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Building Your Utility's Voice-of-the-Customer Program in 6 Steps

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Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) is a holistic yet straightforward approach to gathering information that generates meaningful insights to help inform changes within an organization. When you apply VOC tools and act on the results, your customers will see you in a new light--as a company that cares about its customers' thoughts and opinions, and provides service in the way that customers want.

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Building Your Utility's Voice-of-the-Customer Program in 6 Steps

  1. 1. Shawn Silzer, Senior Manager, Consulting Solutions, E Source Building Your Utility’s Voice-of-the-Customer Program in 6 Steps
  2. 2. Why Voice-of-the-Customer Research Matters Utilities face a triple threat these days: n Customers have unprecedented choice in terms of service providers n Customers have unprecedented expectations about getting great service from their utility n Regulators have unprecedented expectations about energy savings achieved through utility demand-side management programs To improve performance in all three areas—without breaking the bank—more and more utilities are turning to voice-of-the-customer (VOC) research. VOC is a holistic yet straightforward approach to gathering information that generates meaningful insights to help inform changes within an organization. When you apply VOC tools and act on the results, your customers will see you in a new light—as a company that cares about its customers’ thoughts and opinions, and provides service in the way customers want. VOC is a holistic yet straightforward approach to gathering information that generates meaningful insights to help inform changes within an organization. 2 www.esource.com
  3. 3. www.esource.com3 How Is VOC Different? Customer research isn’t new to the utility industry. What differentiates VOC from traditional methods is two-fold: (1) its emphasis on dialogue with customers and (2) its use of an end-to-end approach that ensures the intelligence you gather is ultimately translated into action. Ignore VOC research and you’re taking a big risk because your customers are still sharing feedback about you via social media and other informal channels even if you aren’t hearing it. That feedback can affect your corporate reputation and customer experience (CX) scores. So how do you move into this new world of VOC? It’s easier than you might think. You can actually build on your existing customer research efforts—meaning the transition doesn’t need to be overwhelming. And if you follow these six proven steps, you’ll soon have your own VOC program up and running. 1 2 34 5 6 Define Design ImplementAnalyze Act Repeat VOC
  4. 4. What is it that you want your VOC program to address? Do you want to increase participation in programs? Improve your external CX scores? Decrease costs and improve the customer experience by reviewing and revamping internal business processes? Defining your utility’s goals and objectives with VOC—along with how you’ll use the data you gather—is the first essential step toward long-term success. A key consideration at this early stage is getting agreement on the approach you’ll use for translating your research into tangible actions that get noticed by utility leadership. Without that, you run the risk of building a VOC program that will languish in a silo. Consider the style of your own decision- makers as you determine the types of reports and dashboards that will best prompt action. Most utilities get a jump on VOC design by looking to the work they’ve already done through journey mapping. Those maps will shed light on known customer pain points and key moments of truth, and identify where you are most likely to succeed in customer dialogue—web, mobile, social media, or even face-to-face. You’ll also want your VOC program to include a mix of relationship surveys (generally done twice per year in order to analyze the ongoing health of the relationship) and transactional surveys (which are better suited to identifying issues and process improvements at key touchpoints). 1 STEP STEP Define Design2 Defining your utility’s goals and objectives with VOC—along with how you’ll use the data you gather—is the first essential step toward long-term success. 4 www.esource.com
  5. 5. www.esource.com5 When it comes time to actually roll out your VOC program with customers, use a multichannel data-collection approach to capture the information you need. Choices include: n Surveys that query customers automatically and immediately after contact with your utility; don’t think just about the contact center, but also include your website, mobile app, interactive voice response system (IVR), walk-in centers, field service personnel, and program participants n Social media conversations n Private online and in-person communities and panels n Surveys that reach customers on their mobile devices Be sure to also include information from departments in your organization that are already talking to customers—not only customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, but also employee feedback systems and external benchmarking data. Doing so will give you a single view of the customer. With a variety of sources feeding you real-time interactions, the amount of customer data you’ll soon have at your fingertips could quickly become overwhelming. The best VOC efforts deliver the data gathered into two distinct buckets: one you can use to inform longer-term strategic opportunities and the other that you’ll use to