As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations significantly.
Leaders face a significant challenge in meeting the various demands of keeping their organizations afloat. The tendency can be to focus on delivering products and services to meet shareholders' expectations. A typical exercise in many companies is to put intense energy into meeting the monthly and quarterly sales targets in the last days of the time frame of concern. There is little time to listen to the needs of their consumers, given the significant pressure to make the numbers. Intelligent leaders understand the need to listen to their customers.
Whoever understands the customer best, wins. – Mike Gospe
If we agree with the advice of Gospe, the company should adopt an approach to help understand its customers. The lean operations approach is listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC), which allows the organization to incorporate consumer feedback into the customer support, marketing, and sales processes. The VoC is a process that collects customer feedback about their overall consumer products and services experiences and analyzes the data for useable insight to improve customer preferences and eliminate problems and complaints.
A formal program is essential to capture the customer's preferences and then act to improve or eliminate issues of concern. Leadership should develop a structured VoC program with appropriate dedicated resources and processes. Best practices of an effective VoC program include:
• Set clear objectives – Determine the specific goals the organization wants to achieve and how to measure success.
• Employee training – Before implementing the VoC program, the organization must provide education regarding handling complaints empathetically with strong listening skills that allow for collecting critical customer feedback and working and responding appropriately throughout the VoC process.
• Involve cross-functional teams – Members of the group with VoC responsibility should come from customer service, engineering, marketing, production, sales, project management, quality, and other relevant disciplines.
• Use multiple feedback channels – The customer preference for sharing feedback should allow for various options: customer service interactions, focus groups, interviews, online reviews, and social media posts.
• Root cause analysis – Those who address customer concerns should use the 5 Whys approach to determine the underlying issues to ensure that the chosen improvement initiatives will reduce or eliminate the problem.
• Collect comprehensive data – There should be mechanisms to collect quantitative ratings and scores and qualitative data from comments and open-ended questions to resolve the root causes.
• Segment and prioritize the feedback – The data from various types of customers are broken into logical divisions to analyze patterns and trends to guide business objectives while first meeting the needs of its most important clients.
• Act on the feedback – The data will support developing and implementing a set of necessary initiatives to address customer concerns that meet or exceed their expectations.
• Encourage employee feedback – Throughout the process, to address VoC concerns, the team should encourage and collect feedback from the workforce, most closely addressing the customer's needs.
• Use technology – The process can incorporate analytics and software to streamline the collection, analysis, and reporting of VoC data.
• Close the feedback loop – The company will commit to providing ongoing updates to its customers to let them know the improvement plans to address their concerns and the results of the implementations.
• Educate the customer – The organization should provide clear instructions on their opportunity to provide constructive feedback to the company regarding their product and service concerns and what to expect during resolution.
• Iterate and improve – The Plan, Check, Do, Act (PDCA) cycle should guide the continual enhancement of the VoC program.
• Stay ethical and respectful – Throughout the VoC process, the company must be honest and virtuous in gracious customer interactions with guidelines for ensuring data protection and security of private information.
An efficient and effective VoC program should have robust support from organizational leadership. Monitoring customer feedback should be a regular agenda item given proper attention throughout the year. Additionally, integrating a strong emphasis on resolving customer concerns provides information to enhance customer loyalty, improve product and service development, and develop a stronger market position.
Leaders face a significant challenge in meeting the various demands of keeping their organizations afloat. However, intelligent leaders understand prioritizing a thorough understanding of the needs of their customers. The lean operations approach is listening to the Voice of the Customer, which allows the organization to incorporate consumer feedback into the customer support, marketing, and sales processes.
A recurring theme of the first step is to do a current state assessment of the existing process against the content in the article. Then, use the data to drive an improvement initiative to create a robust VoC program incorporating the best practices.
I wish I could share my gratitude for an organization that uses VoC. As I reflect on many experiences as a customer, no example comes to mind as a stellar example. Telling me there is a substantial opportunity for companies to adopt a VoC approach to reach a more competitive market position.
Next week's blog will shift to the essential element of a commitment to employees, which is integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
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