By Kay Cruse, Strategex VP, VOC Strategic Practice
Every board member challenges. It comes with the job description.
What if you could help your board members see the challenges you face not only operationally, but strategically?
Solid Customer Insights – not the elusive ‘Customer Experience’ – is the best way to truly understand what’s driving customer decisions about your company and its products or services.
Forget web surveys. Name the last one you filled out. Forget ‘our sales people talk to customers all the time…’ How helpful is that? Both customers and sales reps have agendas and biases they’re not willing to share.
Even CEO/GM customer visits tend to escalate into a dance of keeping everyone happy or off-balance.
A carefully crafted Voice of the Customer initiative can reveal a lot about a company’s soul. After more than 20 years of Customer Insights studies, we continue to see lack of customer engagement as a major issue? Simple issues of communicating when an order is going to be late often goes mute. These are just some of the basics that every CEO must help their employees acknowledge and prioritize. Yet, too often, the real issues are allowed to fester. Your people may report everything’s under control, but what do you tell the board when a big account is lost? Certainly, not that everything is under control.
Top customers deserve top treatment. We know that generally the top 25% of customers are responsible for 89% of the revenue, while the bottom quarter only contributes 1%. So why is everyone treated equally? Will that smallest account ever become one of your top ‘whales?’ No. It’s not possible to grow a minnow into a whale no matter what you feed it.
The focus on Strategic Accounts by boards is not just a hot topic for today’s board meetings, it’s the lifeblood of performance.
Begin the discussion by having an unbiased, third party conversation with customers and share the unvarnished results with your board, your management team, and your employees. Drive home that good enough is not good enough in today’s performance-driven world. Rather than try to be all to everyone, help your team prioritize. What are the most critical pain points that customers experience? What are the most valuable lessons to be learned about how your competitors serve your customers? What innovations do they most want to see from you?
Customers are tremendously prescriptive when asked. The trick is asking enough to begin to see a consistent thread. Don’t let one or two – or even a half dozen – ‘noisy’ players tilt your strategy in the wrong direction. Voice of the Customer Insights is a powerful tool. It’s one to put to work before your board asks why you haven’t done so already.
Why do board members care? Market makers and Wall Streeters are watching, and the best board members will know that’s the case regardless of whether or not you are publicly traded or private. It’s one of the best strategic moves you can make.
Kay Cruse is a Vice President at Strategex. She can be reached at email@example.com.