Organizations that seek to leverage Voice of Customer (“VoC”) for a better customer experience often face a paradox — striving for company-wide ownership can diminish accountability as teams continue working toward their individual KPIs. Still, without whole-company ownership, meaningful action is rarely taken. Our panelists, Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian, VP Member Experience at Wild Alaskan, Rossana Parrotta, Customer Success Executive at Cisco, and James Varughese, Senior CX Specialist at Intuit, offered valuable insight on taking individual ownership of the customer voice, inspiring cross-functional ownership, and tailoring your approach to VoC to meet you where you are.
Here Are Three Top Takeaways From the Discussion
1. Identify Listening Posts That Fit Your Vantage Point
Every function that impacts customer relationships needs to tailor their view of the customer voice to their vantage point, whether that’s per product, segment, or customer, to improve their own KPIs. Our panelists each shared an overview of their Voice of Customer “stack” or the listening posts that support their success.
Rossana owns some of Cisco’s largest enterprise customer relationships and her vantage point per customer. For every customer, Rossana needs a 360-degree view of every dynamic that drives or impedes success in those relationships. Of course, Rossana’s regular live communications with customer stakeholders are her most critical listening post. However, especially since these relationships bring vast numbers of end-users, she highlighted support tickets as an integral source of insight that helps her ensure success by contributing to critical metrics like an internal customer health index and customer sentiment.
“My relationship with my Support team is incredibly important. If we see consistent issues across these interactions, we typically need to think about what we can do to smooth enablement and adoption to address the issue. Sometimes it’s a different kind of one-off ticket that gets my attention that makes me want to lean in more, sit down with the Support professional and get more context.”
James is charged with improving the support and product experience for Intuit’s QuickBooks Payments thousands of customers, giving him a mostly per-product vantage point on Intuit’s customer voice. James works to make data-driven, actionable recommendations to the teams he collaborates with, including Care, Product, Engineering, Content and Marketing, and Community and Social. Searchable Care call recording transcripts, free-form text and feedback surveys, and in-product analytics represent James’ most valuable data sources. Together, these sources help him understand drivers of customer contact volume and streamline issue resolution processes. James also layers on firmographic data that adds essential context about the sources of feedback, such as what kind of businesses they are and their business relationship with Intuit. “I’m constantly evaluating how I can make the greatest impact on customer experience with the information that I have. If I present the data that says, ‘if we do this, it will make our customers’ lives better, we’ll have better retention and more product usage, that’s a high five.” This approach also enables James to deepen Intuit’s customer relationships, improving important additional metrics he’s responsible for, such as charge volume and transaction count.
At Wild Alaskan, Zach’s vantage point spans the end-to-end member experience. With the ultimate goal of correlating specific types of issues and questions with future behaviors, Zach leverages information customers volunteer about their experience in Intercom conversations. Marrying Intercom conversations with other anecdotal feedback helps Zach continuously improve the ratio of inbound conversations to memberships, a key metric for his team. Zach emphasized the importance of standardizing ways to track your data and implementing workflows around it — he leverages a proprietary e-commerce system that complements that insight they get from Intercom. “If you’re in e-commerce, you know you’re going to have shipping delays. If you’re in cloud hosting, you know you’re going to have performance issues. Figure out how to track issues that you anticipate and communicate that back to stakeholders.”
2. Sharing Ownership Depends on Translating the Why
We opened the discussion with a handful of common scenarios where a thorough understanding of the customers’ why is the key to successful navigation. Without understanding why customers give certain feedback or make certain requests, many CX leaders get stuck in a reactive mode that shrouds the right set of next steps and how to prioritize them, whether they face customers directly or indirectly.
For James, a critical element of why is identifying where customers are in their experience with the product. “We may have an experienced bookkeeper who is reaching out and needs help with a new feature, or a florist who is in their third month of business and is reconciling their books for the first time,” said James. Another consideration is that “feedback doesn’t live in a vacuum—customers are likely to use multiple products at once,” which is why it’s critical to have a unified view of your customer voice. What else goes into James’ accounting of why?
