How to: Listen, Understand and Leverage Customer Voices

Psssst… “the Boss is Hearing Voices”. What shall we do?


It was not Friday; it was a hot and humid Thursday afternoon outside the office. I had just begun to fill my glass with ice cold water from the fountain when I heard a voice from behind, it was my colleague Yvonne.

She said; Billy, can you keep a secret? I said of course Yvonne. She continued: I overheard our boss telling the Board of Directors he is “hearing voices”!

Everyday “the Boss” is paid to make critical decisions with the intention of delivering solutions.

To make decisions the Boss hears information from three voices. The first “voice” is the Voice of the Customer, aka VOC. The second is VOM or the Voice of the Market. And the third, and closest to the Boss, is the Voice of the Business known as VOB. In today’s marketplace these voices are deafening to the point they overwhelm the senses and continually compete with each other for the Bosses’ attention.

To make matters worse, they seek ever increasing amounts of ever decreasing resources and use single minded knowledge for what they are requesting. These VOX messages are rarely significant to the Bosses’ pursuit of survival. These voices are more often background noise. But is the noise, all the messages have to offer, or is it just what the untrained ear hears? Now and then, with the right bandwidth, the voices are the Goose that lays the Golden Egg.

What is the dilemma for the Boss? Which voices are speaking reliable solutions and which are flawed or substandard? Which tones and pitches are inconsistent and which have harmony with company culture and objectives? Which voice can one take to the bank? Which will have the best impact on a situation? Which decision might have strong intangible benefits or am I being lead into a turf war? Will my employees understand my decision or will my personal credibility be harmed? Will my decision affect morale? What if I simply do nothing, or if I trip over the solution will I even know it?

How will I recognize a good solution, and by what measures or standards will it be judged? The Stakeholders and Shareholders… what will they think of my decision – are my days numbered? Each Voice is shouting something different, tugging in different directions, and continually amplifying their noise. These are only a tiny fraction of the today’s considerations and consequences the Boss reflects on when seeking a decision or solution to a problem.

So what is the real problem in this dilemma? The real problem is the Boss is overwhelmed with so many solutions to problems but has no reliable or predictable way to amplify the highest impact solution or eliminating the skull crushing insignificant noise from the decision making process. All along the Boss knows the consequence for each wide-of-the-mark solution will wound company reputation, degrade goodwill, fracture strategic ties with the most profitable customers, and bleed time and money.

If your title were King or Queen (in lieu of Boss) you would demand a method to produce the correct solution or at a minimum narrow the solution possibilities from 100 to the best 3 or 4. You would also insist on a method to predict the future of a given solution. You would want to reduce risk by having a very high confidence in the expected results. And while you are proclaiming from your throne, you would require these 3 or 4 possibilities produce a minimum ROI. And because you are on the mountain top you would insist on having all the answers to the “So what” and “Why” questions all the Kingdom’s menacing mercenaries will see fit to propel your way.

Can you become a King or Queen? Not realistically. So, is there a happy ending? Yes there is. You can increase your control of the future if you choose to by using a proven method to rid yourself of useless information, gain more time for your real job, and decrease costs. Methods that predict the future by using the results of the past and the VOX’s you are hearing in combination with models and state-of-the-art analytics. It’s called Predictive Business Analytics, and it works.

How well, well it has proven itself by saving 10’s of billions of dollars for 95% of the Fortune 500 companies over the past 20 years. It is successful almost 100% of the time when management teams commit to it and have access to the necessary skill-set. Best of all it is finally attainable for small-cap and mid-cap companies. These are the companies that demand performance for survival and will not settle for less than high performance from themselves, their employees, their products, or their services. These are the new-world companies that recognize the capability but cannot cover the overhead, so they own it on a time-share basis.

By obtaining a Predictive Business Analytics skill-set it gives you the tested power to make the decisions that produce the greatest positive impact on Growth, Profit, and Value for your company, its customers, and its stakeholders; and that’s the Voice of Strength.

About the Author

Ron Ackerman is a service industry expert with experience of a broad range of industries including oil and gas, marine, transportation services, insurance, software, uniform laundry, and waste/environmental services. Ron has also held leadership positions as Vice President, Ambar Environmental & Marine; and Division Vice President & General Manager BFI Waste Systems. Ron has an extensive background in industrial service management leading turnarounds, startups, corporate task forces, and special marketing projects.

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