Tuning in to customers – why you’re having a hard time hearing them

We’ve previously reflected on customer retention and creating proactive relationships, and I think we’re al in agreement that these factors are key to any continued customer engagement and business growth, but for most businesses, there’s a real challenge in tuning in to hear what customers value most, so you can invest your limited time, effort, resource and money where it is most likely to have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and the bottom line. So why are you still having such a hard time hearing them?

What are the foundations for listening to customers?

We all understand the value of surveying, but sometimes we end up drowning in numbers and data. The key to getting the most out of this golden customer commentary is to act on it. At Workshare, we’re improving our surveying method to help align it to our user experience, making the scores and comments much more actionable, which means less questions for the customer to answer, but better use of the information they provide. When was the last time you reviewed your surveying tools and questions to determine volume & quality of data? Who is responsible for responding to survey feedback? Does every customer who takes the time to share their views always get their questions answered?

Do you know the experience you want to deliver?

From the many years of working at Virgin Management across so many different businesses, I really learned the value of defining your customer experience, committing it to a document that becomes your guiding principles. It shouldn’t be complicated, it shouldn’t be longer than necessary, but you should have a map that shows the ideal experience from a customer perspective. Operational procedures, metrics, KPIs and systems can all flow from that. And don’t worry if you don’t have one defined – you can create the experience at any point, just make sure you get stakeholder buy-in.

Making the Voice of the Customer work

At Workshare, we have tried a couple of different formats for Voice of the Customer, and we’re about to evolve the meeting further. It’s tough to get all executives in a room, reading customer surveys, listening to customer calls and agreeing to customer valued actions, so when the format feels a little stale, don’t be afraid to shake it up and do it differently. Reading comments from the happiest and most unhappy customers really brings to life the issues the customers face, so sharing this in advance will help keep your execs engaged and attending the meeting. Sponsorship from the most senior person (CEO, MD) is probably the most important factor, so take the time to keep her or him informed outside the meeting.

Engaging those closest to the customer

Once you are tracking the customer voice and driving actions from the feedback, make sure that your whole company can access how you’re doing – that way, it helps everyone to buy in to what’s happening with customers. This is most important for the customer facing sales and service folks, who handle much of the negative feedback. Hearing how many changes and improvements are made as a result of customer feedback is a real motivator for everyone in the business.

As one of the real customer gurus, Jean Bliss, reminds us, don’t give up, keep chipping away and you will help evolve your organization into one that genuinely puts the customer at the heart of everything you do. There is no silver bullet, but many steps to customer delight.

Next time, I’d like to reflect further on the mapping of your experience. For some, it’s a laborious task, for others, an exciting opportunity to really make a difference. How do you feel about the quality of your customer experience, and what are you planning on doing about it?


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