Your Voice of the Customer Sherpa
Perhaps it was a mandate from the C-suite, pressure from the competition, or a natural next step on your organization’s customer experience journey, but you are developing a closed-loop customer feedback program and need to figure out the critical success factors.
One of the first steps will be to identify a person to manage your Voice of the Customer (VOC) program. This is the person who will oversee the program day to day, managing everything including survey design, identifying rules for who receives surveys (and when), taking action on real-time data, and identifying action plans based on trends in the feedback. You need to find a person who can guide the organization on its VOC journey – generating interest, even passion, in the customer’s plight. This is a vital role and selecting the right person can be made easier if you know what you’re looking for.
At PeopleMetrics, we know what a great VOC program manager looks like. Our clients have found key people within their organizations who possess the skills necessary to take the VOC program to the next level – that is, to bring it the attention it needs within the organization, garnering support and buy-in from influential employees from the top down to ensure that the customer experience remains a priority.\
The 5 Characteristics of an Amazingly Successful VOC Program Manager
A successful VOC program manager always has the customer at the forefront. They are the perpetual champion of the customer, walking in their shoes and considering the impact on the customer of any and all decisions. This person has the relationships necessary to sit in with a variety of internal groups (e.g., product development, marketing, etc.) to ensure that the customer has a “seat” at the table when decisions are being made. Which leads to the second characteristic...
2) A solid relationship builder
Running a VOC program means balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders – executives, the person paying for the program, the people who want to see the data, etc. The VOC program manager needs to make sure that needs are being met while managing expectations. A VOC program is not everything to everyone. The program manager needs to help communicate what it is and what it is not, and use his or her political capital to influence all parties involved to buy in to the program’s design
3) A strategic thinker
There are a lot of moving parts in a VOC program. Managing a closed-loop customer feedback program requires excellent project management, delegation, and critical thinking. But an aptitude for strategic thinking becomes increasingly important as the organization’s focus on customer experience expands. Identifying ways to leverage customer feedback and tie it to key business metrics will be essential to developing the program and keeping it front-and-center among executives. Thinking of ways to improve the value that the program delivers will do the same.
4) A bias for action (even if it’s not perfect)
VOC programs often yield unwieldy amounts of data – all meaningless if nothing is done with it. A successful VOC program manager will have a keen eye for identifying the best actions to take (short-term and long-term) to best serve customer interests and fix the most pressing pain points. He or she will seek out the experiences most in need of fixing and use the data to inform corrective action.
But a word of caution: too much action can be a bad thing. People in an organization can’t focus on multiple initiatives at once. That’s why it’s important for the VOC program manager to direct action to just one improvement area at a time, generating focused interest until it’s time to move on to the next thing. Having a bias for action also means having a willingness to take steps in the right direction, even if the full roadmap isn’t completely visible. The most successful VOC program managers live by the motto “progress not perfection”. The approach can be tweaked over time. What matters is that customers see their feedback being acted upon.
5) A focus on simplicity
VOC programs can get put to the wayside if they become too burdensome or too complicated. To maintain the interest of customers, surveys must be short and relevant. To maintain the interest of employees, data must be easy to understand and action. And for leaders, the program must be relatively self-sufficient, requiring little of their time and input and revealing key metrics in simple, easy to digest packets.
The best VOC program managers are the ones who can be comfortable with the true nature of VOC feedback – that it’s not always perfectly scientific and it’s not necessarily a solution for every customer-related problem, but it should be a simple, fast, effective way to hear what your customers have to say and to drive momentum and customer-centric thinking throughout the organization.
So Where Do I Find This Person?
The VOC program manager is unlikely to be an external hire. Ideally, the person managing your VOC program is someone who knows your business – and most importantly, your customers – really well. He or she will likely have been with your organization long enough to develop cross-functional relationships and gain a strong understanding of internal processes. But a successful VOC manager can come from any department and have any background. Because ultimately, the most important characteristic of a successful VOC program manager is a passion for improving the customer experience.