to this promise, the final scene shows the Ark being crated up and packed away in a warehouse with thousands of other wooden boxes, likely to be stored forever.

The clever ending symbolizes to me the many times we dedicate extraordinary resources and energy to projects in our businesses that ultimately have little or no impact. Unfortunately, this happens often with voice-of-the-customer strategies. Just like Indiana Jones, you can put superhuman effort into gathering and analyzing valuable customer insights that never generate action or prompt positive change.

Top VoC Obstacles

To understand the top obstacles, I decided to do the most logical thing possible—ask you! I collected input from more than 100 readers of CRM magazine who indicated they are involved with their VoC strategies. Here were the top three obstacles cited:

1. Not enough resources. Respondents indicated they don't have all the right people involved or the right resources for VoC strategies to really be effective.

2. Getting the right insights from the right customers. Feedback showed that companies are not gathering enough of the right insights from the right customers to drive improvement.

3. Action. Participants admitted they don't do a good job of taking action on the customer feedback they receive.

Several statistics revealed additional obstacles:

  • Only 51 percent of the readers felt their VoC initiatives were visible throughout their organization.
  • Less than half indicated that a team was in place to manage VoC strategies.
  • Only 42 percent agreed that customer insights were used to prioritize the most important operating metrics to measure and manage.
  • Less than one-third indicated that employees receive training on how to interpret and use customer feedback.
  • A mere 18 percent said they calculate the ROI of their VoC initiatives.

No one would disagree that listening to customers and acting on their insights is important. However, these stats show that practical, procedural, or cultural issues may be derailing your VoC strategies—if you let them.

Six Essentials for Overcoming Obstacles

How can you ensure that your programs don't fall prey to these obstacles? You can start by doing the following when building your VoC strategies:

  • Build the team. Start with a good team that represents all areas of the company. Dedicate enough resources to not only gather customer insights, but also to ensure that people know how to put them to use.
  • Gather the right insights. Today there are plenty of ways to listen to customers—develop a good mix to ensure you get the right insights from all the right customers.
  • Make it relevant. Not only do customer strategies need to be aligned with business strategies, but the distribution of customer insights should be tailored for each user so insights are relevant to users' specific roles.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don't let your initiatives get lost in corporate clutter! Make sure employees are keenly aware of your programs, and ensure communication is distributed frequently to reinforce that customer strategies are top priority.
  • Close the loop. It's critical that customer insights result in action. Customer strategists must not only provide training and guidance, but also build processes to ensure that insights are delivered, interpreted, and acted upon.
  • Validate the impact. Customer strategists must demonstrate how their initiatives provide financial benefit to the company. When they have, executives will be more willing to invest in VoC strategies, knowing that results have real impact.

You will always have obstacles, but how you address them determines your success in overcoming them. Implementing these essentials is a good place to start.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer intelligence consulting firm. You can read his blog at http://blog.walkerinfo.com/blog/engaging-the-enterprise, or reach him at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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