Listening to the Voice of the Customer
This article was originally published on August 27, 2013 by Linked 2 Leadership “Listening to the Voice of the Customer”
Really Knowing Your Customers
There’s more to knowing your customers than just being aware of their age, income level, and stage of life; savvy companies are intimately attuned to their customers’ unique personality profiles, quirks, desires, and world views. Urban Outfitters even describes some of its core customers as “upscale homeless” — people who just do things differently.
Listening to the Voice of Customer is a concept that describes the in-depth process of collecting information about customers’ sentiments, expectations, preferences, likes, and dislikes to improve the customer experience. These insights are extremely valuable to companies for tailoring products and services to meet or exceed customers’ expectations and making the customer experience a positive interaction every time.
Positive Experiences Make Loyal Customers
Some of the most important benefits of Voice of Customer programs are improved customer retention and increased customer loyalty. Companies with the lowest customer churn rates and highest levels of new business from referrals are the ones that consistently provide the best customer experiences.
Customer experiences drive word-of-mouth referrals. News travels fast; bad news travels faster. Customers are three times more likely to tell others about bad customer experiences than good ones.
Lackluster experiences push customers away and make it more difficult for companies to gain new customers.
This only feels like poor leadership from the customers’ point-of-view.
Empathetic Listening Improves Experiences
Before a company can improve customer experiences, it must understand where its current offerings fall short; this requires a deep understanding of what customers want, like, and value.
Organizations frequently implement new processes designed to support interactions with customers, but how does an organization know how those processes impact customer experiences? Only Voice of Customer affords the ability to understand whether the processes unintentionally erect barriers to purchase, cause customers to become confused, or make dealing with the company more arduous.
Careful listening is absolutely essential for successful Voice of Customer initiatives, and that doesn’t mean listening politely while waiting to talk.
Businesses must employ careful, empathetic listening across all channels to learn about and understand their customers.
Persistent listening helps identify and start meaningful dialogues with individual customers. When Voice of Customer is being heard, the company knows what went wrong and has the opportunity to remedy a customer’s poor experience by acting quickly to make things right.
Share Information to Provide Value
Customer listening should not be a snapshot from one moment in time. It must be considered an ongoing conversation that enables companies to see what resonates and what needs improvement.
This means the data from specific customer interactions must be shared across the enterprise in a timely fashion. The longer information remains in a silo, the more the value of the information diminishes.
Sharing across departments is vital because processes in all departments impact the overall customer experience.
When customer feedback is routed directly to research and development and product managers, concepts for an innovative service offering and enhanced product development processes can be put in motion. Feedback can also illuminate other important insights like the critical time to market, the “sweet spot” for price points, competitors’ activities, potential crises, and ways to improve or reduce customer service costs.
Adopting a continuous learning cycle results in making adjustments to an offering while it’s still in development, rather than waiting until it’s completely finished. After an arrow has been shot, the trajectory can’t be adjusted while it’s still in flight. But if the arrow’s aim can be corrected before release, there’s still an opportunity to hit the bull’s-eye.
This is the essence of customer leadership.
Delight Customers for the Long Term
By staying connected to customers and cultivating those relationships, companies with effective Voice of Customer programs are more adaptive and better equipped to anticipate market changes and make business decisions proactively, rather than scrambling to adjust to new market dynamics. If customers are delighted, the company will enjoy much longer relationships with them.
So, what does your leadership look like in the eyes of the customer? Do they feel like you understand, know, and care about them and their needs? What have you done to sharpen your listening skills to truly hear your customers’ voice? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Copyright © 2013 Stephen Monaco All Rights Reserved.