Most project managers think they know what their stakeholders want, but more often than not they are either partially correct or incomplete. Either scenario results in a cascading effect that degrades product R&D, marketing communications, service delivery and customer experience objectives.
Often used in business, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have become a strategic asset for the most forward thinking and customer-centric project managers, particularly in cases where there are indirect customers such as infrastructure projects where the project sponsor is a government body but the customers comprise the general public. These programs improve customer dialogue and tabulate what stakeholders most want from the project.
Here are some aspects to consider.
1. Assess your culture
Most project managers are project-centric, not customer-centric. To achieve VoC success, the organisation must be customer-centric or be on a journey to become customer-centric. If your organisation isn’t yet there, defer any VoC effort, consider why and how to adopt a customer experience strategy, and revert to some simple survey analysis tools in the interim.
2. Assign a champion
All IT and strategic business initiatives require executive sponsorship. Additionally, a designated resource must be tasked to design the VoC methods, data schema and use cases. Because customer data resides in multiple systems, a business analyst with cross-departmental relationships may be an ideal resource.
3. Set measurable objectives
For most projects, VoC will seek to capture, categorise and prioritise stakeholder expectations and preferences so the organisation can orchestrate the right mix of culture, people, processes and technology in a coordinated effort to consistently satisfy customers.
In addition to prioritising customer preferences, I have found it very helpful to organise preferences in a hierarchy with related preferences linked together. This will facilitate your use cases in a way that achieving one customer preference will add value or jump start others.
4. Design business processes
VoC can be done manually or with technology, using inbound or outbound methods. Manual methods often include focus groups, customer interviews or reference programs. However, while these methods deliver qualitative analysis, they don’t scale well. You’ll need to leverage technology to achieve VoC automation in a way that continuously gathers customer input and dynamically stages that feedback so it can be easily analysed and acted upon.
5. Engage your customers
Whatever engagement method you use, a key success factor is to probe using open-ended questions designed to understand the customer’s vision, objectives, partnership preferences, frustrations and measures of success. Also consider all stakeholder touch points (correspondence, media and social media comments, user group interactions) and how they can contribute to a holistic view.
Gaining an accurate, complete and continuous Voice of the Customer is clearly one of those assets that separate strategic customer strategies from tactics and will dramatically influence the project’s ability to achieve its most important objectives.
When you really know what your stakeholders want, you can design project strategy, craft messaging and offer solutions that truly resonate with customers and thereby provide a significant uplift in marketing effectiveness and satisfied customers, and ultimately project success.
With Adeline Teoh