“It’s so easy to get lost in the data. Before you go into the forest, you need to know how you will find your way out. Because I spend a lot of time analyzing text feedback, I start with data cleansing. I weed out the ‘no-feedback’ or customers that seem to be mostly venting to revisit later. Then, I cluster the meaningful feedback into major categories that can represent aspects of our process or policies.”
James’ well-defined process is crucial in advancing an observation to a hypothesis, and ultimately to an actionable recommendation.
While much of James’ focus is defining why, Rossana uses a clearly defined per-customer why as a north star to prioritize and orchestrate resources. In response to a potential scenario where a customer asks for an unprecedented integration, Rossana emphasized the need to pinpoint which of the customer’s business initiatives would benefit and how.
“Without that context, it’s hard to paint a picture of what success looks like. Once the desired impact is clear, I work with our architects and engineers to analyze whether there’s an appropriate untapped Cisco solution or whether we need to bring in a third-party solution. Once I’m confident in the best set of potential paths forward, I can productively engage our expansive services delivery team, and then relay back to my customer stakeholders any risks they need to be aware of before moving forward.”
Rossana added that she often conducts “look-aheads,” where she proactively looks to upcoming renewal dates and ensures that each customer’s why is still firmly reflected in the short and long-term set of initiatives she is executing.
A critical next step in synthesizing customers’ why is aligning that with the business’ why, especially for young, fast-growing businesses.
At Wild Alaskan, Zach said, “we look cross-functionally and ask, ’where do we want to be long-term?’ We’ve decided against a number of short-term solutions that could help us grow. This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to try new things, but in the long-term, we believe that our focus on a membership model, for example, will best serve us and the movement toward sustainable food.”
3. Tailor Your VoC Approach To Meet You Where You Are
Many dynamics should shape the structure of your VoC approach, from your industry to your organizational structure, to any prior experience with VoC, and your organization’s specific goals. Our panelists offered insight about how to tailor VoC efforts to meet you and your organization where you are.
If you’re just getting started with Voice of Customer…
Zach advised CX professionals who may be overwhelmed by the idea of leveraging their customer voice to smart small.
“Focus on what your team can do right now. You can always iterate on language in your help articles. Review conversations and see what you can make better and tackle it. Over a year, you might cycle through your top priorities two or three times, some processes might get touched once, but if you’re continuously improving, you can share your results and lower the bar for asking for help.”
James added that when organizations who are new to VoC face resistance from peer teams about executing on VoC-driven priorities, instead of crying wolf, it’s important to focus on the longer-term impact of ignoring feedback. “It’s not necessarily about what’s happening now, but here’s how this can manifest down the road and how we can get ahead of it.”
If you’re B2B or B2C….
Zach drew on experience in his current role at Wild Alaskan, B2C, and past role at Digitalocean, B2B, to identify significant differences in VoC at B2C vs. B2B companies.
“In the B2B context, we did some paid support and shared Slack channels with customers, which is a super-effective way to meet B2B customers where they are. The big difference is that in B2B, you get 1:1 feedback from your really large customers who push the envelope on your product development. Still, you also need to set up a way to listen to thousands of other customers at once, understand how their feedback fits in with your mission, and consider how to deliver on that in a way that scales effectively. That’s the difference — the 1:1 vs. the mass, and how that influences your product development, and how you justify it.”
If your focus is expansion…
Zach highlighted a challenge that businesses that scale with their customers’ growth often face.
“When your growth depends on your customers’ growth, for example, you can’t artificially manufacture demand. What you can do is listen and look for signals that will help you make sure you’re there when your customer is ready. Are they adding users? Are they suddenly more active at different times of the day?”
Depending on who you partner with most cross-functionally…
Rossana identified her partnership with Sales as another critical input to her understanding of customers’ voice. “My relationship with Sales is extremely important. Customer Success comes in early in the sales process so that we understand why a customer is buying something so that we can start articulating what outcomes they can expect once we’re through implementation and design.”
Thank you to Zach, Rossana, and James for a great discussion full of tactical advice on successfully sharing customer voice ownership. Check out the full recording below for more, and get on the list to make sure you don’t miss the next one!