In the first post I shared the first part of my discussion around VoC with Erich Dietz, VP of Business Solutions at Mindshare Technologies (specialists in customer surveys and enterprise feedback). The key point of that post was captured in Erich’s words: “No-one is really doing VoC surveys with the customer in mind!

The second post (of this series) surfaced the gap between what companies say and what they do which is best captured by this statement: “Too many companies say that they are committed to improving the customer experience and yet don’t deliver on this commitment, this promise!

In this third and last post I wish to share with you what Erich and I discussed on how to do VoC right. Let’s start with the context that gives rise to surveying and soliciting feedback from customers.

What is the appropriate context for generating value out of VoC? “Action. This Day!”

Erich and Mindshare are clear that if companies (and customers) are to get any benefit from VoC then Tops have to be passionate, be committed and act with a sense of urgency. Here is how Richard D. Hanks (Chairman, Mindshare Technologies) puts it in his book Delivering and Measuring Customer Service:

“I have to admit, the most frustrating part of working with hundreds of companies on customer experience measurement is when I occasionally have a client who is doing everything “right” but is still not getting positive results…. After a brief analysis of the circumstances, nine times out of ten, I discover the following situation:

The company has been conscientious in its effort to measure satisfaction. They have been completely committed to obtaining and communicating results. But, they have had no commitment to improving the level of service: no follow up on needed training, no inclusion of customer satisfaction results in bonus plans, and no one has been held accountable for following up with and recovering customers who complained about a service lapse. It’s incredible. They will collect the customer feedback. They will listen with both ears. They will hear positives, negatives and suggestions. And then they will just sit there and do …..nothing…… Particularly disappointing are those companies or managers who say something like, “Well, we’re doing pretty well so far, why do we need to change?

Success requires action and commitment! You must take action. You can’t sit still. Let me quote a client’s customer who says it more forcefully: “Why should I spend my time giving you feedback, when you didn’t pay attention to my comments the last time?”

Upon reading this I was reminded of this post - The Six Enemies of Greatness – which I thoroughly recommend reading, it is an easy read, humorous and informative.

How to get started with VoC?

Lets assume that you, your organisation, has the requisite passion, commitment and sense of urgency. How should you go about it? According to Erich, the following approach is a pragmatic one that works:

Map the entire customer experience and identify the key moments of truth. The point to get is that “the customer is in the details”: it is the many details that make or break the customer experience. Richard D. Hanks in his book Delivering and Measuring Customer Service writes “All industries have moments of truth and almost all moments of truth involve people!

Listen to your customers / set-up VoC. In order to act on what matters to customers and fix that which is broken you have to set up mechanisms that allow you, your organisation, to know what you do not know. Who is best placed to tell you? The customer. Erich cautioned, that you give up the temptation to do this on your own. Why? Because it is a specialist task and the value you get out of using professionals, like Mindshare, will more than offset the costs.

Don’t just listen, engage your customers! Listening as in surveying is not enough. Engaging customers is what matters – it is the difference that makes the real difference. What does Erich mean by ‘engaging’? If I understood him correctly, he means entering into a genuine dialogue, a two way conversation. At a minimum, this means that you close the loop by going back to the customer (and/or customers as a whole) to let him/her know what you done with his feedback – what changes you have made.

Pilot. Erich recommends that you, your organisation, starts with a pilot. Why? Done right, pilot are a great way to try things out, learn and see what shows up. Pilots are also low cost, low risk and allow you to demonstrate the business case for VoC.

The Mindshare VoC formula: how to do VoC right

Mindshare’s VoC formula – how to do it right – is set out in Richard D. Hanks’s (Chairman, Mindshare Technologies) book Delivering and Measuring Customer Service:

Collect and listen to the customers input

Establish the process for reviewing the feedbackfocussing on under and over-performing units, teams, and people

Share and standardise best practices – communicate insights, set improvement goals, hold people accountable, team up high performers with low performers

Train and support your employees – teach and train your employees and equip them with the right tools

Reward and control – reward in public and counsel in private, reward both correct and improving behaviour

Make the needed changes – empower the local managers to take action / fix the problems, focus on what is working well and expand this

Show the customer the changes – close the loop with the customer / demonstrate that you are acting on the customer feedback

Repeat

My take on VoC and Mindshare Technologies

If you are genuinely up for competing on the basis of the ‘customer experience’ then ‘workability’ requires that you actively invite/encourage/solicit feedback from your customers, turn this into actionable insight and that you act on this insight with resoluteness and a sense of urgency.

If you are going to get value out of VoC then I say that you will get value out of expanding beyond customer surveying and include all sources of insight – social media, call centre, voice of your employees…. And it is not enough. Knowing about driving can never create the experience of driving, for that experience to occur you have to sit in the car and drive. Knowing about the customer experience is not the same as experiencing the customer experience; text, figure, charts are a poor substitute for video, audio, and being there, experiencing it in the first person – as lived.

It is necessary and useful to actually experience what it is like to be a customer – walk in the customer’s shoes. And it is also useful and necessary to work, incognito, on the front lines to experience the lives and working conditions of your front line staff – aka Undercover Boss. How else will you get to experience the absurdity of policies cooked up, by you and your colleagues, in HQ that are totally divorced from the reality on the front lines? How else are you going to get a lived experience of ‘bad’ managers – managers who fail to get the best out of the customer facing staff, instead cultivating ‘learned helplessness’ in these staff. Word, Excel, PowerPoint do not move-touch-inspire people to act in way that one’s own lived experience does.

It occurs to me that the folks at Mindshare Technologies have their hearts in the right place and they have lots of experience to bring to the table if you are considering undertaking, improving, getting value out of VoC.

An offer for you: get a free copy of Delivering and Measuring Customer Service

If you are embarking upon VoC and want to get a copy of Richard D. Hanks book Delivering and Measuring Customer Service ( I found it easy and useful to read) then email me at maz@thecustomerblog.co.uk – the first person to email me will get the book, free of charge.

Original post: http://thecustomerblog.co.uk/2012/05/11/voc-whats-wrong-with-voc-and-how-do-you-get-it-right-part-iii