“You must earn the right to continued relationships with customers.” – Jeanne Bliss
The quote clearly explains the basis of any sustainable business / company – a continued relationship with customers. However, in order to have this privilege, a company must listen to and understand the voice of the customer is crucial. The simply meaning of the voice of the customer is the different kinds of feedback customers give through the many channels of communication that are available. When a company actively listens to the voice of the customer, it would have a better understanding of how customers perceives its service, products, pricing and every aspect of the relationship. Listening to the voice of the customer allows a company to remain focused on the expectations, needs and wants of its customers, thereby ensuring enhanced service and product quality. Focus on the voice of the customer is a critical part of customer service and hence cannot be successful if the company works in silos, with each part trying to achieve its own success with regard to the customer. A companywide endeavour and strategy is essential if the company expects to accurately capture the voice of the customer and use it to enhance its business significantly.
A company runs for and because of its customers and hence it would be imprudent to ignore their preferences and feedback. Smart companies understand the crucial role of the voice of the customer and hence incorporate this strategy into every aspect of their business such that every contact point offers the same high standards of service customized to suit the individual customers. A company cannot function with customers that never provide feedback – the voice of the customer is the cornerstone of successful companies. If a company fails to listen or act on ‘the voice’, they would not be able to plan future endeavours, put in place strategies and processes for the customers or create products and services that customers would use. Listening to the voice of the customer leads to a greater awareness and understanding of a company’s most valuable asset – its customers. It leads to a proactive approach in managing customer requirements and enhances the company’s ability to put better align the customer-oriented departments to the rest of the organization – in accordance with whatever customers want and expect.
Irrespective of size and stature, no company can afford to ignore the voice of the customer. In fact, companies considered successful are so because they actively listen to their customers. Doing so allows them to connect with and keep customers engaged throughout their ‘journey’ with the company. When customers can perceive innovation and quality within the company, driven by their requirements and expectations, they become loyal and profitable and also are the most effective ‘advertisements’ of the company and its offerings. The voice of the customer serves a guide and a beacon that allows a company to see clearly how best to meet the needs and demands of the company. Companies that find favour with customers are able to optimize their profits and remain ahead of their competitors. The voice of the customer is also a great way to gain new ideas, concepts and even solutions to nagging problems – who better to solve customer problems than the customers themselves! We spoke earlier about customer-generated content- this too is highly useful, results from listening to the voice of the customer and is a great way to influence other customers – both potential and existing.
Only listening to the voice of the customer will not suffice – that is, a company must also regularly and actively ‘report’ back to the customers on the changes made because of their feedback. A company must have a systematic and structured method to collect, collate, analyse and report on the information given by customers. Doing so will serve as an effective guide for the company and enable it to broaden the skills and knowledge available within its ranks. The higher the skills of the workforce, the higher would be the quality of service and products. The communication that goes out from the company would also be highly effective and customized and would include messages that would be relevant and useful for the customers. When a company proves its usefulness repeatedly to its customers, they learn to trust and depend on the company – anyone running a business would know how invaluable the customer’s trust is for success. When a company is able to establish trust, its reputation enhances and it is able to attract more customers, investors and even the best the talent in the market. All these benefits just from listening to the voice of the customer – it is surprising therefore that not all companies have a structured program to translate the customer feedback to action!
The benefit of listening to the voice of the customer is that a company receives feedback directly from the ‘user’ and would be insights that customers may not provide at the time of the sales / marketing pitch. Customers are constantly ‘speaking’ with companies – the voice of the customer never ceases and companies must treat it as a continuous process – complete and relentless attention be given in order that no communication ever remains unheard. Effectively listening to the voice of the customer would mean that at company uses all the information gathered from customers in a timely and speedy manner such that improvements to the company reflect on to the customers. Such listening must happen across the organization and at all the touch-points for it to be effective. A company can initiate ways to gain from the voice of the customer – through feedback surveys at regular but properly spaced out intervals. After getting the responses, a company would be able to analyse them and then translate them into action to ensure that as many of the suggestions made can be incorporated to improve service and other aspects of the customer-company relationship.
Consistent monitoring of the results must, always follow the hearing the voice of the customer and the processes put in place to translate the insights to action. Without the monitoring, it would not be possible to keep up the pace of improvements made and in addition, it is a sure-shot way of keeping finger on the pulse of the customers. Their needs and expectations constantly change and unless the company keeps a close watch on them, they would not be able to keep pace with the changes and would end up, as they were – no understanding of the customers.
The voice of the customer provides a detailed understanding of the thoughts and unspoken words of the customer – something that cannot happen unless a company is genuinely listening. Irrespective of the different techniques used by companies to pull data, a company can never know how customers ‘feel’ – it is their feelings that guide their buying and other behaviour towards a company. The game changer for any company is about knowing why a customer would buy from them or not, why they would buy a certain product and whether or not they would be willing to remain loyal to a company. The voice of the customer goes beyond research – it is about the company’s commitment to develop the relationship by allowing its customers to have a say such that the products, innovation and improvements are based around what the customers want – not what the company decides to dish out. There are only a few companies which, when they produce new offerings customers take to them instantly. This only happens after years of building trust and producing goods that are superlative in quality with prices to match.
There is a significant correlation between the voice of the customer and a company’s ability to remain flexible, agile and have sustained success. If you know what customers want, you would be able to save a lot of effort and resources otherwise used in making products that customers do not want. Listen to the voice of the customer and reap benefits more than you thought possible.
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