As a key account manager, your main focus is on finding new ways to evaluate the relationships between your clients and your company, in order to determine what you can do to strengthen those relationships and retain your most valuable customers. If one of the ways you do this is by periodically sending out customer surveys, you may be doing both your business and your key accounts a major disservice.
This is because customer satisfaction surveys take a reactive approach to managing your key accounts. While they may provide some answers about how your customer perceives your business and its products and services, it’s often too little too late. You’ll only learn, after the fact, whether a customer was satisfied or dissatisfied with a product or service you provided. And when this is the primary tool you use for gauging your customers’ experiences, you’ll always find yourself one step behind.
You need to give your key customers a stronger, more proactive voice, and you can do that by replacing those old customer surveys with a more insightful Voice of Customer program.
First, let’s take a closer look at VOC vs. Customer Surveys.
These surveys usually involve more reactive data that looks back on the customers’ past experiences and are often a summary of their opinions. These web-based surveys are sometimes dismissed or deleted, and when customers do fill them out, they often don’t provide enough useful feedback for you to gain actionable data. Customer satisfaction surveys usually cover these topics with the respondents choosing a number between one and 10—one meaning they are very dissatisfied and 10 meaning they are very satisfied:
- On an overall basis, how satisfied are you with our company?
- How satisfied are you with the ease of doing business with our company?
- How satisfied are you with our billing and invoicing?
- How satisfied are you with the procedures we use for providing quotes?
With these types of questions used to assess your performance, you don’t have that direct engagement customers look for. In fact, you are actually managing their reactions instead of understanding their true wants and needs.
Voice of the Customer (VOC)
By using Voice of the Customer (VOC) research in your key account relationships, you will get your customers thinking and talking more strategically. With a combination of surveys, focus groups, interviews, and other observations, you show them you actually value their feedback and are willing to listen, engage in conversation, and provide them with the solutions they need to build a stronger business partnership.
VOC surveys are all about transparency and ask a wider range of questions that don’t just give black and white, yes or no, one through ten answers. Having more in-depth and open-ended questioning gives you an opportunity to look at this feedback, evaluate your current performance, and define areas where you can advance these relationships further.
For instance, ask direct questions on your surveys like, “How can we improve our product or service?” These responses will be able to tell you if there are any holes in your team’s performance you need to address or if there is something important that your product may be missing. Maybe it’s a lack of responsiveness to requests. Maybe it’s complaints over late deliveries. Before you can consider ways to advance these relationships, you have to make sure you’re delivering what the customers expect.
Or you can ask, “Where should we focus our efforts in the future?” By looking at the bigger picture together and regularly asking the client if they know of any external elements that might impact their business goals in the future, you can share a strategic roadmap, and they will know you are in this together. This new way of gathering information will help you use customer feedback to identify any gaps in your services, run targeted marketing campaigns, or send them other offers that will benefit them and generate more sales.
Great VOC surveys will give you the answers to three critical questions:
How well is our product or service aligned with what the customer is trying to achieve?
VOC questions seek more than just yes or no answers. They let you discover what the customer values the most in a product or service, and then give you a chance to match those values so you can both achieve your goals. They also give your business an opportunity to design new offerings for the customer or tweak an existing one, so that it aligns with or exceeds their expectations. Giving customers a stronger voice empowers your company to create more value, which leads to better service experiences and happier customers.
What risks are there?
By giving your customers a voice, you gain insights into their practices that you normally wouldn’t have. Listening to VOC lets you identify customers’ problems early on, so you can fix them by coming up with ideas for improvements or by finding a more innovative method of delivering what they need. There could be times, for instance, when there are new trends in the industry that affect a key account’s business, and they now have demands that might provide opportunities for your competitors to step in. Having this direct line of feedback lets you quickly identify those customers who are at-risk and take preemptive actions to improve your service and ensure their long-term satisfaction.
What opportunities are there to expand and grow the account?
Great VOC lets your customers show you the way to better business growth because they now have an active voice. With more open dialogue in your relationships, your key accounts will share their toughest challenges and contribute excellent new ideas. When they feel as if they are part of the process, this turns them into more loyal customers. It’s critical to not only encourage their input but also to have an approach for putting it to good use. These conversations will present you with great cross-selling opportunities that will not only increase key account spending but also make customers more open to considering other products and services you offer.