Imagine a husband who tries really hard to listen to his wife. He watches What Women Want, reads Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and sets aside dedicated “quiet” time each week where he listens to his wife as she pours her heart out and tells him whatever is on her mind. He would appear to be the quintessential husband. The problem is that our quintessential husband does nothing with these conversations. He simply listens, nods his head, files what he’s heard in that back of his mind, but doesn’t act upon anything he’s heard to improve the situation or comfort his wife. He asks but will not act. His wife now calls him “idiot.”
I know that many vendors and CE practitioners may take offense to this article’s title. Yet as the saying goes “the truth will set you free.” A Voice of Customer (VoC) program is but one important component in a customer experience management strategy – but it’s only a component. Too many executives see VoC as something they need to do, but not something in which they will truly invest the requisite time and resources. Practitioners and executives should be cognizant of the fact that VoC is not the pathway to delivering great customer experiences. While such programs are critical to understanding customer needs and employee performance, there needs to be follow up action with respect to employee training, and product and service offerings to ensure that customer needs are met.
Customer experience management is about a closed loop that starts with listening to the customer and ends with the delivery of a great customer experience across all channels. Customer experience practitioners should address a range of customer experience initiatives beyond VoC to include the following:
- Create a clear vision for the desired customer experience backed up by market positioning
- Map the customer journey to identify key moments of truth
- Conduct an in-depth assessment of the moments of truth to understand primary obstacles to high quality performance
- Innovate and redesign the key customer touch points
- Break down organizational silos to ensure collaboration and consistency of the experience across different functions
- Provide the skills and expertise to all employees so that they can apply customer experience principles to their daily work
- Develop awareness and build acceptance regarding the importance of the customer experience to the organization’s success
- Ensure senior executive sponsorship of the customer strategy and related initiatives
- Address HR-related issues such as performance evaluation and hiring criteria to ensure customer experience strategy success
- Unify and redesign measurements around the customer
- Demonstrate measureable progress by illustrating the impact on corporate financial targets
- Retain and expand customer experience activities
These are but a few of the high-level responsibilities that customer experience leaders need to undertake. Such responsibilities are further detailed in my latest book Customer Experience Strategy (2010).
The truth is that for many customer experience practitioners the list of activities detailed above is overwhelming, leading many to ignore a large number of them. As such, they default to VoC programs. Some simply used a VoC program because they it is one of the few initiatives with which they are comfortable. Customer experience management is about transforming product-centric companies into customer-centric organizations that deliver differentiating customer experiences. The scope of activities that is required to achieve these goals is far larger than VoC. Those that rely exclusively or predominantly on VoC programs will not go far on the customer experience journey. Let me offer one final piece of advice. If you really cannot see beyond a VoC program, please don’t do it. If you do, all that will happen is that the VoC report will be filed into a cabinet to collect dust with all the other reports that are rarely if ever used. Your customers will be frustrated and will call you an “idiot!”
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