The Paradigm Shift – Utilizing Agencies to Empower the Voice of the Customer

What role should an agency play in the customer experience?

Today’s brands are struggling to match the speed and agility of customers who grew up in the “mobile first” environment. Staying competitive means embracing a certain flexibility that is often challenging among enterprises. Tapping an agency who understands the power of Voice of the Customer could be the answer.

HubSpot defines Voice of the Customer (VoC) as the process of capturing all of what a customer is saying about your business, product or service. It helps visualize the gap between customer expectations and the authentic brand experience. By capturing your customer’s voice, you can connect and engage at each touch point in their journey.

Furthermore, the idea brand loyalty is evolving. It’s now incumbent on marketers to curate that emotional connection to the brand. Research conducted by Forrester and InMoment stated that the number one driver of a great customer experience is having an established emotional connection. Brand loyalty is still key, but you need this emotional engagement to get there.

From Ford to Coke to Chevy, these traditional brands dominated among earlier generations – loyalty flowed from the customer to the company. In today’s digital-first landscape, the script has been flipped. Now it’s the empowerment of the customer over the brand. It’s time to pivot from old-school tactics in order to meet this new standard in customer expectation.

Developing a consistent VoC program can meet your customers’ emotional needs and drive your brand’s reputation throughout each experience. This program should capture the tone and preferences of your brand’s most loyal advocates, demonstrate the value of their feedback and translate into a platform that sales, marketing and other key stakeholders can point to for validation in referrals. This is key in driving new business and revenue.

Historically, brands have been sensitive to handing over customers to agencies. But now agencies are more involved in the customer experience than ever. Why? Customers are playing a greater role in overall marketing strategy, and the skill set that agencies offer – social and storytelling – is part and parcel with their integrated services. As a result, the borders between brands and their agencies are becoming blurrier. Flipping the paradigm and giving your customers control of the brand through a strong content strategy can make or break your next marketing campaign. Are you listening to the Voice of the Customer? Ignore it at your peril.

Consider the sales funnel. Top of funnel lead generation activity drives conversion through good content, social and optimized mobile. That’s conventional engagement with the prospect.

Everything moves through the funnel. But the real engagement happens after the conversion. How do you handle customer onboarding? What happens in the consumer lifecycle at 30, 60 and 90 days? Maximizing their emotional experience after the sale is what builds loyalty. Emotional marketing is the purview of an integrated agency with the content marketing skills to connect and build those critical customer relationships.

What does a strong Voice of the Customer program look like? It involves building community. Using social to engage encourages customers to advocate for your brand. CEOs have long used Customer Advisory Boards to capture customer sentiment for the brand. This has now moved to the CMO level – in the form of customer experience initiatives and premiere customer programs based on tier of customer.

Traditional agency relationships still exist, but the industry is putting pressure on and challenging that agency role. Brands are reacting to pace and relevancy while engaging on the customer’s channel of preference.

Word of Mouth (WOM) is a perfect example of an effective VoC initiative. Consider the power of engaging with the top 10 CIOs in your industry, resulting in their sharing of how they are enjoying your SaaS, product or service. This value-added relationship builds trust and spreads WOM, generating inbound leads.

Today, agencies now have revenue and customer impact beyond earned media opportunities. That is the ‘Power of Voice’.

Once you engage your agency in the Voice of the Customer, alchemy begins. Effective and innovative examples are out there. Consider Converse. They allow consumers to customize their shoes. Customers then create user generated content and they share the product they made across social.

B2C brands are listening to their audiences and benefitting from personalizing their customer experience. Now B2B brands are following suit. Solve your customers’ problems and they’ll love you for it. Put the power of “The Voice of Many Voices” behind your brand with a solid, consistent VoC program, managed by an experienced integrated PR agency.

Lisa Astor

Senior Vice President & Co-Lead of Client Relations at PAN Communications
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