Who is the Voice of the Customer?

The voice of the customer is a very important person in any company. This is the person that sees things the way your customers see them. This is the person that raises their hand in a meeting and tells you that the customer is not going to like a new policy or feature. This is the person who is going to evaluate all internal decisions based on the impact on existing customers.

Without the voice of the customer, your company will be out of touch. You will be making decisions that executives see as best for the business without anyone to say whether or not customers are going to be happy.

What Qualifies Someone to Be the Voice of the Customer?

There are numerous positions in each company that could conceivably take on this role. Whoever it is has to have an intimate knowledge of who the customer is and why they do business with your company. They don’t have to speak directly to customers on a regular basis, but it certainly helps.

The voice of the customer should have a certain level of authority and decision-making power within the company. They have to have a seat at the table, so that the voice of the customer is heard when it matters most.

There is a case to be made that the person in charge is the voice of the customer. And at many start-ups and small businesses, the leader is the person that can fill that role. But the many responsibilities of the business leader or CEO will lead, sooner or later, to the voice of the customer role taking a back seat to the job of running the business.

A case can also be made for sales or customer service to represent the voice of the customer. Those teams are on the front lines, the ones who are dealing with customers day in and day out. But questions arise over whether these teams have enough internal power to ensure that the voice of the customer is included in all major decisions.

In many businesses, it is the product management team that must act as the voice of the customer. This team is responsible for the product, and a product is only as good as its ability to meet the needs of its customers. Product leads must work to incorporate customer’s wants and needs into the product, and can represent the very same to the overall business.

What Does the Voice of the Customer Do?

The voice of the customer has a number of responsibilities, most of them informal.

  1. Push for policies that are favorable to the customer and against policies that inhibit the customer experience.

  2. Push for new product features that would improve the overall satisfaction of the customer.

  3. Remind others within the organization to keep the customer in mind in everything that they do.

  4. Remind executives who the customer is and how their decisions will impact them.

  5. Make the case for pricing terms that are favorable to the customer.

In a sense, the voice of the customer is just what it sounds like. This person represents the customer interest in all things. It is as if you are giving your customers a seat at the table.

Who Should Be the Voice of the Customer?

No matter what their title, the person in your company who should be the voice of the customer has to be dedicated and fearless.

The person who will be successful in this role will do whatever it takes to understand customers better. They will get on the phone, send out emails, and hit the road to talk to customers. They will know what they like and don’t like about the product, why they chose your company over the competition, how they use your product, and more.

And they will not be afraid to share this information and speak up when it matters most. Whether it’s a meeting with their team, or a bunch of executives sitting around the conference room table getting ready to make a critical business decision. This person will have no problem speaking up.

Solving for “What Do I Do Next?”

No matter who you are, at various times in your day/week/year/career, you will run into this question:

What do I do next?

This an unavoidable question that people will coach you to avoid at all times. There are a variety of things that happen to drive this question.

  • You finish a major project without planning the next one

  • You need to shift your focus because you are stuck on a difficult project

  • You are waiting for new work to be assigned

  • You are responsible to setting the priorities for your team

  • You lose your job or change roles

  • You are bored or burnt out

Whenever you encounter the “what do I do next” question, it’s not fun. It feels like you are lost, or like you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. It causes folks to pause, to look away, or to worry.

But there are solutions. There are easy ways to answer the question when it comes up, and easy ways to prevent it from coming up as frequently. All it takes is a little foresight.

Here are a few solutions to the “what do I do next” problem:

  1. Ask someone.

  2. Keep a priority list.

  3. Long-term items.

  4. Research.

  5. Lend a hand.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of them.

Ask Someone

Who you ask depends on your particular situation. But there is almost always someone you can ask that question to.

It might be your boss, who can tell you with certainty what he or she wants you to be working on. It might be your spouse, who can help guide you through a rough career patch. It might be a peer, who can share what they are working on and offers ways that you can join in.

Regardless of who you ask, this solution is great because often times the worst outcome of the “what do I do next” problem is that we stew in silence for hours or days. This solution gets you out of your own head so you can solve the problem quicker.

Keep a Priority List

A priority list is a list of items to be completed, in order of highest value to lowest. If you have one, you will always know what comes next.

Sure, this solution requires some foresight and planning on your part (or the part of your manager). But if you have a list like this, you will never have to worry about what you should do next.

Long Term Items

Most of us have short term assignments and long term projects. How we work our way through them depends on the urgency and value of each item on our plates.

The beauty of long term tasks is that there are almost always ways to break them down into smaller chunks. And these chunks will serve as backups to whatever short term assignment you are working on now.

If you need a break from your current task, or you get stuck, just turn to the next piece of that long term project and check that off the list.

Research

Take advantage of breaks in the day to day work and learn something new. Research a topic related to your next project or pick up a new skill that will add value to your team.

