Here is some great advice from Strategic Partner, Diane Janovsky, as she strongly states, LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS! Enjoy this week’s Power Idea. 

When a business first starts up and customers are few, maintaining relationships is fairly easy. Listening to and taking good care of the clients who generate those precious sales dollars is frequently the personal responsibility of the owner. However, as a business grows and adds not only more and more customers, but also more and more employees, there is a tendency to lose touch with customers. The flurry of activity that comes with growth shifts the focus to the internal operations of the business where processes need to be created, people need to be hired and new products and services need to be developed. The risk is that business leaders become disconnected from their client base. They wake up one day to find that previously loyal customers are leaving in droves and they don’t know why. It’s highly likely that they have not stayed in tune with the “Voice of the Customer.”

What is the Voice of the Customer? It is a holistic approach that captures the needs, preferences and experiences of customers and translates them into plans and actions that help retain current customers and attract new ones – in order to grow the top line.

The most common method for listening to the Voice of the Customer is surveys. Technology enables this process, but it’s important to start with an understanding of the various types of surveys. Having a clear strategy in place will yield higher response rates and more valuable feedback.

There are three types of surveys: Transactional, Relationship and Strategic.

Transactional surveys are launched as soon as possible after a specific event; for example, booking a hotel room, making a purchase online or speaking to technical support. These surveys should include the details of the interaction and should be short – one to four questions. This type of timely and ongoing feedback enables businesses to remediate problems and provides a real-time pulse on customer perceptions.

Relationship surveys are focused on overall satisfaction and should be conducted at a regular frequency (quarterly, semi-annually, annually). They are typically longer – ten to twelve questions – and will address multiple functions across the whole organization. These surveys help leadership generally identify what is working and what is not working so that areas of improvement can be targeted and prioritized.

Strategic surveys are conducted with a sub-set of customers deemed to be critical for understanding future requirements and helping to guide the direction of the company. These surveys are usually conducted in person or by telephone and are more conversational in nature.

In addition to surveys, a number of other sources can be used to complete the picture:

  • Social media
  • Recorded phone calls
  • Call center wait times
  • Operational metrics such as on-time delivery, quality levels, product returns, etc.

The information from all of these sources must be aggregated and analyzed and then turned into prioritized action plans with clear accountability for execution and results. Key success factors include committed and motivated leadership, as well as an organization culture that defines, recognizes and rewards delivering a great customer experience.

Management guru Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” The way to do that is to continually listen to customers and act on their inputs via a Voice of the Customer process.