I absolutely love to hear businesses talk about their “Voice of the Customer” programs. Whether it’s from incumbents like British Gas or challengers like Atom Bank, it’s heartwarming to hear brands giving their customer an active voice in the company.

But I know, like anyone who’s actually tried to run these initiatives, it’s incredibly hard. Hard to capture customer information, hard to properly listen to that information, and hard to act on that information.

It doesn’t have to be so complex!

 

For everyone out there wanting to make their organisations truly customer-centric by running or considering these programs, I’m offering this to lighten your load:

“You can run a Voice of the Customer program in a way that reduces your overheads in time, effort and cost – and at the same time widens your focus and reduces the risk of insight blind spots.”

This thought occurred to me at the recent Customer Experience and Engagement Conference in Manchester where I spotted two themes in what speakers shared about the first phase of Voice of the Customer: Capturing information from customers:

  1. The intent to capture multiple sources of customer insight is brilliant. But doing this often drifts towards managing multiple suppliers and tech solutions (e.g. capturing structured information via customer panels and capturing unstructured information via customers’ social media). This drift creates overheads in management time, business effort, and operational cost
  2. The intent to capture relevant information on customer ‘pain points’ is brilliant. But doing this often drifts towards a focus on specific parts of customer journeys. (e.g. on-boarding, making a complaint, upgrade). This drift increases risk of the business having insight blind spots.

 

It might seem impossible to simultaneously reduce suppliers and widen your focus. But I believe a mechanism to do just that already exists, it’s just been overlooked.

 

The most effective mechanism to create a “Voice of the Customer” program

 

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, that mechanism is a brand-owned community.

Now, of course, I would say that… but think about communities from a “Voice of the Customer” perspective

Firstly, a brand-owned community is a group of people (customers or potential customers) who share a common interest (your brand, product and services) and who express that interest in discussions with each other (and you) on a platform owned by the brand (i.e. on your website and app).

Establishing a brand-owned community successfully is a subject for another blog, but the important point here is a single supplier can establish and run a community for you.

Secondly, the community is an ongoing ‘always on’ and ‘always open’ entity. Facilitated by an expert Community Manager, it runs 24 hours a day, every day, and customers are encouraged to offer their opinions (their voice) on any aspect of your brand, products and service.

These factors are what make the relationships formed between customers and company via these communities so rich, varied and enduring – and therefore so full of the insight that “Voice of the Customer” programs prize.

Insight can be derived in both structured form (e.g. formal consultations on product development) and unstructured form (e.g. spontaneously offered ideas).

This is the role of a brand owned community!

 

“Voice of the Customer” is actually a perfect summary of the role of a brand owned community within a customer-centric business. In my three years at giffgaff not a single day went by without me hearing either “What is the community saying?” or “What would the community say?” as we made our decisions on all aspects of the business.

More recently, the brand owned communities we manage for Airbnb include a feature called “Host Voice”. In August 2017, a highly engaged member of this community was selected by Airbnb as part of a global initiative, flown to San Francisco, and attended a full board meeting. If that’s not “Voice of the Customer” in action I don’t know what is!

 

A “voice of the customer” community

 

So if you’re running a Voice of the Customer program, or contemplating one – good on you! And I’m going to step up here and say for your own sake, based on my experience; consider making a brand owned community the main solution for your project.

 

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robbie Hearn

Robbie Hearn

Founder

Robbie lives and breathes customer experience. A calm business and community integrator, he unlocks the potential of customers by weaving them into processes of each company