Weekends in Minnesota bring with them a mass migration of people heading “up north” to cabins and lakes. More often than not, I end up jumping in the truck with my husband and dogs and joining the masses to get in some fishing. On my trek north, there is a small town with a specialty grocery store I find myself stopping at every time I drive through. This store, which is home to specialty cheeses, house-made ice cream, and the state’s smallest liquor store, seems out of place in a town whose population barely exceeds 2,000.
I am drawn to this store with one goal in mind: ice cream. It’s not the cheapest ice cream in town, and while delicious, it’s not the taste that brings me in either. It’s the experience. Since the ice cream is made in-house, I can talk to the genius who creates the flavors. I can share an idea for a new flavor with him and discuss what ingredients would be best. Sometimes, when I stop back in a few weeks later, they have released the new flavor. Knowing that my voice as a customer matters to this shop has me coming back for ice cream even when the temp outside is -15⁰F.
Don’t ignore the Voice of the Customer
The Voice of the Customer (VotC) is one of the pillars my company INNERGY is built on. We discuss it in every meeting and it guides our company decisions and product development. We are continually building an integrated set of activities to incorporate the Voice of the Customer into our company DNA. While not every organization is as focused on the Voice of the Customer as we are, I would argue that incorporating VotC into your company and product is a great way to gain raving fans. After all, you can have the best ice cream in the world, but if you don’t have customers that keep coming back, you won’t be successful.
Once you decide to incorporate the Voice of the Customer into your company the challenge is creating an integrated set of activities to achieve your goal. Below are eight activities that INNERGY uses to incorporate the Voice of the Customer into everything we do.
No. 1: Provide opportunities for feedback and share with the entire company
If one of your customers gives a compliment or voices a concern, what happens to it? To successfully integrate the Voice of the Customer into your company culture, it needs to be heard by everyone. I am sure you have heard the saying “good news travels fast; bad news travels faster.” This tends to be the case for most companies as well. The majority of organizations are great at making sure negative feedback is brought to the attention of key stakeholders.
Where most organizations fall short, however, is sharing positive feedback. When the only customer feedback you ever hear is negative, it is easy to start to tune it out. To avoid this, start celebrating the customer’s little wins that they share with you. At INNERGY, we have created a channel for sharing customer comments or concerns with the entire company.
No. 2: Host an annual gathering of customers – a summit
At our annual summit, we provide educational courses, social events, and even live feature voting. The customers that attend are helping to create our big feature roadmap for the year. Also, our team members pair up with current customers to present some of the educational topics at the summit. The INNERGY team takes part in all of the social events as well. The summit gives customers opportunities for facetime with team members from across the organization.
No. 3: Hold focus groups
We host a bi-weekly focus group called Tip of the Spear. This group is made up of the customers that are furthest along in the implementation process and prioritizes those features that are roadblocks. In addition, we hold a number of customer focus groups to better understand the features that we are going to start building. Focus groups are an important way to make sure the features you are developing have been thought over from a customer viewpoint.
No. 4: Ask for feature ideas and follow up
At our annual summit, we launched a new system that allows customers to submit feature requests. They are able to have threaded discussions with other customers and our team on various features they propose. Requests are reviewed internally every week, and statuses are updated. We ask our customers to vote for and prioritize their feature requests. Also, they get email updates when the status of a feature changes, so they are always up-to-date.
No. 5: Host live sprint reviews
After every release, our team hosts a live sprint review web meeting. Our team presents the new features released in the sprint and gives a sneak peek into what we’re working on for the next one. Our development team joins in on these meetings as well. Customers can ask questions about the new features and provide commentary in real-time.
No. 6: Provide opportunities for education
We provide several webinars and in-person educational opportunities for our customers, including a three-week-long course on business case studies. We encourage our team to attend the educational offerings so that customers have more opportunities to discuss our product with different members of our team. It also helps our team learn more about the struggles our customers face within their own organizations. We can start targeting these problems the customers are having using both our software and education.
No. 7: Share a forward-facing roadmap
Because the VotC is the foundation of INNERGY, we want our customers to be able to see what we are working on. Our feature roadmap is available for customers to see and comment on. This goes hand in hand with helping us prioritize the features that they need most.
No. 8: Invite customers to visit
We have an open invitation for our customers to visit our team in the US. Once a year, we also invite our customers to Poland, where our development team is located. Customers are able to sit in on meetings, talk with team members, and even shadow our CEO. Having customers visit allows them to see our own processes and how we implement what we teach. It also provides great opportunities for discussion and real-time customer interaction.
These are not the only ways to bring the Voice of the Customer to your organization, but they are a couple that we have found that work for us. Hopefully, this list provides a jumping-off point for you to create that integrated set of activities that incorporates the Voice of the Customer into your own company.