This guest post was written by Nadine Dyer, a seasoned Customer Experience Practitioner. Nadine is passionate about the VoC and helps businesses and educational institutions truly understand the customer. She develops VoC Programmes that make a positive difference to the customer experience and delivers tangible results through a clear Customer Experience Strategy.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes within the B2B environment are different from B2C. In B2B, there are fewer customers who tend to be of higher value. These relationships are usually much more significant and a bit more complicated.
In B2C, a customer can simply go and purchase a service. The customer makes quick, personal decisions. In the B2B arena there are multiple stakeholders at various levels who all have a part and role in the decision making process. It is therefore imperative that B2B marketers have a VoC programme that is effective, delivers ROI and improves their customer experience along the way.
The 5 Steps to Building a Successful B2B VoC Programme
- Start with Executive Buy-In
The first and most important stage in developing your B2B VoC programme is to ensure that you have buy-in from the C-Suite and senior management. Why? Because it will be difficult to implement the changes needed without their support. These key stakeholders need to understand the purpose of VoC and why the organisation needs to engage with customers. It’s important at this stage to set and agree on your objectives and target customers. B2B is very much about people and relationships. Relationships need to be nurtured and understood so that each party fully appreciates the other.Account/contract managers are usually tasked with managing their customer relationships. Asking customers to review the service received in the last 6 or 12 months will tell you what is working well and how you can improve. Has the relationship and service delivery changed? Do they need further services? VoC allows the customer to give their opinions freely, which they may not always give to the account manager.
- Internal Alignment
Once you have secured the buy-in from the C-Suite, the next step is to communicate and engage the rest of the organisation so that everyone is aware of the programme and the part that they need to play. This is the time to get closer to the account managers and establish what the current relationship is with each client. Are they in a bid process? Is the contract coming to an end? Is the client going through any significant changes? Conducting a fact finding exercise and collaborating with account managers will help structure your feedback form and ensure the correct questions are being asked.In addition to understanding your customer statuses’, it’s important that you take into account your organisation’s needs. Is your organisation going through any significant changes? Are you going through a merger or acquisition? Are you restructuring? It’s worth thinking about what changes your organisation is going through and including questions that relate to the customer experience or customer concerns. For example: Have you had adequate information about our merger? Do you have any concerns or questions about how this may impact the service we provide?
- Structuring your Programme
Think about your method of deployment. Will you use an online survey, conduct in-depth face to face interviews or do phone surveys? Who will you partner with to carry out the survey? Will you have face to face in-depth interviews with your key accounts? These are questions that you will have to have answer to, especially when you communicating with the C-Suite. They will want to know the cost, the timeline and internal resources needed. Timing is crucial to a successful response rate. Where possible, try to avoid any interference with other major projects or launching new VoC projects in December or July when many people are on leave. Who will the survey come from? A personalised email from the CEO or MD stands a higher chance of being opened than an email someone unknown to your client. You want to stand out in their inbox.Be sure to bring your internal sales, support and product teams on-board before you launch your programme. These teams will often have strong insights into the types of questions you should ask and the customer profiles you should engage. Additionally, you may need to call on them to address customer issues that arise as part of the feedback process.
Now that you have sign-off from the C-suite and everyone is clear on the objectives and their role within the programme you can launch your programme. Launching your first VoC is rarely as straightforward as you planned so either engage an experienced colleague or a coach, or give yourself a bit of extra time to test everything thoroughly and work out all the kinks.As the VoC programme owner, you must manage and the drive the process. Communicate your progress with the C-suite, account managers and other interested stakeholders. Track who has participated in your programme, and consider what other opportunities there are with these contacts. Re-engage those who have not participated, using a different approach or a more personal engagement. Be sure to note what is and is not working for use in future VoC programmes.
- Taking Action and Closing the Loop
So you have successfully launched and received a response rate that surpassed all expectations. Well done! Now comes the fun part. You are now ready to analyse your results and close the loop.Take the time to analyse the responses. Look at the key feedback trends and search for correlating trends such as customer profile, customer lifecycle stage or products/services used. Note the positive and negative areas, as well as opportunities for growth. When reporting your findings, provide the right metrics and information at the right level of granularity for each audience. Adapting your reports will help each internal stakeholder recognize the value of the VoC programme, and take the actions needed to improve their performance.You will want to close the loop on two levels, externally (to your customers) and internally (with your teams). Externally, be sure to thank each customer for his or her participation and offer the right follow-up support as appropriate. Consider meeting with high-value clients and explaining the actions you will be taking following their feedback as appropriate. Alternatively, considering sharing a “You said, we did” to illustrate that you have taken action. It’s important that customers have this closure, and they will appreciate the effort you are investing into the relationship.Internally, consider the best ways to take action on the feedback you have received. Personally, I often hold workshops with account managers and their teams. These workshops are an ideal venue for developing an action plan that addresses issues raised, and highlighting the things that are going well to be used best practices moving forward. Consider using SMART goals and assigning each goal to an individual to create stronger accountability.Continue to monitor and measure the progress of the action plans. Hopefully your next VoC report will begin to show noticeable improvement.