What do HR and Voice of the Customer have in common? The answer to the question—plenty (in a roundabout way). Voice of the Customer is a continuous improvement process utilized by many customer-centric organizations. And the customer-centric culture is driven by the strategic human resources function.
So what exactly is Voice of the Customer? According to Wikipedia, it is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.
Voice of the Customer studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative research steps. Much has been written about this process, and there are many possible ways to gather the information—focus groups, individual interviews, contextual inquiry, ethnographic techniques, etc. But all involve a series of structured, in-depth interviews, which focus on the customers’ experiences with current products or alternatives within the category of product or service under consideration. Needs statements are then extracted, organized into a more usable hierarchy, and prioritized by the customers.
The next question is what is customer-centric? Of course, all types of organizations focus on good customer service to create positive customer satisfaction—or at least attempt it. But we all have our own stories to share about how good an organization really is when it comes to truly caring about its customers’ experiences. In a customer-centric organization, serving the customer permeates every level, from the top all the way to the front line and from the back office to the storefront. It drives the culture of the organization to create not only customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty.
An organization’s culture is like its personality. It is what can truly differentiate organizations to create competitive advantage—even more than specific products or services. In the book, The Future of HR Management, by Michael R. Losey, Susan R. Meisinger and David Ulrich, HR plays a key role in building a market-based or customer-centric culture. The HR department ought to be to synchronizing the employment brand with the customer brand.
The starting point for HR professionals is to understand the customer brand and then make a strong effort to bring the voice of the customer inside the HR department through customer visits, observations and utilizing data gathered through voice-of-the-customer research. Once it is brought inside the organization, it can serve as a basis to articulate the kind of employee experience and behaviors that are required to support the customer experience and what employee value proposition best fits the customer value proposition. The entire HR architecture should be configured from a customer’s point of view so that the organization becomes customer-centric. This requires that HR forges a close partnership with the marketing function if the organization is to become market-focused to outperform the competition.
If you are looking to improve your customer loyalty through voice-of-the-customer research that will, in turn, lead to improved performance, remember it is the people in your organization who can drive it. In order to be successful, you will need to consider the following: incorporate customer loyalty into your strategy and your mission statement, and involve employees, customers and managers in the process. iBi