drive immediate, tactical actions. Data in the strategic bucket should be aggregated to identify key drivers from your customers’ perspective in order to effectively prioritize long-term investments that will drive meaningful business decisions. So internal decision-makers can quickly act to resolve problems, your tactical data should populate a dashboard that includes alerts about dissatisfied customers or poorly performing team members. Don’t forget about alerts for exceptionally happy customers, too, so you can hand out kudos to the employees involved. No matter which bucket it lands in, apply these guidelines to all of the feedback you receive: n Connect customer feedback to other customer data—such as CRM and customer information systems—as well as to operational metrics n Look for trends in unstructured feedback, such as voice (for example, call recordings and IVR interactions) and text n Conduct rigorous statistical analysis on structured feedback STEP STEP Implement Analyze3 4 The most effective VOC programs have reporting systems in place to send the relevant feedback where it’s needed in a timely fashion and in a way that’s easy to understand.
  6. 6. www.esource.com6 While you might imagine taking action on VOC results would come naturally, one of the pitfalls for organizations that are new to VOC is that the gathering and analyzing of phases becomes an end in itself. The most effective VOC programs have reporting systems in place to send the relevant feedback where it’s needed in a timely fashion and in a way that’s easy to understand. This is where the work you did on identifying the preferences of internal decision-makers in the Design stage will pay dividends. Closing the loop with your individual customers is also a must. Customers expect that if they take the time to provide their feedback, you will acknowledge it and take appropriate action. Finally, the robust alert system you’ve built will provide employees with the information they need to better meet the needs of customers. It’s vital that you review goals and revise your VOC program on a regularly scheduled basis. Doing so will help you focus on new issues as they arise or adjust to new business priorities. STEP STEP Act Repeat5 For maximum results, your VOC program should be complemented by a voice-of-the-employee (VOE) program. With VOE research included in your efforts, you won’t miss input from front office employees who speak to many customers every day. These employees are perfectly placed to recognize patterns in what customers say, and they can help you understand which internal processes might be failing. 6
  7. 7. www.esource.com7 Next Steps Starting up a VOC program doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Utilities have been doing customer research for years; VOC simply takes those efforts to the next level. To succeed with VOC, you need to plan carefully, follow the six steps, and make sure that any changes you undertake—whether they’re customer- facing or not—always put your customers first. If you get it right, you’ll see one or more of the following benefits from your VOC effort: n Better decisions about what needs to be improved in your utility because those decisions will be based on real data n Improved customer participation in new programs n Reduced costs because of better, more-consistent processes n Higher CX scores But get it wrong and you’ll encounter far less favorable outcomes such as: n Customers who feel alienated because they don’t see action taken as a result of their feedback n Siloed information that provides no value to your organization E Source provides utilities of all sizes with the tools to develop, launch, and manage leading VOC research programs through a single platform. With E Source’s help, you can analyze and take action on the data you collect in real time. Working with an E Source consultant, you’ll soon develop the skills you need to manage a VOC program internally for the long term, which means even more cost savings for your utility. Visit www.esource.com/consulting/efms or call 1-800-ESOURCE (1-800-376-8723) to learn more.
  8. 8. Contact us For more information about E Source, visit www.esource.com or contact us at 1-800-ESOURCE or esource@esource.com. Shawn Silzer, senior manager for Consulting Solutions at E Source, has spent more than 25 years working in the energy sector. His cross-functional utility operations experience allows him to deliver consulting solutions in the areas of customer experience, journey mapping, and change management. Prior to joining E Source, he was the program manager for smart meter implementation at SaskPower, a vertically integrated utility serving 460,000 customers in Saskatchewan, Canada. In 2014, Shawn led the program through an unprecedented meter product recall and replacement effort, which resulted in media and industry scrutiny from across North America—as well as unprecedented customer engagement. In addition to being responsible for issue- and change-management activities, he managed all employee, customer, and shareholder communications. Shawn’s earlier utility experience included leading teams in the electrical and telecommunications sectors responsible for media relations, marketing communications, strategic communications planning, and corporate philanthropy. In 2011, his team won a Gold Quill award from the International Association of Business Communicators for communications strategy development. Shawn has a BA in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. He also has a Prosci change management certification and Michael Hammer business process certification. 8

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