The COVID crisis has forced many organizations to operate reactionally since early this year. And while the crisis is by no means over, it has become the new normal in some ways. Which means it’s time to pause, take a breath, and make the transition from reactive to proactive thinking.
Last week, we talked about updated SWOT analyses for you and your customers—understanding how COVID has presented external opportunities and threats, and using those as a lens to examine strengths and weaknesses within yours and your customers’ organizations.
This week, we’re tackling Voice of Customer in the time of COVID—specifically, how to check in with your clients to make sure you understand how the crisis is impacting them, and what you can do to help them weather the storm. (Because remember, if they do, you do, too.)
Voice of Customer Refresher
Voice of Customer (VOC) is a term that describes your customer’s feedback about their experiences with and expectations for your products or services. It focuses on customer needs, expectations, understandings, and product improvement.
At the end of the day, it’s a fancy way of saying you need to check in with your customers to make sure the relationship is meeting their needs and expectations. The very act of asking can promote customer engagement— and listening and following through/delivering on the needs you uncover is where you really seal the deal.
Voice of Customer interviews can be conducted in one of 2 main ways: A survey or a face-to-face interview. Each has their place. A well-designed survey can take 5-10 minutes of a customer’s day and answer a lot of quick questions. Surveys can be a good way to collect similar information from several customers, generating quantitative trends across a whole portfolio of business. They can even be a good way to prepare for an interview, getting some logistical questions out of the way so you have the information you need to dive deep into more qualitative, nuanced questions.
Face-to-face interviews—whether as focus groups or 1:1 meetings—are the best way to answer questions that aren’t easily answered in multiple choice or yes/no formats. They bring a personal touch and demonstrate a high level of commitment on your part. They also present the chance to read between the lines—to see where a client hesitates or lights up, nods their head or loses interest. And in the time of COVID, we think interviews are the way to go. Zoom fatigue aside, people are missing social connections, and this is a great way to get face time the best way we can right now.
COVID: VOC Questions
1) How are you doing?
We hope this is obvious, but it’s important to start by understanding the way the pandemic itself has affected your customers on a personal level. Some people are fine—their jobs are secure, their families are safe. Some people are facing real economic or personal uncertainty; others are parenting 2 small children without childcare while still trying to keep up with work. Still others have been ill themselves, or have, worst case, lost family members. It’s been a hard year for everyone and it’s important to understand the mental space your customers are in before you dive straight into business talk.
Understanding how COVID affects your clients personally is important because (a) your customers are human beings, not just walking revenue potential, and (b) you don’t want to barrel in like a bull in a china shop, acting tone deaf and trying to push, say, additional business risk on a person who doesn’t even feel like they can safely go to the grocery store. Pause and listen, read the room, and proceed from there.
2) What are the key business challenges you’re facing?
In addition to personal impact, it’s key to assess the economic impact on your customers—and of course, their customers. If your customer works in the travel and hospitality industry, you have hopefully already had several conversations about how to pivot in this crisis.
Even for industries where the impact is positive—for example, if your customers work in telecommunications—the crisis will necessarily have changed the challenges they face. Maybe in lieu of revenue dips, they’re facing the need to expand capacity quickly. Maybe they need to ensure PPE for public-facing teams. Whatever their struggles, you’ll understand them better if you ask proactively.
3) What potential changes are you considering to your business model or strategic plan?
The only way you can plan for your customers is to know what they’re planning themselves. If they already have a strong plan in place, you can proactively help execute. If they don’t know the path forward, your team can dive in, offering valuable outside perspective and ideas. Just make sure to ask, so you don’t come back to them with 3 great ideas they’ve already thought of themselves.
4) How can we help?
Again, Voice of Customer is primarily about understanding your customer’s goals and expectations, to make sure you’re proactively engaging customers and strengthening the relationship. Just like anything, the best way to find out what they need from you is to ask.
COVID is changing everything—but that doesn’t mean the same systematic approach to customer engagement won’t serve you now. In fact, the practice of active engagement is even more important—more than ever, you can’t assume you know what your customers need. If everything’s changing for them, it’s changing for you as the entity that serves them.
So take a breath, step into the new normal, and revisit your VOC. Whether you use a survey or an interview or a combination of both, they’ll appreciate your proactivity, and you’ll come out of it with clear strategic objectives for the year ahead. To see how Kapta can help you stay on top of your VOC work, in a crisis and beyond, schedule a personal demo today.