I recently upgraded my LinkedIn account from free to the first rung of paying for the privilege. Apart from a new snazzy gold logo, I got access to better search. So I’ve been trying it out.
As of August 2010 there are 103,679 senior executives in UK businesses over 200 employees with ‘customer service’ in their titles. Using the same search criteria, there is ‘33,914’ with the more hip phrase ‘customer experience’ somewhere in their job title.
While we are doing the sums, these customer centric titles can only continue to multiply since apparently two-thirds of UK professionals are still to turn up on LinkedIn’s grid. This means around 400,000 senior people in the UK ought to be active in their own VoC or Voice Of The Customer programme.
Whether that’s specious logic or not, I’m excited. Because once that many customer listening brands become tangibly different to experience, we would be at a tipping point. Transformation of the whole based on the momentum of an active minority is a belief in Life’s upside I’ve held for many years.
The assumption of course if that all those people are actively engaged in VoCs. And secondly that these initiatives are all mature and working at full steam. Unfortunately we know from that well-known customer experience tracker Bruce Temkin, this is not the case. Incidentally if you are one of those people with customer experience in your title, you really should be subscribed to Bruce’s excellent, long-standing blog.
Although if you care to read up on Forrester’s 2010 VoC award winners for a contrary outlook, this merry band of bloggers sound much more upbeat about the progress of 2010 winners versus 2009 standards. As a rare moment of fair-mindedness, I suppose it should be acknowledged how tough it is to energise large brands to change their spots overnight.
So the true status of VoCs probably lies somewhere between Temkin and and his ex colleagues at Forrester. This of course is the US perspective on Voice Of The Customer. I’m unaware of much rumble in the jungle UK wise. But shout out if you know otherwise.
Anyway having done the scene setting, here’s my list of ways to make your VoC sing. It’s based on personal experience over the last twenty-five years, although Voice Of The Customer is more recent terminology. Plus some work I recently did for a green energy company which reminded me of what I’d learnt and allowed me to test some new stuff too.
- Listen in order to discover. That mission needs to be nailed above the VoC team’s front door and burnt into the mindset of everyone in the pack of evangelists you’ve recruited. On the other hand, if you are being asked to listen to prove a point, hand the brief over to PR.
- Build multiple opportunities for customers to talk and for you to listen. Rely more on what is repeatedly said from different feedback sources than on one-off statements. Put these on hold until you have listened some more and have a better feeling for what is being communicated. For the same reasons, rely more on significant percentage differences in surveys than on outcomes with only minor differences in scoring. It’s rare that customer insight can be so finely defined.
- Be action orientated. Develop your ability to respond and improve at the same speed as your appetite for gathering more insight. Customers (and other stakeholders) lose enthusiasm if nothing changes. That means even the first seven days post launch need to be improvement orientated.
- Concentrate on getting time sensitive issues escalated and actioned fast. If you have more than ten people in your business, you will need some form of event triggered reporting, embedded in an intelligent workflow, with an empowered group at the other end – ready and able to act. Get your first prototype up and running by the end of week one.
- Be smart about incentivisation. While it’s true that rewards drive behaviour, avoid making foolish and simplistic connections between single metric based scores and people’s pay. Oh that life was so linear. But it ain’t and will likely cause more unintended consequences than you can imagine. I always ask those being incentivised what will work. I’ve learnt I’m not smart enough to anticipate why it’s going to screw up.
- Keep score. Remember while every dog has its day in the sun, something new will arrive to steal your limelight. Unless of course you are anchored with a well reported litany of hard and soft benefits build from imaginative and sound ways of estimating what all this improvement adds up to.
There are of course other things being said which really should never need saying. Such as the apparent realisation many organisation are having that there is a positive correlation between customer engagement and employee engagement. I mean please…….. Simple truths should not be passed off as profound insight!
Anyway viva La VoC! And I hope yours is going well.