Strategy and Operations

7 Secrets of “Voice of the Customer” Success in Retail

retail successOver the past few years, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have become an established path for retailers to deliver enhanced customer experiences, engage employees and drive business change. A June 2014 report by Forrester Research, “What Drives Profitable Customer Experiences?”, notes that even the best retailers are missing out on revenue opportunities by failing to deliver the right customer experience – effectively closing the door on $572 million in sales for a large retailer!

Why, then, is every retailer not running a slick and successful VoC program? The answer is simple. It’s very easy to get VoC wrong. Programs created within the vacuum of a single department, or that lack sufficient budget, might deliver insight but not the financial clout to take action.

First, it’s vital to identify the right model for your business and follow it. Ensure that you can define, design and implement your program with clear goals in mind, and then analyze and act on the insight you gather. But what else? What are the secrets to succeeding at each of those stages? As retailers, we need to know the secrets that will unlock our program’s potential and secure its future success.

Build Executive Support

Without support from the top of your company, your program is destined to remain a niche project. Executive buyin means that stakeholders take the program more seriously, that targets must be met, and most critically, that budget is assigned. So how do you get your executives to support you.

Start by identifying an ROI model that works for you, and show them the numbers so you can clearly demonstrate the return that your program can deliver. Then, link your program directly to your key business priorities and demonstrate how your program can deliver success. It is clear that ROI is not only achievable though cost reduction and revenue increases, but can be very significant for retailers that invest in their solutions effectively. An August 2015 Forrester study commissioned by Confirmit entitled “The Total Economic Impact™ Of Confirmit™ for Retail Organizations” found that businesses implementing a Voice of the Customer program with Confirmit stood to achieve a return on investment of up to 365% over a threeyear period.

By boosting Lifetime Customer Value and Average Order Value, you can really impact the bottom line!

Strategize and Plan

With executive support in place, you can now set a clear strategy that links your VoC program with key business priorities, such as those highlighted in the ROI model above. The trick here is maintaining a balance between ambition, given what you’ve demonstrated to your senior team, and losing focus by trying to do too much at once. Ensure that you have a clear strategy, but think carefully about the phasing of your program so you can take one step at a time and make sure you’ve got each step right. Take time to tweak when you need to, before moving on to the next stage.

Get Organized

With senior support and a clear plan of action, the next step is about organization. A VoC program can’t be run by a single person, regardless of the level of executive buy in. You need to build a core team, supported by a steering committee with enough accountability to drive the process forward. This is one of the hallmarks of successful VoC programs, but one that is often overlooked. You also need to ensure that all of the key functions within your organization are aligned with your program. The core team cannot do this alone – even with an exceptional executive sponsor and steering group. VoC programs touch every part of the business, and you need to make sure that each department is represented appropriately.

Lose the Silos

Now it’s time to start driving some real business change. This is where lots of programs fail. But it’s also the point at which you can start delivering real value—not only to your business, but to your customers as well—so it’s a hurdle you need to overcome. But how? A tool at this stage is the customer journey map. This is something you can run as an exercise with a cross-functional group, asking the team to start by mapping the customer journey – reminding them that it’s about more than your stores and website! Once they have identified the broad journey and touchpoints, they can then give their opinion on which touchpoints constitute a Moment of Truth. Then move on to how successful the customer experience is at each touchpoint. This sounds very simple, but as an activity, it can be a real eye opener for internal stakeholders. It gets them thinking about the way the business operates from the customers’ perspective.

Communicate

As with any cross-functional program, communication is critical if you want people to engage with your vision and goals. In theory, this should be easy.

After all, finding out how customers feel about their interactions with your business should be at the core of what you do.

The trick is to communicate what you’re hearing from customers in a way that enables you to celebrate your successes. Internal social networking makes a huge difference, as does identifying the people responsible for delivering great experiences and singing their praises. For retailers with stores scattered across a wide area, it’s useful to have a local representative of the program to share news, as well as ensuring that your reports are live and tailored to each region or store.

Add the Voice of the Employee

Employees, particularly those on the front lines—such as in-store or in your customer service call center—are an incredibly rich resource when it comes to understanding the customer experience. Not only will they tell you things that you might not hear from customers themselves, but they’ll also have insight into which processes cause repeated issues, and be able to offer suggestions as to how to make improvements. Listen to them.

They’re also a captive audience with a vested interest in helping the company succeed. Front line staff are the first to come under fire when customers are unhappy, though in many cases the issue isn’t their fault. So if they can help you pinpoint simple ways to improve the situation, not only will customers be happier, but you’ll have made employees’ lives easier too.

Act Fast and Innovate

When you’re getting it right, and you’ve got some early results—shout them from the rooftops! This is often easy at the beginning of the program, as there are often some relatively simple things that can be done that will make a real impact on the customer experience. That’s why you need to identify what you’re looking to achieve right at the beginning and be clear about your definition of success.

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