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Finding the Voice of the B2B Customer 

Posted April 22, 2024
Nicholas Zeisler, Principal of Zeisler Consulting, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Z shares why companies are asking customers the wrong question and what they should be asking their customers instead.

Nicholas Zeisler, Principal of Zeisler Consulting, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Z shares why companies are asking customers the wrong question and what they should be asking their customers instead.

Today, we are going to talk about finding the voice of a customer, where should we even start?

“You should start with, as my good friend Simon Sinek would say, you’ve got to start with why. What is the purpose of your VOC program? Now, you will recall yesterday we discussed how marketing is so great at leveraging the voice of the customer, and in fact, they’re the poster child of how we should approach VOC, which is: we are looking for improvement we can make in our branding. We are looking for improvements we can make in our messaging and in our campaigns. The whole reason, the whole spirit behind VOC from a marketing perspective is, well, what do we tweak? What do we change? Should we change the verbiage on this? Is this landing? Is this hitting? Should we do something?

“It is that spirit of curiosity and wanting to take action that should permeate the entire enterprise, the whole company, and the whole brand. Now when you start thinking about it that way, and when you start thinking about what we talked about previously, about how the whole reason that we’re doing CX in the first place is to improve our customers’ experiences and bring those experiences into line with what our brand promise is. 

“Now, you might think to yourself, well, why are we bothering with CSAT or why are we collecting NPS? KPIs are important, and so okay, what gets measured, gets managed. But I can give you your NPS and on a chart, month over month, week over week, and quarter over quarter and say good luck managing that. If you don’t have any sort of insights as to why customers are giving you a low CSAT score, you don’t have any insights as to why your detractors and NPS are detractors, they’re not using the VOC for anything.

“In fact, you don’t even have what I call customer insights. You have just a score. However, if you stop and reflect that the reason that you are trying to collect insights from your customers is because you want to drive that better alignment. That changes how you collect your VOC, what you ask, if you’re going to ask at all since you might not even have to do that.

“You could walk in your customer’s shoes and experience being a customer for yourself and just say, yeah, this is a real pain in the neck, why do we have it this way? You may interview your customers instead of sending a survey, you may frankly go down to your support team, and go to your contact center. If it’s a BPO, call up whoever you may have offshored to say, send me a Pareto chart about the reason codes for the tickets we’re opening on behalf of our customers who are contacting us because they are having problems.

“Well guess what? That gives you at least the beginning of the vector that you need to take in order to improve your customer’s experiences. You don’t need to overlay that with whether or not your customers would recommend you to their families, friends, and colleagues or whatnot. That is great and you would love to hear that and pat yourself on the back. If your NPS is through the roof, that’s great, but do you know anything about what you could do, what you could change, or what you could improve as a result of that top-line KPI? Probably not.”

Yeah, what I am hearing is, it’s not that you shouldn’t do those things. These things are great, but it is just the beginning. So if you were seeing a different trend and we’re moving downward. We don’t know why we may use those results to go figure that out.

“Yeah or call me. Absolutely! That’s the case if what you are using is those KPIs, that NPS score, you could pick any one. I invented my own way anyway, but even mine has that same shortcoming. That it’s a KPI. I call it the brand alignment score instead of asking, hey, are you satisfied what this, or hey, would you recommend us? You should just say, hey, we endeavor to be the discount brand, how are we doing? And there you go, you can develop a KPI out of that. Yet, what’s much more important is what I call the amplification data, which is, we’re not meeting that score, but how so? Please elaborate on how we could’ve done it differently. What part of your experience didn’t meet your expectations based on what we’ve told you our brand promise is?

“Well, doesn’t that help? Another thing about this is if you are going to take any of these routes, if you’re going to interview customers, if you’re going to rewrite and refine the questions that you ask when you survey, or if you walk in your customer’s shoes, or as I said, you go to the contact center and your support, your care teams and say, what are the volumes of calls and what are people complaining about, or what are their concerns? 

That is just the first step too. Camela alluded to this, and that gives you the first line you want to validate. You want to verify those. Well, is that really what’s happening? Let’s walk through that ourselves and let’s see what that experience is. You might be able to refine and specify more explicitly what process, and what part of your system is that you need to improve. When you do a little bit of investigation, that amplification data can be just as useless as that top-level KPI.

