Earn a Seat at the Table

I hear it all the time. Your company is focused on the customer. There are customer-focused initiatives — perhaps your company has created a customer experience (Cx) team, and is hiring new people to stock it. A ton of customer research is being done – surveys and focus groups are carried out, journey maps are being created.

And here you are – not invited. Your team talks to customers every day. You can rattle off customers’ most critical needs without even having to look at your reports. You and your teams have a clear picture of what needs to be done.

But the meetings happen without you. And so the organization goes down the “customer focus” path without your help.

What can you do? How can you get that seat at the table?

From the outside, it’s not too surprising this happens. Most call centers are housed in places far away from corporate, where land and wages are cheaper. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.

But it’s more than that. You have representatives at corporate, sharing what’s happening in the field. So why can’t you get that seat?

Maybe it’s how you communicate.

Do you primarily communicate through stats and data? Pareto charts are cool – no doubt about it. But data doesn’t move people. It targets the head – not the heart. Before you can get people to listen to your story, you need to make them care.

The good news is that you have access to some of the richest customer data in your company. And I’m not talking about your Dirty Dozen Customer Issues list.

Nope—to get a seat at the table, you need to unleash the literal voice of your customer.

At the 2014 Insight Exchange, David Shapiro, VP of Customer Experience at UnitedHealthcare, shared how he gets his seat at the table. At the start of every meeting, he plays a customer call clearly showing their opinion of the issue at hand.

Whether they’re meeting about convoluted forms, undocumented processes, or confusing websites, David first finds a strong clip that showcases how customers feel about the topic. This clip helps meeting attendees contextualize the facts by understanding the emotional impact of the issue. Hearing a consumer talk about the challenges of getting the right medication for her husband trumps the internal thinking that the current process is just fine.

A part of your job is to fight the inside-out or product focus that is your company’s natural instinct. The voice of your customer is the perfect weapon in this battle.

Of course, David also has the data. He can show the number of calls on a topic. He can highlight the costs to the company based on the number of call time spent on the issue. But he knows that this data is only useful once you get someone to care about the topic.

So, if you’re frustrated that you’re not having the impact you need, look at your approach. Are you unleashing the literal voice of your customer? Or are you starting with another Pareto chart?

About the author

Jim Tincher is the Principal Consultant at Heart of the Customer, a Customer Experience and Customer Service consulting company. Jim has more than 20 years of experience in driving customer experience from small business to Fortune 500 companies. Jim’s Customer Experience expertise has led to engagements as far-reaching as developing consumer tests at Best Buy, creating a Customer Insights capability at UnitedHealth Group, and consulting with clients ranging from global fast food companies to utilities to international manufacturing and service companies.

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