Last week I talked with someone who works in commercial real estate. He is interested in providing a great Customer Experience for his clients because he has a close relationship with each of them, and they are each worth a large percentage of his firm’s revenue. However – he pointed out that the quantity of clients he had was low enough that he knew each one of them personally.
When I am talking to someone like this about Customer Experience, a common question they ask is whether a Voice of Customer (VOC) process or system is even applicable to them. Since they know each client personally, aren’t they gathering Voice of Customer in their daily client interactions?
Yes! They are constantly collecting Voice of Customer. But I would also ask them if VOC across their firm is consistent, reliable and universally understood by all employees. Even with a small client base, there is value in establishing at least an informal system. Here are a few ideas — how many of these would be useful in your business?
- Customer Panels – Select 3-5 of your customers and put them on a stage with an interviewer in front of your managers and employees. Ask them open-ended questions about their experiences with your company and in your industry. These panels will not only provide you valuable insight, they instantly communicate that insight to your employees, and make the customer feel like their opinion matters and is shaping the way you do business with them.
- Integrate VOC measurement into your customers’ experiences. There are key moments throughout your customers’ interactions with your company that drive satisfaction, and many of those are measurable. For example – how long do customers wait on hold? How quickly do you turn around quotes or proposals for your customers? Which data you measure will depend on which moments are important to your customers.
- Customer Advisory Councils – Gather a small group of 5-12 customers diverse enough to represent your entire client base. Meet with them quarterly or semiannually to discuss your business. Have key members of your team present to them about initiatives in your business that will improve the customer experience. Soft-launch new products or services to them to gauge interest and refine your pitch before launching them to the broader market.
- 1:1 VOC Interviews – Meet with select customers for the specific purpose of gathering Voice of Customer data. Let the conversation evolve naturally, but prepare a standardized list of specific questions you would like their opinion on, and record the results. Then aggregate the data across multiple interviews, and over longer lengths of time.
- Surveys. SURVEYS? Yes, I know, the whole point of this article is to talk about alternatives to surveys, just in case your company feels like they are too impersonal and/or not a good fit for your customer base. However – I wouldn’t put them off the table quite yet. For companies with small client bases – you just have to use surveys carefully and with specific methods. For example: Pre-survey communication is extremely important. Telling customers when they should expect the survey and why you are doing this answers most questions they have. It also will serve to increase the survey response rate! You can also use surveys in specific ways, such as new product/service development.
Hope these ideas help you and your company out. Voice of Customer doesn’t have to be impersonal, irrelevant emails blasted out in bulk! Every company should have a Voice of Customer strategy, even if you only have 10 clients.
One final note – post-VOC communication is important at all sizes of companies, but especially when you know your customers personally. Once you learn results of your VOC efforts, communicate those findings back to your customers, and tell them what you’re doing to change and improve in the future for them. They will repay you with greater loyalty, share of wallet, and a stronger long-term relationship.