We spend a lot of time discussing the customer journey and the impact it has on the type of marketing assets a brand must create to communicate the value and benefits of an organization, product or service at just the right time along the “path to transaction”. One of the key components of this process is the research and analysis of the customer’s feelings towards both the brand and the “engagement steps” they must walk through. With most businesses planning to increase customer management spend, marketing departments must begin openly talking about the role of gathering feedback and insights from the customer to best understand how the customer context as part of the planning for the future state of the customer experience.
In the last seven years, the voice of the customer has gotten louder – much louder. From social media platforms to business rating websites, the customer now has an outlet to share the good, the bad and the ugly experiences they may have with your brand. The obvious impact these can have on a business are somewhat startling and are not to be overlooked. However, in many cases, these only touch on surface issues such as customer care, transaction experience and “product promise” issues. Albeit important, these are rarely actionable feedback of a representative nature, but a starting point nonetheless.
In order to truly understand the depth and breadth of these concerns, organizations must take an active role in documenting the concerns raised in these channels and then develop research, surveys and feedback sessions that will dig deeper into the pain points of the customer experience. Marketing and sales leaders must define ways to both listen to customers and act on customer feedback with the objective of gaining a competitive advantage and increasing their market share. Beginning the process with these two objectives will help focus the conversations as constructive versus “gripe sessions” that ultimately have limited value in helping optimize the path to transaction.
There are a number of methods for creating multichannel and comprehensive voice-of-the-customer programs. The goal should be to combine feedback from multiple sources to ensure that the initiatives reaches the specific audiences in the way that fits best with the customer’s lifestyle, persona and preferred communication. These can include a post-customer support call, outbound survey call, email or web form call to action, or SMS text messaging programs. The key is to know what you are asking and “why” it matters. Some of the ways this information can help are the following:
- Gain deeper insights to loyalty and retention barriers.Often, these are part of several issues linked in some way but not obvious from one data point of feedback. Remember that by reducing your customer defection rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25 to 125%.
- Reduce the costs of initial customer support and long-term relationship management expenses. These areoften coupled with quality assurance, upsell and cross sell opportunity loss, and sales cycle lag time for renewal of services. Each of these has an impact on revenue and should be quantified.
- Improve self-serve resources or sales support collateral. These communication assets must specifically address second and third tier decision criteria that often is not discussed as part of the “initial decision set” during the sales process.
- Optimize your marketing messaging and assets. Content marketing, videos, webinars, cut sheets, etc. should be based on a clear understanding of which components have the greatest influence on customers’ emotional resonance and continuance along the customer journey.
If 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, then the better you understand the expectations of the customer, the better you can serve their needs. Listening to the “Voice of the Customer” should be the first step in an organization’s continual pursuit of marketing to sales alignment. The next step is translating what is heard into the measurable and actionable changes an organization must make to achieve the integration of personas, experiences and communications the customer needs along their journey with your brand – and not just a “hyperbole-point” presentation that is a bridge to nowhere.
When marketing feels overwhelming, remember you could be in sales.