Voice of the Customer is Dead

Voice of the customer (VoC) programs have been popular from the moment that businesses first started having customers and in recent years the formality of these programs has increased and books have been written and many conference agendas populated with experts on the subject.

VoC is dead and social is the reason.

Paul Greenberg recently noted at the Enterprise 2.0 event that business technology is not undergoing a technology revolution, the revolution is one based in communication and as a result business is being forced to adapt and innovate.

Companies of all sizes are directly connecting with individual consumers and are now able to scale these interactions. The result of this is that methods built around sampling and proxy are no longer necessary or productive. Why would you collect data that you have to interpret, extrapolate, filter, and subject to latency when employees can directly tap into customer communities for direct and immediate engagement?

To be clear, voice of the customer is not an obsolete concept… Voice of the Customer programs are obsolete and will increasingly be co-opted and replaced by customer communities.

This is one of the more interesting consequences of the mass market adoption of social networks, they serve to break down the barriers that exist between customers and employees. Whether or not the firewall exists doesn’t matter, the fact remains that employees are becoming accustomed to interacting directly with customers regardless of whether they are in the customer service org or something entirely different.

Companies are themselves recognizing that their competitive strategy requires being attuned to customer needs and engagement, a point that Josh Bernoff recently made quite well in an outstanding research piece called Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer.

Bernoff’s key points are that competitive advantage no longer continue to derive from backoffice technology focused on productivity and efficiency but from customer facing technology that delivers customer insights which can then be acted upon from a market and product perspective.

Companies that obsess about customers end up investing in technology differently than other companies because they build their business around the one piece of intellectual property that cannot be replicated or commoditized, customer insight. As a result, Forrester is recommending that companies budget according to the following priorities:

1) invest in real-time insight to build products that customers will embrace.

2) Spend more on customer experience and customer service to build relationships.

3) Fund sales channels that deliver intelligence about customers, not just the push.

4) Shift marketing from one-way ads into useful content and interactive marketing.

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Community Manager Appreciation Day

The call to action among leading companies in recent years has been that customer service is the new marketing. This is true but it has always been true, companies as diverse as Southwest Airlines, Avis, Lexus and Johnson & Johnson have been at the forefront of the trend to use great customer service as a competitive differentiator and a way to attract that best employees that the market has to offer.

If an appreciation of customer service is not a new thing, then what is? Clearly it is the ability to technology to efficiently connect companies with consumers and with social networks the number of channels that companies have to maintain in order to connect with customers has been blown up to a daunting number.

The role of Community Manager has quickly evolved from a new age social ambassador, a supporting player, to being conductor of the orchestra. Today more than ever before companies are relying on individual customer engagement to cement brand loyalty and leverage word of mouth marketing, The Community Manager has the daunting but essential responsibility of keeping the various resources of the organization in sync and playing to the same sheet music, ensuring that customer needs are met, concerns are addressed, and their product and service ideas and suggestions are brought into the process in order to shorten product lifecycles and better map to needs. If customer service is the new marketing then the Community Manager is the new CMO.

I support Jeremiah Owyang’s quest to make the 4th Monday of every January a time to honor the dedication and hard work of community managers. Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day and at Get Satisfaction there is no group of professionals more important to our success so we put together a survey of community manager insights for you to enjoy, and hopefully learn from as well.

Joining Get Satisfaction

“The years teach much which the days never knew.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been thinking about this quote a lot lately, maybe it’s because I have become more introspective about myself and the lessons that the years have brought but I think the real reason is that I am at a point in life where I am very comfortable being me, which means accepting the things I like and dislike along with acknowledging what I am good at and those things which I am not.

I started out my career as a geek, very good with edge technology,which at the time was desktop computers and a few years later the Internet. I moved through marketing and sales role, and then venture capital to general management but all along the way I missed the hands on aspect of product and connection of products to people.

Despite the seduction of media and consumer applications I also realize that my strengths are in enterprise technology, which is only really defined as selling something to a business customer. I understand these markets and how to optimize for them and with my acquired knowledge, which is constantly evolving, in non-traditional business models I have found that I can bring a unique perspective to enterprise focused technology companies.

Over the summer I started working with Get Satisfaction as a result of a conversation that I had with my good friend Wendy Lea, who is the CEO of the company. Wendy asked me to help define and refine market and competitive landscape, optimize pricing, and work with her to raise a round of fresh capital. As I started to get more involved in the day-to-day management at Get Satisfaction, and with the impending completion of the financing event, I was confronted with a choice to make about returning to the workplace in a full time capacity. This turned out to be an easy decision to make considering how strongly I felt about the team I had been working with, made even easier when Wendy offered me the VP Product Marketing role, which I gladly accepted because it brought me back to my roots and the connection between products and people that I had been missing.

It’s also a pleasure to announce that Get Satisfaction has closed a $6 million in Series A funding led by Azure Capital Partners with O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and First Round Capital participating. Cameron Lester, General Partner, from Azure joins Wendy Lea, CEO, Thor Muller, CTO and Co-founder and Bryce Roberts, Managing Director from OATV on Get Satisfaction’s board of directors. This is an amazing investor team that has seen Get Satisfaction through a phenomenal period of organic growth, the opportunity is now to take that and accelerate the pace and amplify the impact.

Over 40,000 communities are hosted on Get Satisfaction and we are adding new clients at a fast pace across CPG, consumer electronics, social gaming, education and government markets. With applications for service and support, social commerce, and social CRM, the ability for Get Satisfaction to span multiple application categories (think social onramps to CRM and ECM) puts the company right in the middle of some very exciting market trends.

Lastly, you really have to check out the results of an extensive rebranding effort that affects the website, communities, and widgets!