Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CEM Toolbox: Setting the Stage for a VOC Strategy

I originally wrote today's post for Delight's blog on April 29, 2013.

I started a CEM Toolbox series a year ago and only dabbled in it a couple times. Today I'll pick up with a post that was published on Delight's blog and will strive to add to the toolbox a few more times this year.

Facilitating Your VOC Strategy
Listening to the voice of the customer is more critical now than ever. Pulling together a VOC strategy and executing on it has many companies baffled, while only some have figured out exactly what they need to do. Let’s assume you’re one of the former, although you might still learn a thing or two if you are one of the latter.

We write a lot about the components of a great VOC strategy, but less time is spent describing the tools needed to facilitate a successful strategy. We talk about why we need to listen to the voices of the various constituents and the steps to do that, but we spend little time on what you’re going to need in order to accomplish this. That’s where I come in; this article focuses on the tools of the trade.

Tools to Set the Stage
Setting the stage is all about creating awareness and getting buy-in, not only from the top but from across the organization. It’s about making sure the organization is ready to embark on this journey and about clearly outlining what that means, who will be involved and how, and why. This is a crucial part of the effort because it lays the groundwork for the success of your customer listening efforts. You’ll see there are a lot of tools for this stage; it’s critical to get things right from the start. I’ve provided some links to sample tools and documents, where appropriate, and given very rough estimates for timing to complete each. Clearly, timing depends on stakeholder availability and willingness to participate.

Customer Experience Maturity Assessment: This is a great place to start to understand if the customer currently has a seat at the executive table, and if not, how ready you are to listen to customers and their needs going forward. It will be a read on where the organization is currently lacking (or not) and can be very eye-opening. It’s a great benchmark that can be revisited and re-measured to gauge progress over time. An example of a Maturity Assessment comes from Temkin Group. This document will take you 10-15 minutes to complete. I would recommend having others in the organization give their thoughts on it, as well.

Current State Analysis: Similarly, a current state analysis will be important to understand what initiatives are already underway so that you don't move forward with disparate and disjointed efforts. This analysis might include creating a feedback map that charts the various sources of customer data, direct, indirect, attitudinal, and behavioral.

Org Chart: The diagram of the structure of your organization will be helpful to identify department heads and people who need to be involved at different levels. While I don’t have an example of an org chart to share with you, you can usually get one from your HR department. This is a living, breathing document, as employees are hired or leave all the time, and occasionally there are reorgs.

Stakeholder Interview Guide: Used to conduct stakeholder interviews, which will have a variety of objectives, including: understanding the needs of your stakeholders as it relates to the VOC strategy, gauging individual readiness, and establishing a rapport and connection with the individuals as it relates to this ongoing effort. It’s also your chance to make some connections and find some champions to help with the naysayers. Designing your interview guide will take about a week. You’ll want to put some thought into it and get input from your program team.

Stakeholder Analysis: Used to summarize stakeholder attitudes about the VOC efforts, to prioritize stakeholders according to how they will be impacted and how they can have an impact, and to determine who is on board and who needs to be won over. A stakeholder analysis can be prepared in a couple of different ways, including in a table format or as a map/quadrant chart. Once the interviews are complete, and depending on how many you have to review, it will likely take you a day or two to compile the analysis.

Success Metrics: How will you know if your efforts are successful if you don’t define what success looks like? How will you measure success? Of course, first you must define the business issues and desired business outcomes.

Brand Promise: It sets expectations for your customers about all interactions with your people, products, services, and company; it drives everything the organization does, and it should be apparent at every interaction at every touchpoint. Every employee should be armed with, and live, your brand promise. Check with your CMO, if you don’t know your company’s brand promise.

Communication Plan: Used to outline how and when you’ll communicate your efforts and results to employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. The communication plan is created in conjunction with your Marketing team, and given their willingness and readiness to define and execute it, could take a week or two to create.

Business Case: This is a well-written document that outlines for both believers and naysayers the reasons for undertaking the VOC efforts. It will define expected outcomes, typically based on fact (e.g., case studies, pilot tests, or other steps taken to prove your point), as well as a clear path for achieving those outcomes. Detailing how to achieve a return on investment will be important.

Pre-Mortem: While these are typically done for projects (and we all know that customer listening is not a project but a journey), I think this is an excellent tool to force you to think about what could go wrong and how to get out ahead of things before they go awry. While it’s more than just a risk analysis, it is a great way to mitigate risks and take preventative actions before you begin. You’ll assume you failed and then take a look in the rearview mirror to understand why this could have happened. This HBR article offers more details on conducting a pre-mortem, and this deck on Slideshare provides some templates to help you conduct this meeting. Plan about two hours for the meeting itself, but you’ll want to do some prep work to come prepared with your own thoughts on risks and potential points of failure.

In my next CEM Toolbox post, I'll address some tools for Defining the Customer Experience.

You can't expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday's tools and expect to be in business tomorrow. -Raina Chapman


  1. Tools are great Annette, but some tools are greater than others, which woul you say are the must haves?


    1. Hmmm, good question. Probably current state analysis, stakeholder interviews, and brand promise would be my top three (not necessarily in that order).

  2. Hi Annette,
    That feels like a comprehensive set of tools. How long would it take, typically, to implement these tools and come up with a VoC strategy?


    1. Good question. Typically depends on the willingness of the company to actively engage and make it happen. It will probably take about a month total to compile most of these items.

      Annette :-)