Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Listen to Learn, Listen to Earn

Image courtesy of Unsplash
Designing a VoC program can be daunting. Where do you begin?

If you're new to designing and implementing a VoC program, you're probably scratching your head and wondering where to begin. There are a lot of components to consider as you dive in, from executive buy-in to organizational alignment to governance and more.

However, I'm going to focus on some very important basics in today's post; this is certainly an ongoing conversation that covers so much more than what I'll address today. This post is about three key exercises to lay the foundation for beginning any customer listening efforts. If you are still struggling with getting executive buy-in, which is critical to VoC success, check out one of these posts:

Help! My Execs Don't Get It!
Kicking the #CX Can Down the Road

But in a nutshell, why is it important to listen to customers? Well, as Harvey Mackay says: You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen - not just money, but respect. Can't argue with that. If we don't understand who our customers are, what jobs they are trying to do/achieve, and how well that's going, then we reap none of the benefits of having raving fans - probably because we won't have (m)any. So, what do you think? Does it pay to listen?

Let's get started. Clearly, you cannot begin a voice of the customer initiative without first understanding who your customers are.

Understand the Customer 
Who are your customers? They might be partners and/or end customers/users, so keep that in mind. Why do they buy products and services from you? What are their needs? What problems are they trying to solve? What are they trying to achieve?

Have you defined your customer personas? This is an important place to start. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They are derived through primary research - research that can then also be used for your customer journey maps. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. They are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline feelings, motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions. And let's not forget that each persona includes a human face and name. Used properly, personas keep the customer alive and front and center by the entire organization. They tie in nicely to your journey maps and are necessary to begin that exercise.

Outline the Customer Lifecycle
What are the stages of the customer's relationship with your brand, from Need to Awareness through Departure? The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and is good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

It's great to understand this high level before moving on to the next step. Lifecycle maps, while important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, are a natural first step to identifying listening needs along the lifecycle; however, to get to the heart of the matter, to really understand when and where to listen and to really design a better customer experience, you must dive deeper into the lifecycle stages, inventory the touchpoints, and map the customer journey.

Map the Customer Journey
I've written a lot about journey mapping. It's important to understand that journey maps are not the same thing as lifecycle maps. A lot of people make that mistake. In simplest terms, journey mapping is a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job within each stage of the lifecycle. It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from the customer's viewpoint, not yours. It's not linear either, nor is it static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

This is where the details come into play, though. The journey map looks at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. It describes what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey.

Why do you need a customer journey map? Journey maps provide clarity for the entire organization. There are a ton of benefits, but they are integral to customer listening efforts in that they help to identify those key moments of truth at which we need to listen in order to better understand gaps, highlights, breakdowns, and more. They'll be the catalyst for prioritizing when and where to listen.

Start with these three exercises to get your VoC program off to a solid start. And one last thought: it's important to remember that your surveys and listening posts are touchpoints in the customer experience. Take the time to do this right. Make sure you execute well.

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. -Ralph Nichols

Happy CX Day!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of CX Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.

4 comments:

  1. You make a very valid point Annette that your surveys are touch points. We use a recruitment agency at work. Last year they recruited 3 people for me in one exercise. Since then they have sent me 6 surveys plus chase e-mails. It is wearing a little thin.

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    1. Ack! Those types of practices are what kills it for others who "do surveys right."

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  2. Hi Annette,
    The distinction between lifecycle maps and journey maps is an important one and one that many firms miss.

    Do you advocate mapping the two against each other to identify gaps and opportunities and then doing something about these before embarking on a VoC survey programme?

    Adrian

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    1. In order to break things down into bite-sized chunks, I think it's fine to start with a lifecycle map and then identify journeys within each stage that need to be mapped. It puts a little order to what could be chaotic.

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