The missing link to delighting your customers

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VoC program can build closer connections with customers by giving them what they need, how they need it.

By ANGELA RARIEYA

 Be bold! Be brave! Be heard in the boardroom this year! Might a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program be the missing link to making delightful experiences for your customers a reality in your business?

Simply put, VoC refers to feedback customers give a business with regard to their experiences with the company’s products and/or services. This becomes invaluable data for businesses in helping them bridge the gap between customer expectations and actual experiences with their brands.

The VoC has gained momentum in the past few years as an integral part of enhancing customer experiences as companies abandon traditional methods of differentiating products such as price and quality. According to Jim Davies, Research Director at Gartner (a leading global IT research and advisory firm), companies must now listen to their customers and use that understanding to market differently, sell differently, support differently, redesign processes and change the product.

First step

Numerous opportunities abound in any business to listen to customers’ voices through interviews, surveys, focus groups, customer specifications, observation, warranty data, field reports and complaint logs. While sophisticated enterprise suites exist for deploying VoC programs, the reality is that tight budgets and scepticism about the return on investment from such interventions could stand in your way. A great place to start is using a low-cost resource to deliver big value insights that will get you buy- in with the executive leadership of your organisation.

At a recent breakfast forum hosted by the Institute of Customer Service themed, Transforming customer experience through voice of the customer initiatives,Jannet Atika, Director of Customer Operations at Safaricom shared her successes with attendees. By presenting raw video recordings of what the youth segment of Safaricom’s customer base had to say about some of their services, such as voice and data, strategic business decisions have been effected that have resulted in greater collaboration between the customer care teams and other functional teams.

The end game: closer connections with customers by giving them what they need, how they need it.

Enhance customers’ experience

Some of the key benefits that a VoC program could deliver to your business include enabling you to identify opportunities for enhancing your customers’ experiences with your brands. For instance, how many premier segment spaces in Kenyan banks are fitted in with something as basic as power banks to enable customers charge their gizmos as they consume banking services? Other gains include insights for product innovation. A case in point is the “Hakikisha”enhancement that Safaricom recently built into the Mpesa (mobile money) platform to enable customers confirm the recipient of funds before completing the transaction. Undoubtedly, this has reduced the previous customer pain experienced through transactions to wrong recipients while freeing the customer care team resources to attend to other customer needs. Further, a VoC program will enable you to identify the culprits of customer churn in various product lines bearing in mind that today’s customer is empowered by the availability of choice in the market. Dissatisfied customers whose complaints are not acted upon will vote with their feet (and wallets) for the competition with the ripple effect of a shrunken top and bottom line for your company as well as unhappy shareholders.

How can you implement a VoC program in your business? Neil Davey, Editor of MyCustomer.com shares 9 Tips for designing a VoC Program:

1. Have a VoC strategy. This should be aligned to the broader corporate goals such as culture change or increasing revenue.

2. A centralized team to manage the VoC program to enable you solve customer problems across the firm rather than in functions or departments only.

3. Quality questionsshould be asked in your VoC program which will create the capacity for follow – up actions to resolve customer problems. Avoid asking questions whose responses are obvious or readily available in the business.

4. Choose your survey methodology. The choice between a transactional survey (e.g. a sales call, support call) or a relationship survey (questions asked in between transactions and focused on gauging the customer’s overall feelings related to a brand/product) will be determined by the nature of the query. A decision will also have to be made as to which customer touch point should be the primary platform e.g. face-to-face, email, social media, online or telephone.

5. Keep it short and relevant. Survey fatigue is a problem that brands are constantly battling with. Avoid lengthy surveys and do not ask questions whose responses you will not act upon.

6. Ensure good sample hygiene.A representative sample is critical in determining the veracity of the feedback received in your VoC program.

7. Combine insights from across the business.Feedback from customers should be collected and collated from across the business rather than from one department or section. This would involve information gathered from your frontline teams, CRM and ERP platforms and any other channels you utilise to harness data from your customers.

8. Disseminate actionable insights. Presenting customer interviews verbatim (no edits, no cuts), narratives, and stories to the senior leadership of your organisation is a powerful tactic to get business to start listening and fixing the problems that your customers experience with your brands and products.

9. Act and review.To circumvent the real danger of analysis-paralysis with regard to the data collected, remember that the real ROI on the VoC program lies in the ability of a business to respond swiftly to change(s) customers require on its products/services. To this end, a hierarchy of priorities that enables you to formulate quick wins as well as longer term interventions is necessary.

Go ahead and write a new chapter in your company’s customer experience this year with a Voice of the Customer programme.

Email: ararieya@upskillafrika.com

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