voice of the customer 2020: ask frequently, listen intently, adapt quickly
Developing an exceptional experience for customers has been a primary business drive for companies for several years. We’ve seen clients move away from being solutions providers to value-based businesses that focus on the wants, needs and desires of customers above all else. Our founder Jan Gusich once said, “Take care of the client and the rest will take care of itself,” and her adage is as true today as the day she said it—maybe more.
It goes without saying that it is a strange time we are living in. Businesses have pivoted on a dime to stay relevant amid supply chain disruptions, economic uncertainty, a shift to ultraconservative buying behaviors and adjusting to new ways of working. For the most part, travel has been suspended and trade shows have been cancelled, leaving a gap in our usual 1:1 interaction with customers.
Despite the long line of hurdles between your company and your customers, customer experience must continue be a priority in 2020. Strike that—it must be your most important priority. How you care for your customers now will affect their loyalty to you in the future and possibly the sustainability of your business.
The first steps to reimagining your customer experience is to realize that you need to do rapid research to understand the changing needs and pain points of our customers and 1.) Ask often; 2.) Listen intently; 3.) Adapt quickly.
The days of those annual voice of customer surveys that take months to compile, distribute and analyze are over. By the time you go through the entire process, everything will likely have changed. I’m not saying that you overwhelm your customers with questions, but as with anything else in business these days, our VOC strategies need to become nimbler to keep up with the near-daily change we are facing at home and in business.
So, increase the frequency of your touch points, whether it’s in the form of a survey or finding creative ways to get “face” time with customers through technology or a good old-fashioned phone call. (Zoom fatigue anyone?) When using online surveys, it’s also important to keep them shorter and more direct. You can also use your surveys as an opportunity to include messaging that reaffirms your commitment to their experience and the health of their businesses, while highlighting the mission, vision, values and purpose of your organization.
Every company and every person have been impacted by 2020 differently, so there is no blanket strategy that will be right for every customer or contact. Look at each response individually and be sure to allow room for “open-ended” conversations to dig deeper into the needs of that customer to create a personalized solution.
Again, solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all these days, so it is more important than ever to understand where your customers are today and meet them there.
The nimblest companies are the ones that will fare best in today’s world. We’ve seen that with retail stores that have adapted their online and curbside experiences, restaurants that moved quickly to contactless delivery and even manufacturers who were able to repurpose their workforce and equipment to make PPE and other vital health care equipment.
It is not a time for bureaucracy or feet-dragging. Your customers’ experiences are dependent on your ability to act quickly. Some solutions might be financially motivated, such as temporarily adjusting payment terms or pausing deliveries. Others might include lending expertise around plant safety and layouts or product development, so if you have SMEs in a particular area—make them available even to just share some best practices.
In short, be quick, be decisive, and don’t be afraid to be creative. The way it’s always been done probably doesn’t work now.
Keep Your Customers Close … and Your Employees Closer.
Believe it or not, there is one thing that hasn’t changed and that’s the impact employee experience has on customer experience. Just as voice of the customer is important to your business, so is the voice of your employees. Your internal communications strategy has never been more critical, because happier, engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond for your customers.
And those frontline employees closest to your customers—sales, customer service, technical support—will be able to offer helpful insights that will help you continuously adapt, so be sure to carve out time to listen to them.
No, it’s not normal right now and will likely not be normal again, at least not in the sense that it once was. In some ways it might be better, as smart companies are using this experience as an opportunity to reinvent, innovate, improve customer experiences and build loyalty with their customers and employees.
How have you adapted your VOC strategy in 2020? What are you doing to stay engaged with customers? We’d love to hear from you!