“If you aren’t willing to second guess it, validate it, verify it. Dig into it a little bit more and investigate what’s going on in your processes and operations. But again, that is where it all comes down to. It’s funny, I will go on about customer, customer, and customer. The name of the discipline is customer experience. But so much of the work is done internally, and I know we are going to talk about that as well, but it’s that internal goal that you have that should drive all of your customer insights and VOC work. Why do I care? Why do I want to know? Oh because I want to take action on it. I can’t take action on the KPI, but I can take action on those operational shortcomings that I’ve discovered as a result of looking into my customer’s insights.”

I’ve been involved in many projects on the operational side where it was my job to ascertain what exactly was going on, which is why I know you cannot trust what people put in a form fill because so often, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve run into this. They really like their sales rep or they really like their support person and they don’t want to hurt their feelings and they don’t want to get them in trouble. If you can come at this from a neutral place, nobody is going to get in trouble. This is very anonymous. I’m not going to say you’re the one who said it.

Then, you can start building some trust and getting real answers out. I think if I could have anybody walk away with just one thing from what I’m saying is you cannot trust the form fills and you’ve got to do the relationship building and actually talking to them. Don’t sit in a room and brainstorm what the issue is. Ask.

“You are absolutely right. One of the things, and this is just a little B in my bon, is something I like to gripe about all the time, one of the worst things that occurs and it isn’t a bad thing in as far as it exists. It’s just that it is leveraged so poorly, that is, whenever you have an interaction, be it sales or support or delivery or whatever it is, people want to break down the experience and survey at every little point. It almost always reflects on the individual or perhaps the team that is doing that thing right there. That’s why when you go to an auto dealership, they will lean on you for that nine or ten score. It’s not because that person doesn’t care, but it is because that person is incentivized to get nines and tens on your NPS survey.

“Whereas if that person’s boss wanted to improve your experience he/she would be asking something different than how likely, based on Bob’s job as the salesperson when you came in, are you going to recommend us as a dealership to someone else? Now, if that boss was asking, hey, were there ways in which this wasn’t the experience that you expected us to have, please share that.

“However, instead that salesperson, or that service technician at the shop or whatever it is, is gauged and at times incentivized on what sort of score aggregates over the course of a month or even over the course of a quarter. That is why you get those entities from them to score them well and that is why, by the by, those sorts of organizations rarely get actionable feedback. But the thing is that they weren’t looking for actionable feedback in the first place. Therefore, it’s a bit of garbage in, garbage out. Yet, it is also a bit of what you asked for and so you want a useless number, we will give you a useless number.”

That is such a great illustration. I can think of times where my car ran. Great! So you’re going to get a high rating. Were my experiences good? No, they don’t have enough seating for people with disabilities or whatever it’s like you’re asking a question and you’re going to get an answer to that question, but there’s so many more questions you should be asking.

“How many times have you had a problem with a brand, product, or service, and you’ve had to contact them, say this contact center, their customer care team and the reason for the contact is something that never should have been a problem, and you had one job, how on earth did this fail? I am already pretty pissed off. I’m going to call the contact center and I get this agent who is super-helpful, positive, empathetic, efficient, and gets everything squared away. But because it took me 20 minutes out of my day when that failure should never have occurred in the first place. No, I’m going to give you a two or three. Guess who is going to get kicked in the feet, for that two or three; that agent, not your brand which is who deserves it, but that agent is going to get the bad mark.”

 Many times, the agent was great, but is there a place for me to tell you how you need to change your product to make it more usable, probably not.

“Clearly not because again, if we would go back to the beginning of the conversation, that is not what they’re looking for. All they want is a score. They’re not their why, their Simon Sinek, why we want to improve the experience of our brand and drive alignment between that experience and what we intend that experience should be. That’s the reason you should be asking any question that you are asking or investigating in any way whatsoever, even if it’s a passive necessity, you go to Yelp reviews for crying out loud! Here’s what our customers are saying, oh, well there you go. There is a data point as well.

“To Camela’s point, though, verify that, validate that, and see that that’s the case, but it’s so much more valuable since it is something that is actionable. It’s something that you can take to the bank and act on it.”

I’m thinking through call analysis. Some of the tools we have today with AI and working with unstructured data, they’re great, but again, you’ve to keep in mind who they are speaking to, and what you’re hearing may not be the actual issue. So validate, validate.

“Investigate with curiosity.”

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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