Customer success managers are the owners of your customer accounts. If your organization is looking to create or strengthen its voice of customer (VOC) structure and organize the chaos of talking to customers on all fronts, customer success managers have to play the role of quarterback (American football).
What is Voice of Customer Structure?
There are multiple disciplines and roles that regularly interact with customers for a variety of reasons. The voice of customer structure is your company’s guidelines or rules for managing, regulating and coordinating the vast number of conversations that may be taking place in parallel with any one customer.
Why is a Voice of Customer Structure Important?
The goal is to make sure all customer conversations have a single point of coordination so that everyone having those conversations is aware of all the others happening at the same time. It’s in your organization’s best interest to make sure you present a single unified face to the customer with every discipline working harmoniously with the others.
Equally important is your ability to collate all those customer conversations and bring them back into your organization through a common mouthpiece to fuel products, marketing sales and operations. When there are too many differing views of the same customer, it spells trouble at every turn.
Here are some common scenarios where many conversations are taking place with a single customer, all at the same time, even though they may be happening with different areas of the customer.
- One or more product teams are engaging users for feedback on new products/features.
- Sales is working an opportunity for add-on products/services.
- BDRs are executing a marketing/lead generation campaign.
- Customer success managers are doing account reviews.
- Product marketing is working to get approval for a customer testimonial.
- Customer support is dealing with a number of technical issues that are front and center in the account review.
- One or more of your executives are having dinner meetings with customer executives for a host of reasons.
- There are representatives from the customer on one or more advisory boards.
- And many other scenarios!
It’s easy to see how you can come across to the customer as utterly disorganized when all these scenarios aren’t coordinated or well informed.
How to Create a Strong Voice of Customer Structure
In B2B, a strong VoC structure has to encompass the three main layers of the customer organization including senior executives (the C-Suite), senior managers (directors & VPs) and the people in the trenches doing the work, typically your users (first line managers and staff).
Formal vs. Informal Interactions
The cadence of customer interactions is critical and it differs depending on the level of customers you’re interacting with.
- Interactions with senior executives are the least frequent. A formal senior executive forum 1-2 times per year is usually sufficient. The goal is to understand what’s driving your customers from the top down and how it impacts areas that are relevant to your products and services.
- Interactions with senior managers are more frequent, 3-4 times per year and often take place with customer advisory boards. The goal is to understand how their strategic priorities are impacting the operational areas of the business (that are relevant to you) and the resulting top priorities.
- Interactions with first line managers and staff are the most frequent and run the gamut. They include everything from feedback on product priorities, usability designs, sales of add-on products, marketing testimonials, on-boarding, account reviews, etc. The goal is to understand how the strategic goals and priorities at both levels above impact the jobs and workflows of the people doing the work. The ultimate goal is to make them better at their jobs in ways that have strategic value to their organization.
The point behind all of the formal interactions is consistency in how those interactions take place and how the feedback from those interactions is funneled into your organization to guide your priorities.
Informal interactions are the day-to-day interactions with customers. The important thing to remember here is to keep the results of the formal structure and interactions in mind as you interact informally with customers…their strategies, top priorities, critical business outcomes, etc. It all plays into a superior customer experience.
Why Customer Success?
Customer success managers have to be at the forefront of your voice of customer structure because they own the customer account and the strategy for that account. Anything that happens in that account should be harmonious with the account strategy.
If you’re a customer success manager, here’s the worst thing that can happen if you’re not the main point of coordination for all customer conversations.
You and your key stakeholders in the customer account mutually create the strategy that outlines the outcomes customers want over the next year, why they’re critical, how success will be measured and the action items each of you own to execute the strategy.
Unbeknownst to all the other disciplines, they start engaging your customers for a variety of other initiatives as mentioned above without your knowledge. All with good intentions, those other conversations could completely torpedo your account strategy.
It’s not that the customer success manager has to be intimately involved in every one of those interactions. They don’t by any means. They just need to be aware of everyone else’s agenda in engaging the customer and make sure it’s completely aligned to the account strategy.
Any critical information that needs to be communicated to the customer should go through the customer success manager. For example, if a major product issue is not going to be addressed in a reasonable timeframe, you don’t want the customer to get that information second hand from product management or technical support.
The customer success manager would first figure out how a major product delay issue impacts the account strategy, and then formulate a backup plan and communication strategy accordingly to keep the customer on track.
Coordinating Customer Touchpoints Is Never Easy!
In the current landscape where customer experience is critical to every facet of your business, coordinating customer touchpoints can be tough. That’s why a rigorous structure with a single point of coordination is so critical for interacting with customers.
The Bottom Line on Voice of Customer Structure
Strengthening your voice of customer structure benefits everyone in your organization because it removes blind spots and speed bumps that can impede success in every facet of your business.
Customer success managers have to be the single point of coordination for everything in their accounts. Without it, your risk of failure on the account strategy skyrockets because everyone in your organization may be unknowingly working against each other. The last thing anyone wants is to give customers a reason to leave you.
If you want to expand the comfort zone of your customer success team from reactive and transactional to proactive and strategic, contact us to discuss a personalized Value Skills training workshop that gives your CSMs the skills to lead customers strategically instead of reacting tactically.
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by John Mansour on March 20, 2023.