Author's Note: This is the fifth of a series of six posts about Why You Shouldn't Be Surprises Your VOC Program is Failing.
Did your Voice of the Customer (VOC) tool vendor or consultant tell you you’re going to need to have the guts to stand up for your VOC program and sometimes you’re going to have to follow you gut when you’re analyzing data?
Most research on the differences between successful and failed VOC programs never mention either of these as critical components to your success. Yet, every VOC leader I’ve ever worked with faces challenges on a daily basis that they’ll admit requires courage and guts to move forward.
Here’s how I see it.
If VOC is new to your organization, you are in for massive change management. That means you are going to have to be absolutely convinced of the value of VOC in general and your VOC program and its capabilities in particular. You need absolute confidence because you will be called upon to at least defend your:
- Funding requests
- Data integration requests
- Team’s insights and recommendations
- Insight to action initiatives
Beyond these, you will likely have to have the guts to stand up to your leaders to explain that some of their requests are a waste of resources while at the same time you train these leaders how to ask high quality questions that you can actually research.
"In business, courageous action is really a special kind of calculated risk taking. People who become good leaders have a greater than average willingness to make bold moves, but they strengthen their chances of success—and avoid career suicide—through careful deliberation and preparation. Business courage is not so much a visionary leader’s inborn characteristic as a skill acquired through decision-making processes that improve with practice."
Kathleen K. Reardon
Harvard Business Review, January 2007
The fastest way to destroy your VOC program is to lose your focus on what you are researching. If a research project does not lead you in the direction of the agreed upon goals of the program, it is a luxury at best and a waste of precious resources at worst.
What You Can Do
I cannot count the number of times leaders asked, “Is anyone talking about this?” I have trained my clients to do one of two things when they hear this type of question:
- Ask more questions to understand what the leader is actually thinking, what their hypothesis is, what they are going to do with the research finding if they receive it and what metric the findings are likely to impact;
- If that does not work, then I tell my clients to only do the necessary research required to answer the question with a “Yes” or “No.” This answer will cause the leader to ask more questions that will help you know what you actually need to research as addressed in the outlined above.
This may seem obtuse. But, remember, you are responsible for reaching specific goals and you have limited resources to do so. Often, leaders ask questions because they are interested in entertaining their curiosity but it has no real value for the business. This is a habit that can be changed and you help them become a more effective leader when you drive their behavior toward the asking of high quality questions.
Following Your Gut
You may also find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the information you need or you don’t have the confidence to declare a definitive answer to a research question. In these cases, I encourage you to follow your gut and trust in your intuition.
I am not suggesting you state an unsupported conclusion that ‘feels right’ but rather that you follow the path that feels right in your research. As you develop your expertise in this area, your intuition will become stronger and you can learn to listen to that small voice in your head or that feeling in your gut that suggests an alternative path. The more you work with your intuition and learn the voice of your intuition, the more likely you are to follow the correct path. That being said, always test your intuitive hypotheses with sufficient rational analysis and develop a theory on solid data.
“Information subconsciously perceived in the brain will help with decisions if that information holds some value or extra evidence beyond what people already have in their conscious mind”
Live Science, May 20, 2016
A few months ago I was doing analysis for a new client and I had a feeling that there was more hidden in the open-ended survey responses than I was seeing and the software was revealing. My conclusions just did not feel complete. I felt this deep sense of knowing that something seemed to be missing.
I put in several additional hours of reading and analyzing the feedback manually (yes, VOC tools can’t do it all). After several intuitive hypotheses failed to stand up to the rigor of rational analysis, I stumbled across one that was valid. When I shared the insight and my recommendation with my client and they applied it in their next marketing campaign, they saw sales increase 90% year-over-year. That one finding was worth more than 10x the investment they made in my research.
This was not a one-time occurrence. I follow many gut feelings in the process of researching. Some of my most valuable findings have been the result of this process.
Read more about Why You Shouldn't Be Surprised Your VOC Program is Failing.
Or read the next post What You Need to Succeed as a VOC Leader.