Becoming a truly customer-led organisation
For most organisations, understanding the customer is a stated strategic goal. A genuinely customer-centric strategy starts with a fundamental understanding of the business challenges facing customers or users and the needs that arise from them. It asks the key question:
“How can we understand and solve customer problems, and by doing so, help create value for their business and for ours?”
This understanding is the critical starting point for organisations to create compelling propositions, build an enduring go-to-market strategy, and become truly customer-led.
For B2B information and software businesses, this is especially important. Here, the right combination of data, tools and functionality can create tangible value. This requires an understanding of the customer organisation, the user of the product, and how these interact.
What is Strategic Voice of the Customer?
Strategic Voice of the Customer (VOC):
- Places true customer needs at the heart of the organisation and its go-to-market approach.
- Builds on a complete picture of all the forces at play on customers, including the ones they may not be aware of yet.
- Involves understanding actual customer behaviour, and what drives it, as much as their expressed preferences.
- Listens deeply to what different customer groups are trying to achieve, where they are in that journey, and what pain points they have.
- Helps define how our organisation can best add value.
- Provides a foundation of understanding to develop and drive strategy, and create buy-in across the organisation.
A well-designed Strategic Voice of the Customer programme can transform how an organisation approaches its customers. Importantly, it is the first step towards creating a truly customer-led organisation.
An insight-driven approach
Achieving an intimate understanding of customer value requires more than simply listening to customer or user feedback and tracking a standard set of performance metrics. This is particularly the case in B2B information or software businesses, where there may be multiple decision makers, influencers and user groups, and potential for significant complexity.
Strategic VOC requires a process which combines and builds knowledge and understanding from every angle and available data source, not just from customers themselves. This should include, but not be limited to:
- Extensive internal management and commercial team conversations across multiple client-facing functions and levels of seniority.
- Analysis of internal data such as historic customer data on transactions, usage, and profitability.
- A data-driven view of the current market context and how it will change.
- In-depth interaction with users and decision-makers.
- A detailed understanding of competitors.
Understanding the whole customer universe
To develop a strategic view of how needs could change, it is critical to apply a market and competitive context. Key questions include:
- How are our competitors’ propositions evolving and how might that influence future customer behaviour?
- What new data sources are available, which technologies will customers adopt, and how might that change how they buy?
- What are the pressures on our customers’ customers?
Identifying opportunities for growth
An important outcome of a Strategic VOC exercise is a quantified and segmented map of the whole market, based on the defining behaviours of each segment. This not only helps you understand and better serve the customers you already have but also identifies opportunities outside what is already known.
Most importantly, it provides the basis for business unit leadership teams to identify the most attractive segments for future growth and develop the propositions and capabilities required to win in those priority segments, now and in the future.
Driving strategic change
Strategic VOC is the necessary foundation for a truly customer-driven go-to-market strategy. This powerful tool can provide insight, drive change, and ensure effective strategy implementation by:
- Minimising room for ambiguity or conflicting internal perspectives by reaching an essential truth about customers and the market
- Engaging and aligning internal teams through a robustly evidenced customer and market narrative, and early involvement in the journey
- Providing the tools and knowledge to the leadership teams to challenge biases in the business and be advocates for change
Achieving greater closeness to the customer
Overall, there is a direct link between the upfront investment in customer and user understanding and the ultimate outcome. The deeper and more insightful the fact base, the greater the relevance and richness of the solutions, and the higher the likelihood of strong engagement and successful implementation.