Monday, February 9, 2009

Understanding the Voice of the Customer

I’ve always been a proponent of customer advocacy, promoting best practices, and applying proven methodologies and frameworks to meet business needs, deliver on customer requirements and manage their expectations.  However, before all of these can come into play, it is a MUST to understand the voice of the customer.

Understanding the voice of the customer requires fact-based foundation and knowing what to closely pay attention to as they express their needs and expectations based on their experiences on a product and/or service delivered to them.  As managers, we need to be able to translate these “customer voices” into actionable terms.  Once the translation is complete, it may also be necessary to review our company’s focus.  What do I mean by this?  Some companies focus on releasing products and are more concern about time to market but with the current state of our economy, we may need to change our “product-out” mentality to “market in” mentality and at the very least, keeping existing customers happy.

Fact-based foundation requires data gathering.  The collected factual data can be turned into useful information that can be used as a decision-making tool.  Sometimes, to beat the competition, we need to have that “edge” by understanding the voice of the customer and focusing on great service instead of just selling products and/or services.  In my opinion, it’s equally important to make service central to a business strategy especially for product companies.  This not only builds and strengthens customer relationship but can be extended to go beyond the initial sale.  Earn an excellent reputation not only for producing great products but also providing excellent service.

To boost revenue especially in our current economic climate,  targeting customer goals and understanding what they value is key. Get customers involved and allow them to influence every aspect of the business as this can serve as the core foundation of your organization’s success.  Think about it.  What is the point of having all the bells and whistles if it’s not what your customers want?  Right?  :)

We live in a very competitive market place and this alone should be more than enough for us to think about creative ways on how we can be flexible in accommodating or fulfilling customer requirements to the quality they expect and the time frame they need it by.  How do you do this?  Listen to your customers and build long-term relationship with them through partnership and commit to delivering excellence in every transaction or every opportunity to serve them.

Understanding the voice of the customer will help your business maintain the “edge” and focus required to make effective and sound business decisions and harness the power and commitment your company needs to weather turbulent times. Partnering with customers represents a company’s ability to anticipate what customer needs even prior to them requesting for it.

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