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Guest Blogger: Adele Sage | February 15, 2013

The Top 10 Pieces of Advice From Voice of The Customer Leaders

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I was flipping through the 2012 Forrester Voice of the Customer Award nomination forms the other day, and I realized that I've been unwittingly holding on to a valuable resource -- all the advice that we asked nominees to impart on other voice of the customer programs. The very last of the six questions on our nomination form is, "What advice would you give to other organizations to make their programs successful?" We got some great answers from the 40 or so nominated companies, so I pulled together the top 10 pieces of advice. If you're looking for some inspiration for your own VoC program, look no further than the advice of your peers.

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1. Build executive support. The majority of nominees offered this advice, and it's consistent with Forrester's own research showing that executive support builds a foundation for VoC success. Executive support helps CX pros put key building blocks in place, such as adequate tools to collect and analyze data and processes to systematically act on it. How do you build support? Prove the value of the program by demonstrating tangible business value. Track the results of service recovery efforts to save unhappy customers and aggregate the results of improvement projects initiated by VoC-collected data.

2. Set a VoC strategy. Before you get overwhelmed with piles of data, develop a long-term approach for your VoC program that fits with your overall customer experience strategy. Design the program up front to scale as it grows. And don't forget those execs who are supporting you; involve them in defining the strategy.

3. Get the basics right first.Two meanings here. One, set a solid foundation for your program based on the strategy you've articulated. Don't rush to do anything fancy or cutting edge just because it's exciting. Second meaning: Fix the basics first. Identify and fix the basic problems that are getting in customers' ways before going above and beyond.

4. Centralize the VoC program. How you organize can set you up for success. A central, integrated team responsible for all the listening, analysis, reporting, and tracking can leverage a single set of tools and create process efficiencies.

5. Communicate to inspire action. Putting the data and analysis in the right hands might not be compelling enough to produce results. In order to effectively communicate the voice of the customer broadly, make insights comes to life via storytelling techniques (narratives, real customer examples, etc.). To really make your point, recruit leaders to kick off presentations as a show of top-down support.

6. Bring together cross-functional and cross-business insights. It's unlikely that a single person or single functional group can stand alone. Anytime you're tackling a problem, bring together folks from the line of business, customer experience experts, data analysts, and skilled communicators who can share the message effectively.

7. Include the voice of the employee. Employees have great ideas for customer experience improvements, like how to fix broken processes. At the same time, frontline employees are hearing feedback directly from customers and need a mechanism to share those stories with the VoC folks. Collect both types of employee insights to augment what you're hearing from customers.

8. Optimize for speed. Nominees are talking speed on three fronts: 1) Delivering quick insights to the right stakeholders for smarter decisions, 2) Following up quickly with unhappy customers, and 3) Recognizing employees quickly for customer-centric behavior. But of course, speed can't trump quality.

9. Maintain data integrity. Data is simultaneously powerful and dangerous. That's why you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your data and make sure that your sample reflects the larger customer population. It's all about striking the right balance between data that's accurate enough and what you need for program execution.

10. Innovate and take risks. Don't be afraid to make changes to processes or tools or to experiment with several prototypes. Push yourself and your colleagues to go outside your comfort zones. You may fail miserably -- but, more likely, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.


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Adele Sage is an Analyst at Forrester Research, serving Customer Experience professionals. She blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/adele_sage and tweets at @adelesage.

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