Chris Stainthorpe of CustomerSure shares his preferred process for driving the Voice of the Customer (VoC) into the wider business for real change.
If you work in a customer-facing role, you’re no doubt exhausted at being told that “customer experience is everybody’s job”. It’s a great goal, but if it’s really everyone’s job, why does it sometimes feel like it’s only front-line staff taking ownership of it?
Working with hundreds of firms, mainly in regulated industries like utilities, we’ve found one tool which is invaluable at getting everyone pulling in the same direction.
It’s not a magic wand – but if you put the effort into getting it right, it changes businesses. It turns attrition into retention and cost centres into profit centres.
It should be your first customer experience investment, before you experiment with AI, speech analytics, or the perfect omnichannel strategy… Because it’s the ruler you can use to measure if those initiatives are having the desired results.
We’re talking, of course, about verbatim customer feedback, otherwise known as open feedback.
Verbatim feedback works well in small teams, but it works even better when your entire organisation gets on board. So, here’s our advice (based on our own real-world experience, and what we’ve learned from our clients over the past eight years) on how to get feedback working for everyone, not just the front-line agents:
1. Shared Values
Bad culture will undermine any customer experience improvement initiative, feedback included.
Doing the right thing for customers has to be ‘normal’ – which means targets need to be set on this basis, and people need to be recognised, praised and rewarded for doing the ‘right thing’.
This has to come from the top down – if your senior team aren’t leading by example, everyone at the coalface will quickly realise the initiative isn’t credible.
And – and this is the important bit – it needs to cut across the whole business. Finance and IT don’t get a “get out of jail free” card.
It takes time to improve culture, but it can be done. And it’s worth doing, because without it, all your other initiatives are just sticking plasters on a far bigger problem.
How to develop a customer-first culture
We can’t possibly squeeze a soup-to-nuts guide to organisational culture change into this article – that’s a whole career! But we can tell you what’s most important:
It’s nice to say that customer satisfaction is ‘a priority’, but to deliver remarkable experiences, everyone in the business needs to internalise that “happier customers” is their primary success metric, and understand why that’s important: A business with happier customers has been shown, time and time again, to make more money from those customers in the long run. (Also, it’s the right thing to do!)
Accounts should understand that penny-wise can be pound-foolish when it comes to upsetting loyal customers.
IT need to understand that customers’ expectations of digital are higher than ever, and their skills are essential to meeting those expectations.
Sales need to understand that squeezing every last drop out of an order now can lead to attrition later.
This means there will sometimes be hard decisions along the way, but the choices an organisation makes will betray its true priorities.
2. Don’t Be Pushy…
If your culture’s right, in theory, your colleagues in other departments will want to stay up all night reading every single thing every customer says about you.
In practice, they’ve got urgent pressures on their time. If your super-interesting feedback isn’t going to help them get job number one done, they’re going to put it to the bottom of their in-tray.
So any effort you spend ‘forcing’ customer feedback on other teams is at best wasted effort, and at worst is going to generate resentment.
Instead, make feedback easily available – think both online (dashboards, internal communication tools) and offline (whiteboards!), and focus your energy on helping people understand the benefits of feedback.
- Share good news stories – where things have changed for the better (or disaster has been averted!) through customer feedback being acted on.
- Keep an eye out for ‘bad targets’ and challenge them where you see them. If improving it doesn’t lead to customers being happier – get rid of it.
3. Make It Simple
“Not being pushy” isn’t the same as “being quiet”, though.
There’s a big difference between forcing your colleagues in IT to attend a mandatory 9am Monday “Customer Feedback Review Meeting” and getting a giant noticeboard in the coffee room which shares good news.
And if you want to be a real pro, there’s a difference between blasting feedback on email to half the business and automatically segmenting your feedback so you can send each product/service owner in your business a monthly targeted round-up of feedback relevant to their area.
The fewer barriers between your colleagues and your customers’ feedback, the better – so make it as simple as possible.
Asking for customer feedback without responding is a brilliant way to decrease satisfaction: The only thing more annoying than not being asked for your opinion is being asked, and then ignored.
But, without the support of the wider business, it can be difficult to respond appropriately. Sometimes you need the help of your colleagues in other departments to fix the problem that a customer is experiencing, or to fix an underlying problem so that the issue goes away completely.
One thing we’ve seen deliver great results is embedding customer champions in every department in your organisation. It’s not necessarily their job to fix problems, but it is their job to make sure that problems get fixed.
These champions work as a 2-way funnel between the team responsible for customer feedback and their own team. If a customer is having issues, verbatim feedback is amazing ammunition to ensure that things get changed. But equally, when a customer gets their problem solved, the delighted praise they give is a powerful motivator – it’s the customer champion’s job to feed that praise back into the team and the individuals responsible.
There’s no “trick” to getting your organisation on board with feedback, but the rewards are more than worth the effort. First, make sure culture’s right, across every single team you have. Then, make customer feedback as easily accessible as possible to the people who are receptive to it. Where people aren’t receptive, focus on demonstrating value!
Finally, and most importantly – make sure that customer problems are solved across teams where necessary – and feed customer praise back to the people responsible for fixing the problem.