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What Do Your Customers Really Think About You?

March 15 |

“How are you getting to the Voice of the Customer?”

It’s a question that has come up time and again in AlphaSights’ Strategy & Innovation Leaders breakfast series. As we closed on our fifth series, it was still one of the biggest questions that Fortune 1000 executives wanted to be answered.

Customers are, without a doubt, the ideal resource for better understanding a company’s buyer personas. But effectively capturing and translating their pain points and priorities into new products and growing relationships is an ongoing challenge.

Collecting direct customer feedback is no easy feat

Several corporations realize the importance of Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives and dedicate a full team to gather customer feedback. However, their job is often an uphill battle and they typically run into the following common roadblocks:

● Reach out to hundreds of customers and only receive a few responses: The customer has little incentive to respond and those who do respond typically have a strong positive or negative opinion about the product. The middle group of customers (i.e. those that do not have a strong opinion) is the least likely to respond, even though they are probably the biggest subset of data. This time-consuming exercise often leads to skewed results.

● Gathering feedback may harm the customer’s perception of a company: The customer feels ‘spammed’ by a company that repeatedly asks for their time and perspectives, impairing the relationship.

● The industry rumor mill starts spinning: When directly reaching out to customers and introducing current and potential product improvements, there is an inherent risk for competitive accounts to share insights with alternate vendors for a better offer on their own packages. The lack of confidentiality boundaries leaves room for competitors to potentially gain direct insight into the company’s growth strategy and product development.

Using your sales team as a conduit is not the answer

Instead of going directly to the customer, our series attendees tell us they leverage their sales teams to collect feedback. While this makes sense because the salesperson is typically the owner of the relationship and “knows” the customers best, the drawbacks may outweigh the benefits:

● Salespeople have different goals: Sales reps are typically compensated based on monthly quotas and are laser-focused on gathering information to qualify, engage, and up-sell existing customers within that time frame. It is difficult for salespeople to recognize the benefits of customer feedback because the results from hosting product feedback and brainstorming sessions are not immediate.

● Can create an echo chamber of feedback: The sales team is more likely to reach out to their best customers who are most likely to respond and therefore, create further bias. This practice does not lead to a constructive feedback loop that encompasses your entire customer base. Instead, it results in positive re-affirmation of your services and unrealistic and non-constructive feedback.

● Leads to unwanted conversations: Given the sensitive nature of sales relationships, requesting feedback at inopportune times can jeopardize the salesperson’s work in gaining the customer’s trust and business.

Effectively capturing VOC requires a different approach

While VOC is difficult to properly capture, it should be seen as an ongoing conversation between the client and the customer. But how can you do this without creating bias or jeopardizing customer relationships?

Use third-party primary resources. Leveraging an outside resource to find VOC has many advantages:

● Saves weeks of gathering feedback: Your teams won’t waste valuable time reaching out to hundreds of customers

● Creates zero customer bias: Choose whether you want to keep feedback discussions anonymous

● Saves sales’ relationships with customers: Your sales team won’t have to be the liaison and dilute their goals as a department

● Keeps a consistent, relevant dialogue: A third-party source maintains a consistent feedback loop to your team to ensure you leverage the voice of the customer immediately without depending on the sales team

Companies use AlphaSights for this exact purpose, creating efficient and relevant VOC dialogues. Our clients send us requests for feedback and work with their dedicated account managers to create questionnaires. We quickly set up hour-long phone sessions, where our clients can choose to keep it transparent or anonymous (eliminating bias). They can choose to conduct calls on a consistent loop so you can turn those insights into action. As a result, you found the VOC and have the resources to translate it into your products and services. These insights may be used to create products that more closely align to what your customers actually want.

Pat McManus joined AlphaSights in September of 2017 as a Client Development Executive.