The 5 Keys to Building a Strong Voice of the Customer (VoC) Program

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
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How do you know if your customers are happy? What impact does customer experience have on your bottom line? How can you create a strong, viable Voice of the Customer program?

This is Part 2 in our series of posts exploring why customer experience is important and how to build a more customer-centric culture with a strong Voice of the Customer program. Read Part 1.

It Starts with a Cohesive Strategy

You’ve decided you need to build a stronger customer-centric culture. Now you're looking to build a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program to instill that culture.

While it may be tempting to latch on to a single metric or strategy, there are a lot of parts to a successful program. For long-term success, you need to strategically target the tactics and resources that will have the most impact.

Here are five key elements that are essential to building a strong Voice of the Customer program that will last.

1. Targeted Customer Data and Insights

The goal of any Voice of the Customer program is to get a better understanding of your customers. To do this, it's tempting at first to gather as much data and information as you can. But it’s a myth that you need a complete 360-degree view of your customer experience.

The key is to take a targeted approach. Connect your existing internal data and insights with new external feedback mechanisms that build on that data. You want to understand the reasons behind the data that matters. By targeting the right data, you'll more efficiently identify the areas where you can make the most difference.

How To Do This

  • Get internal alignment on the most effective feedback mechanisms for your target customers.
  • Avoid the temptation to measure everything and report everywhere. Be strategic with your data. Choose the pieces that hold the greatest strategic value and share them with the people and teams that can best act on them.
  • Build in time for analysis before you start collecting data. It does little good to just measure and distribute. You have to understand the implications of your data and how it applies to specific contexts.

2. Prioritized Action Items

The common saying is that the customer is always right. But sometimes customers complain about things a company can’t - or shouldn’t - provide. Sometimes they’re mistaken about who’s at fault for their discomfort. Yes, customers deserve to be heard and treated with respect. But not every pain point requires an action item.

A strong VoC program balances operational efficiency with customer needs. In other words, you need to determine your trade-offs. Use customer feedback to identify areas for improvement. Then, assign internal owners who can work cross-functionally to address those problems. The end goal is a prioritized list of customer-driven action items that are worth tackling.

How To Do This

  • Determine what is driving or blocking your key business metrics. Focus on action items that impact metrics like Cost to Acquire Customers (CAC), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), churn, and market share.
  • Collect and analyze data that connects to your desired outcomes. A strong analysis of what is driving your desired outcomes will help you achieve the greatest change in the least number of moves.
  • Be willing to take risks and fail. Understanding your trade-offs and prioritizing improvement doesn’t mean playing it safe. To build a robust Voice of the Customer program you have to be willing to try some things that won’t pay off.

3. Empowered Employees

You need cross-functional teams to improve customer experience. There’s no way around it. Customers don’t care who handles their request, as long as they perceive you as one team taking care of their needs. The more you can act like a unified team, the more seamless that experience will be for them.

Empowered employees receive customer feedback and solve their problems on the spot. If they don't know the answer - or face a problem they can't fix - they know where to go to solve it. An empowered workplace minimizes silos of information and departments.

Tools and processes are often the biggest barriers to a successful VoC program. Remember, your employees are customers of your internal processes and tools. They require the same level of attention and care as your customers.

How To Do This

  • Integrate your Voice of the Customer program with a strong Voice of the Employee program. Surface ideas and apply employee feedback directly into product and service improvements.
  • Create dedicated customer experience teams and committees that span across multiple customer-facing functions. Give frontline employees the tools and processes they need to deliver great customer experience on the fly.
  • Give customer experience experts the authority to push the agenda with other teams and stakeholders. They should be a respected voice reminding the whole organization why they have to make time and give effort for your customers.

4. True Customer Experience Leadership Buy-In

A Voice of the Customer program won’t survive without champions in the executive suite. Leaders need to constantly advocate for customer experience. They must create a risk-tolerant culture that allows for trial-and-error.

Great VoC programs have executive titles and headcount responsible for them. The best programs embed their customer experience strategy into everything leaders say and do for the business.

How To Do This

  • Introduce and gain support for a clear VoC action plan, track its impact, and measure its effectiveness.
  • Involve key executive leaders like the CMO or CFO in your VoC planning to make sure you have their input and buy-in to the metrics you’re tracking.
  • Identify a clear program owner - one person who is ultimately responsible for the success and quality of your VoC program. Make sure they have the right business expertise as well as a passion for customer experience.

5. Transparent 2-Way Communication

This is often the most overlooked piece to a successful Voice of the Customer program. Executives need to engage with customer and employee feedback to show that it’s a two-way street. If you listen to employees and use their recommendations, they'll be more likely to buy into the program and its priorities.

Regular updates from the top down signals the importance of customer experience to the organization as a whole. Leadership needs to recognize the progress made by the team’s combined effort. There needs to be timely and consistent communication about successes and failures. A strong VoC program transparently acknowledges failure as an option in the name of learning and adapting to customer needs.

How To Do This

  • Build strong resources and behaviors that encourage internal communication across the organization.
  • Identify where your leadership communication is falling short and make needed improvements.
  • Create employee feedback tools, like innovation labs and idea generators to collect ideas for improvement. Show that you're willing to act on the best ideas.

Ready to Start Building Your Voice of the Customer Program?

These five keys are just the tip of the iceberg based on what we’ve seen works best. If you’re ready to start building your own program, drop us a line and let’s talk about how our experience can help you flatten your learning curve to building a strong Voice of the Customer program.