Much is made of the evolution of Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs over the past 30 years. VoC is defined by Adele Sage (@adelesage) over at Forrester Research as “a systematic approach for collecting customer feedback, mining that feedback for insights, and then incorporating the insights into business decisions”. A year ago she saw nearly 70% of companies with a formal VoC program, up from 58% three years ago..
For more information on VoC, Bruce Temkin, co-founder and Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association and one of the “goto gurus” for Customer Experience Professionals like me, provides lots of tools for VoC advocates at (Bruce Temkin VOC )
VoC focuses on “understanding the wants and needs of customers expressed with the customer’s own language from the perspective of the customer” and we can safely assume that most major companies claim to have such a program.
With a typical business seeing 60% of operating profits generated by the top 20% of “high value loyalists” and “aspiring loyalists” it amazes me how few companies have a modern, structured VoC program that clearly focused on those high value, loyal customers. A Voice of the Loyal (VoL) program.
For loyalty program designers everywhere (including my “big 6” below) the best way
to demonstrate that you are truly listening and care about me is not just to provide your idea of customized loyalty programs for each segment (prepared Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond that is so 2005 !) but to let your customers (aka me) design their own loyalty program. You do not know what is best for me, I know what is best for me. Let me design my own and you rocket to the top of the loyalty pack, moving your VoC program to VoL, Voice Of The Loyal.
I am a “loyalty nut”. Maybe because I have been helping design loyalty programs for decades. I am very sensitive to how loyalty programs work. I surround myself with companies who “treat me special”. For example American Express, Delta Airlines, Starwood Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Bank of America and Fidelity Investments have all been my major goto providers for 20+ years, they provide what I need, they are where I need them to be and (mostly) they treat me right.
They all might want to work on the really listening thing. The problem might start because they are mostly urn by a bunch of guys like me.
A woman I know (hi honey!) defines the male problem as Uhuh, uhuh, uhuh”. It is more clearly defined as “see I know you are speaking, I see your lips moving , I am not going to remember this or do much about what you are saying but I am an ultra-sensitive, modern guy because I am not ignoring you .. uhuh, uhuh, uhuh”.
Whatever you do dont fall into teh trap of your loyal customers thinking you are in uhuh, uhuh, uhuh model. You can design your own version of VoL three things that tell me you are listening to me that prove I am not any run of the mill customer are:
“Digging me out of trouble I get myself into” – I pressed “confirm” on a prepaid / no change airline reservation and had entered the wrong departure date (because I was doing it on my mobile phone and the calendar was very very small!). Yes I know your policy says you aren’t going to let me change it once I book it or at least you want to charge me $200 for the privilege to change it (and I get that .. those computer systems cost a lot of money) but because I spend $30,000 a year with you and have flown 3 million miles in the past 20 years you should make an exception when I call you 15 minutes after pressing that button on my mobile phone and start teh conversation with “Help” (yes Delta Airlines does that for me all the time .. thank you Delta and sorry for being such a pain)
“Offer me some special tools for getting things done that prove you understand me” I don’t expect things I don’t deserve but help me out with tools to do things my way like web sites, mobile apps and then a phone line staffed with people who have access to all my information and treat me according to my appropriate importance level. Bank of America, for example, struggles every day, tries hard and to me most importantly gets better every day at recognizing that my wife and I have and have had business accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts, mortgages and credit cards with them (and investment accounts with Merrill Lynch, their brokerage arm). Now I am not Donald Trump but I probably deserve a little attention.
“Let me choose what I want to get to shows you understand and value my relationship” – Easiest way to describe is a couple of contrasting examples from a trip I booked this week. I am taking my wife and daughters to New York City. It is a quick trip and they don’t get to visit NYC much so we will be staying in Times Square, “in the middle of the action”. I try to book frequent flyer flights on Delta Airlines and they have blackouts on the dates I want. A quick call to their special service desk and the young lady tells me that I can “buy up” to the flights I want by using extra miles. Why they couldn’t have put that on the website I don’t know but 15 minutes of my time invested and I am happy, happy, happy. Then I go to the website of my two favorite hotel companies to book rooms, knowing I will do some room nights on points and some paid. One cannot do the configuration I want in the location, fine, the other has a perfect match with rooms available but wont let me do the transaction online because I want to mix points nights and paid nights, Fine I call. The woman says no rooms available for points reservations, I as her for the special Diamond member points requirement. “Excuse me” she says “I don’t understand, I said we don’t have any rooms available for points reservations ad no program to increase your points bid. All they have is Deluxe rooms (whatever that means). I ask “cant I book a basic room and you upgrade me or I pay points to upgrade”. “No”. So I pay for the rooms, $1000 more for the weekend. My takeaway, no flexibility, no real loyalty program, so 2005. They got my money, this time, but not again.
So a few questions you might want to think about related to your loyalty program.
- Are you still telling your customers what they want or do you allow your customers to design their own loyalty program at least from a menu of choices?
- Can you clearly state and demonstrate how your most loyal customers are treated differently?
- What are the top 5 things your most loyal customers would like to see improved?
- Do you have a loyalty focus group?
- How do your customers feel about your loyalty program?
- Do you have a benchmark in your functional market as well as your competitive market (eg airlines and hotels are in the same functional group and set benchmarks for each other)?
- How have your loyal customers expectations and requirements evolved over the past 20 years?
- How have your capabilities evolved and matured with them?
- Do your line business executives clearly understand the difference between Voice of The Loyal (VoL) and Voice of the Customer (VoC)
- How do you track opportunity cost of not meeting VoL needs