10 Reasons Why You Need a Voice of the Customer (VoC) Programme

By: Guest Blogger

April 2, 2014

By: Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Ovum Research – London

Why You Need a Voice of Customer ProgramProbably the quickest way to go out of business is to have your back to customers whilst congratulating yourself and your company on its stellar success in the past. According to Steve Denning writing for Forbes Magazine, 87% of companies that made the Fortune 500 in 1955 have disappeared. Over that same period, the average lifetime of a company has shrunk from 75 to 15 years.

1. You can’t afford to fly blind if you want to remain relevant to your customers

 I keyed in ‘disruptive technology’ into Google today and got 28 million hits. Customers are changing their habits and behaviours, and this is happening faster than probably any other time in history. As Sir Charlie Mayfield CEO of John Lewis a major UK retailer said in the Times 7th March this year, ‘’It’s not about running the same business model. It’s about changing it in flight in order to serve customers in the way they want to be served in the future.’’ That in essence is what an effective VoC programme should support.

 2. Developing an effective VoC programme is your insurance policy for continued relevance

Most firms will have a portfolio of insurance policies to cover them in the event of a fire or flood or other disaster, but without an effective VoC programme in place, where is the insurance policy that guarantees the company will be relevant to its customers in the future? Of course the insurance industry can’t provide any such policy, so an effective VoC programme is the next best thing.

3.  A successful VoC programme gives you customer and product insights

I’ve been amazed at how many times firms have told me they have a VoC programme in place, but on examination they aren’t worth the money they have spent on them.  Let’s start with the fundamental purpose of VoC – reduce customer churn, create advocates to attract more customers, foster enduring relationships and increased lifetime value, by listening, acting and continuous improvement in the overall customer experience. An effective VoC programme should also yield insights that prime the innovation pump and help firms stay relevant to customers.

4.  You need an OODA loop

To my mind it provides an OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide and Act espoused by USAF Colonel John Boyd,  whose premise was that  combat pilots with the shortest decision cycle-time (given the unfolding reality being confronted vs. any pre-planned tactics), would win in aerial combat. The same is true in business. So a foundation for an effective VoC programme has to be a mechanism for capturing and acting on customer feedback solicited (through surveys, etc.) and unsolicited (for example sentiment analysis on social networks), as near to real-time as possible. There’s no excuse today not to have this as there are plenty of effective customer feedback management platforms around. But even this is insufficient if the leadership of the organisation isn’t behind the VoC programme.

 5.  Leaders in your company want to show commitment to customers

The CEO has the ultimate responsibility to navigate the organisation, and successful VoC programmes invariably have CEO involvement and sponsorship. Attempts to set up a central service that  departments can opt in or out of simply won’t do.

6.  VoC initiatives give insight into the entire customer journey

Identify the interaction points and channels customers use to get what they want from a firm, and ensure there are plenty of listening posts in place to capture the ‘moment of truth’. This often spans multiple departments– one reason cross-organisational collaboration is critical. It may be different for different customer segments, and being human, not everything is predictable, but this hopefully will address the vast majority of interactions.

7.  An organised VoC programme contributes to cross-organisational success

Successful VoC programmes invariably have some cross-organisational team in place to focus on fixing the things that matter most to customers. Put this in place to ensure that members have sufficient clout to engage the board on priorities and systemic weaknesses that must be fixed.

8.  Culture trumps everything and customers feel it.

The workforce ultimately delivers the customer experience, so attitudes and culture need to be empathetic to customers. Reward desired behaviours. Identify individual or team weaknesses to address and provide coaching and mentoring support.

9.  Combining simple observation with technology creates better experiences

As you can see, it‘s not all about technology although that is increasingly important. Good old fashioned powers of observation are also an essential element of a successful VoC programme. Take a look at design thinking too, as this is being used very successfully by leading organisations determined to imagine the future and bring increasingly fulfilling and well-designed experiences to their customers.

10.  Your customers expect it – now!

There is no time for complacency and every industry is under threat through continuous and faster disruptive influences, which are changing customer behaviours and habits and influencing their desires. Act now.