Voice of The Customer – Attributes Of An Effective System Part 1

Voice of The Customer

In last month’s issue, we discussed three methods of gathering data relative to the Voice of the Customer methodology – internal metrics, customer contact, and surveys.

In his book, Strategic Customer Service, author John Goodman tells us there are eight attributes necessary for an effective Voice of the Customer system. Let’s discuss four of the attributes here.

Unified Management of the Program

One key factor of any successful program is the assignment of responsibility for how well the program functions with the goal of ensuring the realization of the desired outcomes – in this case – collecting data in a unified manner. Program responsibility should assist in determining the best format to use for collecting data across the organization. According to Goodman, without someone at the helm of the Voice of the Customer program, departments tend to collect data in the format that’s easiest and most useful to them. One main goal of the program is to collect the data in a format that allows for easy reconciliation later in the process. Putting it simply, someone must be in charge of the program in order to:

1. Define the goals.

2. Provide direction,

3. Ensures that the program stays on track,

4. Assist in identifying what actions are necessary as a result of the data.

5. Using the data to persuade senior organization officers of the need to act.

A Unified Data Collection Strategy

Knowing that there are unlimited ways to describe a problem, it’s important to develop problem classification schemes that lead to the collected data fitting together and easily reconciled. We all know that departments speak different languages – shipping/receiving labels customer issues in one way while the customer service department describes them in a completely different manner.

A unified system requires a cross-functional mindset where one can create a scheme with compatible problem and experience classifications. Doing so allows for the development of a clear picture of what the customer experiences along with the identification of areas of opportunity.

Integrated Data Analysis

Now comes the fun part. How do you put all of this data together so that customer issues are apparent, the causes are identified and the overall impact on the organization becomes apparent? Goodman suggests that this challenge is two-fold:

1. The data categorization schemes must be compatible – Customer interaction, internal metrics, and survey data must be coded in uniform ways across the organization as this is crucial when it’s time to combine, analyze and attempt to act on the data.

2. In order for the customer contact data and operations data to be compatible with the survey data, they must first be extrapolated to the marketplace as survey data normally describes what’s actually unfolding in the marketplace – Goodman explains that it’s important to know what percentage of your customers who experience a problem go to any particular touch point. In other words, when there is a service problem, to whom and by what method does the customer report their unhappiness?

Proactive Distribution of the Analysis

It’s been my experience that oftentimes everyone within an organization does not have critical information that can contribute to the creation of a better product or service. It’s also been my experience that someone within an organization possesses information that can make someone else’s job easier or assist in eliminating service delivery problems.

The key is to make sure information is proactively delivered. Goodman says that while it’s important for employees to be able to pull data as needed, it’s even more important that the data is pushed out to those who need it most. I’ve also found that not everyone needs to receive all of the available information.

Often as a result of people receiving too much data, it’s ignored which usually means lost opportunities for improvement. It’s crucial to determine who needs what information, then filter the data and provide it proactively. A summary report would be nice for all to receive along with a report containing pertinent data related to the recipient’s specific function.

Well, that’s four of the eight attributes required for an effective Voice of the Customer system. In the next Voice of the Customer article, we’ll continue with the remaining four attributes.

Get your copy of John Goodman’s book, Strategic Customer Service. It’s great reading if you were interested in providing great customer service!


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