The number of companies adopting formal "voice-of-customer" programs is on the rise. One reason - the countless websites now available where anyone can post opinions or reviews has tipped the balance of power in favor of customers. Let's face it - customers have much more influence than they used to and this has led many organizations to review how they incorporate customer feedback into their decision-making.
However, delivering a level of service that consistently meets or, better yet, exceeds expectations isn't easy. It involves creating a corporate culture in which business leaders embrace customer feedback and continuous improvement efforts. Employees need to understand how their actions impact the customer experience and it's up to business leaders to supply them with the guidance and knowledge to help them make the right decisions.
When designed and deployed properly, customer feedback programs provide the valuable insight needed to truly influence change in your organization and improve the overall customer experience. This "outside-in" perspective has been talked about for decades but now, more than ever, companies large and small are taking notice.
Customer Advisory Boards - A Unique Opportunity to Listen
Engage in Meaningful Conversations with your Customers
Gathering customer feedback can be accomplished in many different ways. With the plethora of online tools now available, customer surveys are fairly ubiquitous. Text mining technology to engage with customers in the social media realm is becoming more popular, particularly for consumer-oriented businesses. Although somewhat less common, one-on-one interviews can uncover valuable insights, which typically can't be captured online. However, among all the tools and techniques available, none offer the type of unscripted and unfiltered feedback a Customer Advisory Board program can.
A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a small group of carefully selected customers who meet with senior management, typically twice a year, to share opinions and insights on a range of issues aimed at enhancing the customer experience. The primary mission of the CAB is to facilitate open communication and increase collaboration between company management and key customers. Benefits for the company include:
- Receiving extensive input on strategy, direction, positioning and the competitive landscape
- Gathering candid feedback on customer frustrations and pain points that may weigh on satisfaction
- Improving and fostering long-term partnerships with important customers
Customers also benefit because their input is used to influence key business decisions so the company can serve them better.
We recently had the opportunity to design a Customer Advisory Board program for one of our California-based clients. Much consideration was given to several important success drivers, including which customers should be invited to join the CAB, the meeting agenda and the event logistics. The careful planning paid off as the first meeting proved extremely beneficial for the company. Top business leaders spent two days with representatives from 16 customers in both social settings and a formal meeting environment. They listened attentively as customers shared unfiltered feedback on the company's products, services and long-term strategy. The input was sometimes complementary, sometimes constructive but always illuminating.
Initial feedback from customers after the event suggests they viewed the meeting as a valuable use of their time and are very likely to attend the next meeting. While the willingness of busy executives to spend time away from work is a meaningful indicator, it's way too early to characterize the program as a success. In fact, much of the heavy lifting doesn't begin until after the meeting ends. Customers will rightfully expect to see how the input they provided will influence their experience with the company. This is where organizations truly committed to "voice of customer" driven change stand apart from the rest. It is critically important that the company have a well-defined process to act on the feedback from the meeting and regularly communicate with the Customer Advisory Board to keep them apprised of the actions undertaken.
A Customer Advisory Board offers a unique opportunity to tap directly into the opinions, perceptions and sentiment of your important customers. The customers involved in the process will appreciate the opportunity to engage with top executives in your organization and influence change that proves beneficial for all customers. While a significant commitment is required, the trust and confidence established when a customer recognizes their voice is being heard will create true advocates for your business and the payoff can be substantial.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of Customer Advisory Boards please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Linking Employee Satisfaction to Customer Loyalty |
Happy Employees Can Help Drive Profitability
Achieving true customer centricity requires participation from employees across the organization. Customer interactions don't occur just with customer service personnel. "Touch points" take place throughout the customer lifecycle and likely involve staff in nearly every department. It may be someone in your finance department answering a question about an invoice, a salesperson discussing a contract renewal, your event planner confirming details for the annual customer event or a product marketing employee delivering technical specifications for the latest release of your software. This is why any company seeking to differentiate itself by offering a superior customer experience should engage all employees in the effort.
