Zinata News

The Voice of the Customer Process

Separating Fact from Fiction

Sometimes I wonder if we are trying to make the Voice of the Customer (VOC) process harder than it needs to be or easier than it should be. In an attempt to “check the box” some companies short-change the process. The truth comes out in the end! Take this little quiz to evaluate your VOC prowess.

Fact or Fiction:

Customers don’t want to answer the surveys.

Answer: Fiction. While they are likely to trash an email survey that comes to them out of the blue, they are eager to provide their input if you position the request properly. This means you need to target the right people, tell them why you want their feedback, and how you plan to act on it. A 20-30 minute phone survey can reveal a treasure trove of data and anecdotes. And yes – that may cost more – but the value contained in the information you’ll gather is priceless.

 “If I talk to my customers every day, I know what they want and how I stack up.”

Answer: Fiction. Of course, it is great to keep an open line of communication with your customers – but that does not always reveal the deeper level of insight that you need. First, some people avoid confrontation, so they are more likely to talk openly to a third party than the person they interact with everyday. Second, you need consistency to the questions and data gathering to have a basis of comparison over time. Third, a good survey includes not just your daily contacts but those at a higher level who have a broader view of the playing field.

Customers expect action if they provide feedback.

Answer: Fact. If you don’t plan to listen and act on the data, then don’t do the survey. Customers are willing to invest their time to provide feedback because if you improve, their results will improve too. It’s a win-win. After the survey is completed, you need to circle back, tell them what you heard, how you plan to measure progress on their expectations, and then – and this is key – actually improve your performance.

10 Steps to Get Closer to Your Customers

Feeling inspired to take action but don’t now where to start? Use the following 10 step process as a guide. Remember – don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

1. Declare why you are gathering customer insights.

Connect the work to your strategy. If you can’t find a connection, then pause this effort and work on your strategy first. (Over time, the customer insights you gather will influence your strategy).

2. Scope the survey.

Decide which areas you want to assess (services, quality, price, product, etc.), which customers you want to include (a few customers in each channel or a deep dive in a particular customer segment), and how far into the future you want to analyze (trends, threats, and/or opportunities). This is also the stage where you need to select a third party to conduct the survey.

3. Prep the customers.

The person in your company who knows the customer best should explain why you are doing the survey, how it connects to your customer-centric business strategy, the value their input will provide, and ask for their consent to devote 20-30 minutes to a phone call from a third party surveyor.

4. Make the calls.

The third party then makes the calls. Information is gathered on the numeric importance of the attributes, your company’s performance relative to their requirements, and future trends/threats/opportunities. Most important is the gathering of the quotes and anecdotes that tell the story behind the responses.

5. Analyze the data.

The third party should prepare the data and present it in a way that draws out the key messages learned across service attributes and customer segments.

6. Present the data to leadership and determine actions.

This step is the most critical. The leadership team needs to wallow the data. Have them listen to quotes and antidotes in addition to looking at hard data. They need to determine the value drivers (what attributes are most important to the customer), the appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure each value driver, and create or sponsor an action plan to spur the improvement. This is when leaders “put skin in the game.”

7. Communicate with the organization and engage them in the improvement plan.

This is the second most important step. People want to be proud of their work and want their customers to be happy. By sharing the customer-centric KPI’s, each work group will understand their contribution to deliver customer satisfaction. This is also the most powerful way to transform from a company of functional silos to a customer-centric machine.

8. Drive Improvements.

Just do it. And measure it. And celebrate success.

9. Report back to the customer.

Tell them what you have learned from the survey, how you are measuring progress, and any strategic and tactical changes you are making. Nothing says “we hear you” better than actual improvement.

10. Rinse & repeat.

Repeat the process annually or bi-annually as your customers wants and needs are in constant flux.

See it in Action

A leading citrus provider turned to Zinata for guidance on becoming more customer centric. Find out what they discovered about their ‘path to the customer’ and how their lessons can be applied to ensure customers are delighted – every time. Read the case study here.


Jeanne Reisinger worked for 32 years as a Supply Chain Leader at Procter & Gamble. She turned supply chains from non-strategic “costs to be managed” into valuable assets that drove competitive advantage. Her scope extended from strategic network design to operational excellence across the entire value chain and her footprint has stretched across the world where she is celebrated for her real-world experience. Throughout her career Jeanne consistently delivered breakthrough change that improved service, reduced cost and cash, and accelerated speed to market by leveraging the skills of her organization. With Zinata, Jeanne works as a Global Value Chain Consultant who helps companies transform their value chains to become a Company of Tomorrow, Today.