• Michael Brandt

So, you want to know what your customers think? (2) - Convincing Senior Management and Stakeholders

Updated: May 3

In the last blog I mentioned 4 questions that you should address before starting your VoC program;


1) Is your C-suite or senior management on board with a VoC programme?  

2) What is it that you want to know exactly?

3) Who is going to be involved in the process?

4) What do you have in mind from a communication perspective?


Let’s take look at the first question. In one of my projects the VoC program was a clear mandate from the CEO. He wanted it and he said as much. He got the whole C-Suite on board and the message trickled down the organization. You were either on board or you were part of the problem. Resistance, either passive or active, was quite simply not going to be tolerated. He also told the organization why it was necessary and what the organization would gain from it. This was truly a best-case scenario; he had done a lot of our work for us! Not having to worry about resources or management backing gave a true head start and allowed to focus on getting to work quickly. But even in cases like this, it is important to get people to believe in the program for the benefits of the program itself, not just because the CEO said that “this is the way it’s going to be”. Belief in the program is the only way that one can achieve true engagement.


So, what are the benefits of a VoC program? Chuck Schaeffer, CEO of Vantive Media says in a blog: “VoC benefits include faster customer resolutions (with fewer hops and escalations) and improvements in customer experience (CX) as evidenced with metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer loyalty. Financial benefits include increases in customer spend, customer share and customer retention.”


Of course, that is all true. If you fix customer issues in a timely fashion and the customer’s experience improves then there is a strong likelihood that customers will spend more and become more loyal. But, if you say that to your CEO, he might well say “tell me something I don’t know”.

So, what can you tell your CEO and other stakeholders in your organization? 


Know your customers and their wants and needs better

Well, first of all, do you really know how your customers perceive the service that they are receiving?  And, various other studies between then and now appear to indicate that nothing much has changed. One great benefit would be that it will allow a you to get first-hand information from customers with respect to the manner in which they perceive the service that they are receiving from you. 


In a paper published in 1990, Bain & Co. discussed what they termed the “Service Delivery Gap”. They discovered that while 80% of CEOs thought that they were offering their customers great service, only 8% of their customers agreed! And, various other studies between then and now appear to indicate that nothing much has changed. One great benefit would be that it will allow a you to get first-hand information from customers with respect to the manner in which they perceive the service that they are receiving from you.


More importantly though, if your program is configured correctly, it will give you insights into what customers think you are doing well and what they think needs improvement. This is important because it will enable you to continue to develop those areas that your customers think you are doing well at and perhaps expand on them throughout the organization. On the other side, it will allow you to focus your resources on areas that you know your customers are not happy with. You may feel that there are several areas of service that need improvement. This may be because of complaints that you receive or comments that are made to contact centre staff. But resources are often limited and we can’t fix everything at once. A VoC program will allow you to see which issues are affecting your business the most and indicate to you the areas that need fixing as a priority. In other words, it will allow you to utilize the company’s limited resources to best effect.


Also, acquiring an accurate and complete VoC will significantly improve your organization’s ability to achieve its most important objectives. When you really know what your customers want, you can design your business strategies, communications and offerings to more closely match your customers’ wants and needs. This is turn will see an increase in the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, sales, customer loyalty and customer lifetime value.


Opening Doors


VoC programs and the feedback that your customers provide opens doors. Customers like to know that their feedback is being read! I know, that sounds fairly simplistic, but it isn’t. How many organizations actually read the feedback that they get? I don’t know the number; however, many customers perceive their feedback as going into a black hole and this leads to diminishing return rates. Calling up a customer and telling them that you would like to discuss the feedback that they gave is unlikely to meet with much resistance. In fact, in several cases, I have heard stories in which sales reps said that they had been trying to get an appointment for weeks without any success. When they said that they wanted to discuss the feedback, they were given an appointment the same week!

Customers want to know that their voice is being heard and it is not difficult to let them know that they are being listened to. We will discuss, in one of the later blogs, how to structure follow up discussions, but for the purposes of today’s topic, let’s just say that VoC programs open doors to customers and offer increased possibilities for dialogue. What more could one ask for?

Well, we probably shouldn’t neglect the financial aspects, after all, the CFO will probably want to know what he gets out of it too!


Growth benefits 


In a 2005 study (Marsden, Paul & Samson, Alain & Upton, Neville. (2005). Advocacy drives growth.) it was demonstrated that:


“• In terms of percentage growth, a 7-point increase in word of mouth advocacy (net promoter score) correlated with a 1% increase in growth (1-point increase = .147% more growth). • Every 2% reduction in negative word of mouth correlated to just under 1% growth (a 1% reduction = .414% more growth).

• In cash terms, for the average business in our analysis, every 1-point increase in word of mouth advocacy (net promoter score) correlated with an £8.82 million increase in sales, whilst a 1% reduction in negative word of mouth would lead to £24.84m additional revenues;

• Taking the net promoter score and negative word of mouth together, we found that companies with relatively high net promoter scores (>0), and relatively low negative word of mouth rates (25%) grew 4 times as fast in 2004 than companies with low net promoter scores (25%).”


These numbers apply to an NPS VoC program, but the same principles apply whatever the metric that is used. Naturally, the numbers will vary from company to company and from industry to industry. Given the cyclical nature of many businesses, there is much to be said for correlating customer satisfaction scores with share of wallet. This may be a number that is more difficult to ascertain, but the analysis would be much more accurate when it comes to assessing the usefulness of your VoC program, and more specifically, the measures you have put in place based on the feedback that you have received.


And for the Factory? 


Manufacturing sites should not feel that they are being left out of the equation. There are several aspects in which they can employ targeted VoC programs such as Product Development Interviews, which will give them first-hand insights into customer perception of products, but also great input for new product development and innovation.


From a more down to earth perspective, you will probably also get feedback on your delivery reliability or order lead-time and availability of products. Line of sight to the customer is invaluable for factories. Their performance has a significant impact on customer satisfaction. Consequently, it is critical that they also have full visibility of the customer pain points and work, together with the rest of the organization to correct these


The above should give you some pointers on how to convince your management and other stakeholders that a VoC program is a worthwhile exercise. You know your management and what makes them tick, don’t be afraid to use your creativity and knowledge of your organization to come up with other ways and arguments to convince your senior management and other stakeholders of the importance of looking for feedback from your customers and getting to know them even better.


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