Kick Off A Successful Voice Of The Customer Program In 2012 - Start By Listening To Your Own Voice!

Many agree that listening to the voice of the customer is becoming more critical, but sometimes it's not clear where to begin when launching a broader corporate initiative. Organizations that have successfully implemented a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program often started by looking to the Voice of the Employee (VoE) first. This move makes perfect sense, as it's difficult to achieve an excellent customer experience if your employees are unhappy.

Let’s take this concept a step further. Before tapping into employee or customer feedback, you may want to jump-start your program by listening to your own internal voice. How often do we survey ourselves about our life and career path, evaluate our own personal “voice” to ensure that all is in check from an individual standpoint?

Starting out a new year is a perfect time for a self check-up. After all, you are your most important customer!

Listen to Your Own Voice

Although I grew up and worked in busy cities all my life, a couple of years ago I finally realized that I’m much more content living further outside the city limits--in the mountains. As a result, I relocated from New York to Colorado. The move has not only improved the quality of my family’s life, but it also helped me regain my creative energy and become more productive. While a cross-country move isn’t the answer for everyone, we all can gain valuable insights by looking within to what our own “voice” is telling us.

The following questions can help kick things off as you begin the personal VoC journey, and work toward achieving your best in the corporate world:

  • Identify when you seem happiest--who are you with and what are you doing at that time? Include notes on when you also seem unhappy, angry, frustrated.
  • Proactively survey yourself by asking basic questions, such as how effective are you in resolving challenges in your life, or is what you’re planning for today or tomorrow exciting?
  • Monitor the conversations you have with your friends, family, colleagues and coworkers. What are you telling them about your life, your work, your relationships and your hobbies? 

These may seem obvious and bordering the self-help line. However, spending time organizing the answers to these questions with more structure and frequency can help provide insights that will prioritize the things that truly fulfill you in both your career and personal lives. The end result may trigger some new action or change, if needed, which is always where the true return lies.

Taking this approach parallels heavily with the conversations and “channels” we listen to in a typical corporate VoC program. Conceptually, this avenue works just as well when listening to ourselves and/or our employee base.

Allow Employees to Voice their Opinions

Once you have listened to and acted on your own voice, you’re ready to apply the same methodology to monitoring employee insights and feedback.

The simple questions below can help take the first step to learning more about employee satisfaction:

  • What top three things do you enjoy about your job?
  • What top three things would you change about your job?
  • If you had to describe to a friend what you do in a few lines, what would you say?

By asking for feedback in an anonymous open-ended form, your employees should be able to express themselves freely. Chances are, you’ll be surprised at what you learn. In some cases, small changes to frustrating and outdated internal policies can have a huge impact on employee satisfaction. If you're concerned about aggregating all these free-form comments, don’t panic. Text analytics solutions can help instantly categorize and surface the top issues--collectively representing the VoE.   

Having confirmation that their voices are being heard, employees will be more engaged and inclined to continue sharing feedback as new programs and initiatives are introduced. Taking action on these employee insights is the best way to truly demonstrate to your staff the powerful impact they can have by doing the same with your customers.

Engage Customers to Provide Feedback

Once you, your employees and co-workers have voiced your status, you're ready to really “listen” to your customers. Start the process by considering the three types of customer conversations that require critical attention:

  • Conversations that your customers initiate with your organization--these include unsolicited insights typically hidden in the vast amount of phone calls, emails, chat sessions, etc.
  • Conversations that your organization needs to initiate with your customers--usually through targeted surveys with specific questions on content/information, you’ll want to get to know your customers.
  • Conversations that customers have about your company via public platforms--these word-of-mouth and social media interactions share direct customer experiences about products and services and their perceptions about your brand.

Each conversation type offers a different perspective. However, when you put them together, they can provide enough context and clarity on the issues that have the most positive and negative impact on your customers. This insight can help an organization prioritize the most effective changes to products, services and marketing communications.

As with all VoC strategies, spending time analyzing conversations that span across phone, web, social media, chat and more is only the first step. The real return comes from taking action--making changes and communicating those changes back to your customers and employees. But, don’t stop there. Continue to monitor and listen in to customer interactions, making adjustments along the way.

If launching a successful VoC program is part of your 2012 goals, consider starting internally by listening in to your own voice, then moving to the voice of your employees. These first steps will likely make your VoC program more effective. Just don’t forget--you and your employees are the most critical success factors in making your customers happy and loyal.

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