Published: May 02, 2016 | Comments
Understanding the customer is key to the success of any company – it’s something most companies think they have in the bag. In reality, very few companies truly understand what their customers want and need, which are two very different things. And the problem lies in the way we view the customer mindset. It’s all too often evaluated in stark terms, black and white, love and hate. Some customers have issues with the product and complain, and some customers love the product and praise it. Companies wrongly assume that since the product or service was developed to meet a need and it’s being purchased, it must be meeting that need. Success!
But that is rarely the whole story. A one-dimensional thought process like that ignores any possible shades of grey: the customers who aren’t calling to rave or rant about products. The customers for whom it’s good enough until they find something better. And those customers, who you don’t hear from and who are likely the majority of your customer base, are the ones who more often dictate success. Or failure.
That’s where the “Voice of the Customer” comes into play. VOC goes well beyond an actual voice. It’s a compilation of voices from different customers. It’s a process used to capture both qualitative and quantitative information from the customer, including requirements, preferences and feedback. Their expectations, needs, wants – and what they don’t want. That information is ideally then used to help a company deliver the best quality service/product. It all sounds good, but the challenge is that customer needs and wants are constantly evolving. Following a VOC process when developing a product or service is great, but an ongoing process must also be implemented for companies to remain proactive and innovative along the product and customer lifecycle. Companies must track and accommodate changing customer requirements and expectations to ensure continued success.
In this customer-centric world, VOC is one way to show customers they are important and valued in your business. And what better place to implement an ongoing VOC process and encourage two-way conversations than in the contact center? Here are six steps to capture, understand and adopt the Voice of the Customer in your contact center:
1. Start with your strategy. What do you want to learn?
It’s important to think big with this step. Think about both what you want to learn and what you hope you don’t hear. What one piece of information or feedback would have the most impact on your business? Of course you want to learn how they feel about your company, service or product, but you also want to learn what they don’t feel. What do they need or want that you aren’t providing? What do they wish they would feel and what do they wish your company would do to improve the service or product? It seems odd to ask customers about their hopes and dreams (and you probably won’t word it that way), but it’s important to gather that information. Create your plan and move to step two.
2. Implement your information gathering tools.
Information gathering is the most crucial part of the process so it’s important to do it right. There are several ways to capture the Voice of the Customer and you must choose what is right for you. Try customer surveys, focus groups or individual interviews. Review complaints, compliments and comments in a few places – social media, review sites (Glassdoor, Yelp, etc.) and your customer database – to gather some significant data. It’s also important to tap into one of your best resources: your agents. The “Voice of the Agent” can offer essential insight into the customer mindset because they interact with and hear feedback straight from the customer’s mouth. Agents interact with customers more than anyone else at your company and should be an integral part of your information gathering.
3. Analyze the data.
Take your new-found information and examine it. Look for trends as well as outliers. Someone—the VOC leader, head of customer service, director of customer experience —should read every piece of feedback to really get into the mind of your customer. Decide how to best relay that information, whether it be chart or report, and make it easily understandable and actionable. This step will dictate the next few steps so take your time and make sure you have an accurate picture of the information.
4. Compare the results to your company or product strategy.
Take a deep breath and some time to think. How does this new data compare to your original product plans? Are customers saying the same things or is the feedback all over the place? Is there anything new or different? Or have you heard it all before? How will these revelations inform your company direction? Can you realistically make the changes customers are requesting? Or move toward what they wish for?
5. Take action.
You’ve got the information and the insights—now it’s time to put them to work. Take a few more deep breaths and make some changes. Use these insights as a tool to implement improvements across your company and get back on track with your customers. Change your approach to customer service, your product offerings, your methods of communication – whatever it is your customers have shared and/or requested. If you can’t make all of the changes (which is understandable), determine what will have the greatest impact and do that. Small steps can lead to big things.
6. Close the loop.
You’re now at a milestone in the VOC process and it’s important to share that. Show customers you took their feedback seriously and made changes based on that. This is an important opportunity to remind them that your company is focused on the customer experience and they are important and valued. If, during this process, you reached out to any specific customers, be sure to thank them for their important feedback and acknowledge how it has shaped the future of the company, service or product. Open the lines of communication so they will be willing and able to continually share needs, wants and wishes as time passes and things change.
Implementing a VOC process is admittedly not quick or simple but the payoffs can be company-changing. Following these steps will empower your company with a better understanding of your customers’ wants, needs and most of all, their voice. Having a VOC process in place, both during product development and after, is critical to improving your company and strengthening relationships with your customer. It is time to leave behind the black-and-white mentality and open the door to a new customer-focused world full of color.