A well-known Harvard Business Review article entitled "Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work" described the relationship (or "links in the chain") between employee loyalty and customer loyalty. A simplified version of what the researchers found - employee satisfaction rises when you equip employees with the skills and power to serve customers. Employee satisfaction in turn raises employee productivity and higher productivity means greater service value for customers. This increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, which stimulates profitability.
It stands to reason that a happy employee is more likely to go the extra mile to service a customer. If they feel appreciated and empowered, they will probably be more pleasant to deal with and show a greater willingness to ensure every customer interaction is handled in accordance with the high standards you expect. It has also been well documented that dissatisfied employees are less productive and contribute to higher employee turnover in a company (check out my recent Twitter post on creating "happy worker bees").
Fast-forward to today and there are a number of companies that live and breathe these concepts. Southwest and Zappos are two that immediately come to mind. What can leaders of smaller organizations do to promote employee loyalty?
- Show a willingness and ability to listen to employees. Engage with them often, ask for feedback and suggestions on how to improve both the work environment and the customer experience. Make it safe for employees to talk about workplace dissatisfiers.
- Set clear expectations and hold employees accountable to a high standard of service. Reinforce to all employees how they contribute to satisfying customers, and thus generating profits.
- Recognize success, both on a company and individual employee level. When an employee does something extraordinary, use it as an opportunity to celebrate achievement.
- Understand factors that contribute to employee turnover. Uncover the root cause of employee frustrations so they can be quickly addressed.
- Provide ongoing coaching, training and education so employees have the tools to make decisions that are beneficial for the company and each individual customer.
- Use metrics to measure and track employee satisfaction and retention, including employee surveys and exit interviews.
- Finally, communicate effectively and keep your employees 'in the loop' when you implement any changes that stem from their feedback.
The linkage between employee loyalty and financial performance is proven and strong. Investing in employees provides companies with another opportunity to gain competitive advantage.
|Satrix Solutions Update |
Summer has officially started and the temperatures in Scottsdale, Arizona have now topped the 100-degree mark. Just like the weather, Satrix Solutions' mercury is also rising!
A lot of positive changes are taking place at Satrix Solutions. We've signed several new clients since our last update and expanded relationships with a few existing clients as well.
Satrix Solutions has also signed a partnership with SoDA, Society of Digital Agencies, to serve as the exclusive advisor on client satisfaction and feedback programs for SoDA members. We will be heading to Las Vegas in August to discuss the benefits of our services with SoDA's 50+ member agencies and highlight how Satrix Solutions can help them leverage these programs to drive improvements in financial performance. We are very excited to partner with such a well-respected organization and increase our presence in this fast growing and dynamic industry.
Additionally, I'm thrilled to announce that Heather Timney has recently joined our team as the Manager of Marketing & Public Relations. She comes to Satrix Solutions with over six years of marketing experience and she and I will be working together to communicate our capabilities, our successes and our value proposition to the marketplace.
We are also looking to add an Account Manager to our growing team. In this newly created position, the Account Manager will, among other things, be analyzing data across our universe of clients and look for insights and key learnings that will help inform our recommendations going forward.
Thank you for your continued support. If you have any questions about our customer feedback programs please do not hesitate to contact me.
Founder & President
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Exceptional service is a significant differentiator and research shows customers are willing to pay more for it: http://t.co/eYgdRvE
Good article listing some of the critical components of a successful "voice-of-customer" program. http://bit.ly/kj5WJx
Great advice for executives on creating a customer-centric culture: http://onforb.es/kxbTI6
What our clients are saying about us:
"Satrix Solutions provides us with a direct link to both existing and potential clients. The input and recommendations we receive from them enables us to adapt quickly and our positioning and value proposition are clearly resonating in the market."
"Thanks to Satrix Solutions' guidance and recommendations, our survey response rates jumped from the low 20s to the high 70s and our Net Promoter Score increased from +11 percent to +31 percent."
"Satrix Solutions provides us with greater visibility into the sentiment of our clients and helps us prioritize action items so we can maximize advocacy."
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