No organisation can afford to stand still. There are always new challenges to meet, and better ways of doing things.

However, every change you need to make should be planned and implemented with care, otherwise it could end up doing more harm than good. Nearly every organisation has adopted some form of continuous improvement methodology, and when looking at the improvement cycle it’s easy to see how customer closeness fits in:

Identify- Find opportunities in your processes/procedures/workflow etc for improvement

The very first step in any sort of improvement process is to establish the priorities of the business. Every organisation wants operate more efficiently and at a lower cost/higher profit, and whilst operational changes can obviously benefit the organisation, they don’t necessarily address the needs of the customer.

The challenge faced when using customers to identify problem areas is that this has traditionally only been done through the lens of customer service. Whilst this might identify specific concerns, it can be difficult unpack that to more strategic goals. Instead of correlating complaints to try an unearth common themes, organisations should instead look at the values that bring customers into their category to begin with. What are the core reasons customers come to them, what are their expectations, and can they identify areas for improvement centered around these core virtues.

Plan – How can the current process be improved?

Whilst new technologies have enabled an  easier mapping of processes, that is only really one part of the improvement puzzle. We all know that staff are resistant to changing the way they work and need to be sold on the idea. While the question of “What’s in this for me?” is critical, understanding the ultimate benefit to the customer is also key. Happier customers are tied to higher profits and having this information to hand is a key sales tool for internal stakeholders.

Customer feedback and opinion at the planning stage is also useful. Initial research may only give you the headlines, where having a 2-way dialogue with customers allows you to follow up for details. You might uncover for example that customers want support via a live chat function on your website, but could then ask them about hours of operation, human vs help bot etc

Execute – Implement the change

No matter how much we would like to think that good planning will lead to smooth execution, we all know that in reality this just doesn’t happen. Whilst customers will never be involved in the actual implementation of change, they can still provide vital feedback. If it turns out that a project will take twice as long and cost twice as much, it may be worth going back to your research, understanding how much of a priority this really is and the expected impact. Too many projects are completed purely on the basis of “we’ve come this far, we may as well finish.” Understanding your customers and their expectations at a granular level will be a great reminder of why you are implementing a change on those difficult days of implementation.

Review – Evaluate the impact of the change, get feedback

Once the change is implemented, the customer voice can provide feedback and reassurance which will ensure that the change sticks. Try and capture positive customer feedback and deliver this to your team so they can feel appreciated for their work. With the rate of innovation and technology it can be easy for customers to take for granted just how your service/product has improved and as part of your project communications its key to remind them.

The improvement cycle is never over, as your different processes and procedures mature there will always be scope for advancements. It is still true today that the majority of continuous improvement projects are undertaken with cost savings in mind but by embracing the voice of the customer throughout this process you can ensure that higher rates of retention and advocacy, all key to the overall growth of your organisation.

Incorporating the voice of the customer is difficult if you don't have the right setup. Why not arrange a meeting today to see how we can help you understand your customer better.

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