The Key to Making Your Voice of the Customer Actionable: Part 2

Reg Goeke

I’ve already talked about the importance of choosing the right metric in order to make your voice of the customer actionable in the call center. It should also be obvious that your voice of the customer can only become strategically useful if you take a proactive approach to collecting the data in the call center environment. You need to focus your data collection on those market segments that are strategically important to your business growth—and to that of your call center. This is so you can’t just take a shotgun approach and average the responses across all market segments because that won’t allow you to focus in on what’s most important to any one customer segment.

All it takes is one savvy competitor who understands the specific drivers of quality and value for one of your important market segments, and they will start taking market share away from you within that segment! And you can’t rely solely on customer complaints and questions placed to your call center because those calls are probably coming just from your current customers–not those of your competitors. Growing market share requires not only keeping the customers you already have, but also acquiring customers who are currently doing business with your competitors.

If your call center’s voice of the customer is to be strategically useful, it must tell you not only what’s critical-to-quality and value across the entire segment you’re targeting, but it must also tell you how you are performing relative to your key competitors!

The Competitive Radar Screen

Value consists primarily of the benefits you receive from a particular product or service relative to the price you paid to receive those benefits. In essence, your voice of the customer should be answering the question, "Was it worth it?"

Now, if you ask me that question about the car I drive, the restaurant I eat at, my cell phone service provider or my health insurance policy, I’m likely to respond with another question: "Compared to what?" So, it becomes very clear that, if your voice of the customer is to be useful for any business process, product or service improvements, it must provide information about how the market perceives the value you provide relative to the value they could get from competitive offerings. Enter the Competitive Value Matrix, a second key voice of the customer metric. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

The Competitive Value Matrix serves as a sort of competitive radar screen—it defines the competitive landscape for each of your targeted market segments from a customer point of view. The crosshairs on the matrix represent the average scores for Quality and for Price. In the present case, for example, Competitor A is providing better than average Quality (those are the benefits we were talking about earlier) at a better than average Price evaluation. Since that’s the very definition of outstanding value, Competitor A’s customers are reporting that this particular product or service is definitely "worth it." And, because value is the best available predictor of market share, Competitor A is clearly in a position to make significant market share gains. Strategically, Competitor A will want to extend the value performance gap over his other competitors by leveraging his performance on those benefits that are most critical to quality. More on that in a moment.

XYZ, other the other hand, is regarded by this market segment as a "Poor Value Provider," providing lower than average quality at a low price evaluation. In other words, customers in this segment report that they are paying too much for the level of benefits they receive. The challenge for XYZ is to better understand those quality components, and then to improve its people, processes, and products or services in those areas that will have the greatest impact on the critical-to-quality components.

By the way, will XYZ also have to lower its prices in order to move in a Northeasterly direction? Not necessarily! Because Quality and Price are highly correlated, improvements on the components of Quality will also improve evaluations of the prices charged. As Quality improves, the prices charged will be regarded as more "fair" and more "competitive," resulting in more positive price evaluations.

Improving your Competitive Value Proposition

This proactive approach to Measuring and Analyzing the Voice of the Customer provides the two most important metrics for developing value-based strategies and operational improvements: the Market Value Model and the Competitive Value Matrix. In this example, the Value Model clearly shows that you will get the biggest bang for your investment dollar by focusing on Quality and, specifically, the quality benefits associated with Dealer Service. And the Value Matrix shows your current competitive value proposition—the only one that really matters, because perceptions are the only reality! (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

If you are Company XYZ, you want to know how you are performing on each of the quality factors relative to your competition so that you can leverage specific advantages and remedy specific weaknesses, focusing on those performance gaps that are most important to your targeted market. If your voice of the customer system includes performance ratings (not just satisfaction or agreement ratings), you’ll have that information right at your fingertips. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

Now, if I point out that Dealer Service is the most important component of quality and that you have serious disadvantages relative to three of your competitors, what will you actually change to improve your dealer service? If you included the right level of specificity in your voice of the customer research, you’ll be able to answer that question as well.

This level of analysis tells you that you may be able to leverage some of your strengths regarding your problem-solving ability, but you really need to focus remediation on technical knowledge and the ability of your service personnel to actually complete repairs. This may have implications for specific process improvements, and the training programs necessary to improve the skills of your people.

A recent (albeit non-scientific) poll on our Web site showed that most voice of the customer practitioners feel that they do a pretty good job of collecting and analyzing voice of the customer data, but that their biggest problem is actually making that information actionable. I suspect that the actionability problem is really a function of how the information is collected and analyzed, particularly in the call center. Is your voice of the customer system largely reactive (complaints and the call center) or is it proactive (Web or call center phone surveys)?

Do you analyze the data from different market segments separately, or do you lump it all together? In your call center do you collect data from your customers only, or do you measure the performance of your competitors as well? Are your survey questions at the 50,000 foot level, or do you ask for the kind of detail that will direct your improvement initiatives? (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

Companies that not only want to survive this recession but that want to be poised to grow market share in the months and years ahead will be looking to leverage their voice of the customer into more effective strategies and improvement initiatives in the call center and beyond.