Customer Success teams are on the front lines of customer engagement, and often have access to a treasure trove of customer information. In this post, Intronis VP of Partner Success Jasmine Lombardi shares tips for how your company can convert that insight into valuable action.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch was famous for obsessing over customer feedback and intelligence, and driving his teams to do everything in their power to make those customers successful.
In fact, the now-retired Welch believed so strongly in listening to the voice of GE’s customers that he once quipped, “There are only two sources of competitive advantage: The ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition, and the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition.”
Of course, Welch was the chief executive of a Fortune 100 company that had seemingly endless financial and human resources at its fingertips – advantages that made keeping tabs on customer sentiment an easier process than it is for most businesses.
Still, Jasmine Lombardi, VP of Customer Success at cloud backup and disaster recovery company Intronis, says growth stage B2B software companies would be well-served to embrace Welch’s obsession with customer feedback.
“The voice of the customer is critical to building a great business,” explains Lombardi, who spearheaded the creation of Intronis’ Customer Success team (which it calls “Partner Success”) in the fall of 2013. “Companies that tune into it and truly understand the context of customer behavior and decision-making are the ones that succeed.”
How is Voice of the Customer (VOC) Defined?
Before diving into specific tactical advice for building and managing an effective VOC program, Lombardi says it’s important for business leaders to understand how exactly a modern “voice of the customer” program is defined.
Importantly, it’s not administering random surveys or requesting sporadic buyer feedback. Instead, Lombardi says an effective VOC program should be thought of as a means for improving every aspect of your business by conducting ongoing conversations with existing customers.
— Jasmine Lombardi, VP of Partner Success at Intronis
“That’s useful information for any team,” Lombardi explains. “Whether it’s marketers trying to deliver more relevant messaging to prospective buyers, or product development teams attempting to build better features. Employees become significantly more valuable and effective when they can interpret and capitalize on rich customer insight.”
4 Questions to Assess Your VOC Program
If your business is just getting its VOC program off the ground (or in the early stages of building it out), there are a few key questions Lombardi says you need to answer.
1) How will you capture customer information?
To create a truly well-rounded VOC program, it’s important to identify all of the customer “listening options” and “contact points” that are at your disposal, Lombardi says. Surveys are the easiest and most common option, but they don’t always deliver the best insight. Lombardi recommends considering a few of these options:
- Direct interviews with customers (focus groups, website intercepts, etc.)
- Indirect interviews (sales conversations, customer service calls, etc.)
- Cancellation or account management interactions
- Renewal, upgrade, or downgrade conversations
- Social media monitoring/listening tools
- Customer onboarding
2) How will you analyze the data?
Once you have a data collection process in place, you need to establish additional processes that funnel information to the proper internal stakeholders. To that point, Lombardi says companies also need to define who will own data analysis and reporting, as well as determine how feedback will be stack ranked in terms of priority.
3) What will you do with VOC data?
Collecting data but failing to act on it is like owning a Ferrari but never driving it. Lombardi says successful VOC programs can yield clear and actionable insights, and allow you to act on issues or opportunities in real-time. But in order to extract real value from that data, you must implement a process that ensures appropriate stakeholders have regular access to customer feedback, and that they actually follow-up on it.
4) How will you drive ongoing, continuous improvement?
A true VOC program isn’t a one-off initiative – it’s a long-term business strategy, says Lombardi. To extract both short- and long-term value, your business needs to perform continuous customer monitoring and deliver standardized reports that help teams track historical results and compare trends. Maintaining that real-time pulse will allow you to uncover patterns and acquire deeper insight into what your business should (or shouldn’t) be doing to improve customer success.
If you do it right, Lombardi says your VOC program should make collecting data across various functional departments simple and easy, and incent team members to take responsive and proactive action based on the intelligence they create.
“The very basic, but powerful output of a structured program like this is that your teams will be able to more directly translate their actions into clear ROI and business results,” Lombardi says. “More importantly, it will allow senior leaders and CEOs to invest time, money, and resources into things that really matter to the business and its customers.”
One Thing to Remember
As you begin collecting customer intelligence and feedback, Lombardi says there’s one thing managers can’t forget to do, or they’ll risk destroying the credibility of their programs.
“No matter how big or small an issue or opportunity seems, always – and I mean always – report back to the customer and act on their feedback,” Lombardi says. “When customers invest their time and energy into sharing their voice in real-time, they expect you to listen and do something about it. If you don’t, then you’ll find it very difficult to acquire the intelligence necessary to move the needle.”
Read the previous posts in the series:
- “Transforming Customer Support into Customer Success”
- “6 Tips for Building a Customer-Obsessed Team”
- Unlocking the Secrets to Better Customer Communication