When you are not sure what to do next, it never hurts to do a little self-improvement.

Lend a Hand

There may come a time when you don’t have anything to work on next. In those cases, you can do yourself, and your team, a big favor by finding a way to help out someone else.

Great job completing your assignment. Now look around you. Chances are, not everyone is finding the same level of success. Find out how you can help a friend or coworker complete their current task and build a bond that will benefit everyone going forward.

What is a Website For?

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It may seem like a ridiculous question, to ask what a website is for. Websites can serve many different purposes – from attracting readers to news articles, to selling products, to fundraising, and more.

But if I were to ask you, “what is your company’s website for”, could you answer? How much hedging would you have to do?

The problem with websites is that they often serve many masters. Marketing wants to streamline and optimize for sales. Creative wants control over the look and feel. Compliance teams want to fill it with legal disclaimers. And the CEO wants his face on the homepage.

What is your website for? The question should have an easy answer. But depending on who I ask, I might get a different answer.

If you are in marketing, you might give me a different answer than your customer service team, or your IT team. And that’s the problem.

To maximize the performance of any website, you need to know what you are maximizing for. Is it sales? Revenue? Donations? Visits? Page depth? Clicks? Calls?

When I ask, what is your website for, the answer should roll off the tongue. It should be quick and easy.

“Our website is for people to purchase books online.”

Okay, great. Now I know what we are solving for. And now I can suggest changes and run tests aimed at selling more books. Because I know that at the end of the day, success is measured by book sales.

It is sound advice for any company to agree first on what your website is for, then work to try to improve performance. Because if you are trying to improve performance before you all agree on what the goal is, you will end up in a lot of uncomfortable conversations.

How to Start a Profitable Business on Amazon – Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Mark Armstrong. Mark started off as a business consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Eventually, his heart went towards e-commerce and all the awesome things that are happening in that niche. He has a plan on creating his own website but for now, he is focused on reaching out to people with a similar mindset and getting his name out there.

The reason why FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) is such a revolutionary program is due to the fact that it made online trade (and trade in general) simpler than it ever was before. In fact, this feature is on a rapid rise in popularity and this year alone there are 1,029,528 new sellers on the platform. In the past, there was a belief that the use of a third-party marketplace is a stepping stone or a temporary move but this is no longer the case. Amazon went above and beyond to allow its users to customize and improve their presence in order to persuade them to see this marketplace as a permanent solution. Nonetheless, getting there is much easier if you have a solid start. Here are some tips that could point you in the right direction.

1. Finding the right product

As soon as you pick the niche (which is somewhat subjective), you’ll be faced with the most important task of them all – picking the right product. Here, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some factors that could make your life a lot easier. For instance, an item that’s light in weight is easier to transport, whereas an average product sale price that’s between $10 and $50 tends to be the most profitable.

Also, when inspecting other products, you need to check the number of monthly searches of their top 3 keywords. Ideally, you would see over 100,000 searches per month. One last piece of advice that a lot of people tend to forget about is the question of whether it’s a seasonal product or something that generates revenue all year round. Remember, there’s no right or wrong here but the degree to which these fit your plans may vary.

One of the things that you won’t hear that often is the fact that China is probably the fastest-growing market on Amazon. In fact, its share is about 25 percent of the Amazon marketplace and there’s a growing number of sellers from this region (especially in Hong Kong). Therefore, finding an item that sells well in China might give you a boost.

2. A frugal start

The main reason why FBA is such a popular feature is due to the fact that it allows you to launch with as little as $2,000. This means that you can enter the business world without selling assets or getting in debt. In fact, you can use this program in order to amass an initial capital, regardless if you aim to make your own e-store later on or remain on Amazon for good. Still, just because your break-even point is close, this doesn’t mean that you can afford to underestimate or ignore it. Therefore, you should make all the necessary steps to cut your operational costs even further.

The first idea you need to consider is the notion of drop shipping, which allows you to trade in items without having to purchase them first or keep them in storage. Of course, this minimizes your profit per unit but it also insulates you from the risk of overinvesting in a product that people aren’t interested in. It also allows you to keep your logistics much simpler, due to the fact that you don’t actually have to handle the issue of storage yourself. One more thing you can do to minimize the cost is to find a local manufacturer and supplier. Here, the term local refers to the proximity to your customer, especially if you’re trading in a foreign market.

3. A good return policy

Perhaps the most important reason why you need your own e-store, other than avoiding the fee, is the fact that there are so many fake items on platforms like Amazon. This somewhat ruins the reputation of the platform and causes a general audience to be less trustworthy towards those using this business model. Needless to say, the only way to avoid this is with the help of a good return policy. Nowadays, this process can be automated and facilitated with the use of an Amazon refund tool.

What you need to consider is the fact that by offering a refund for your products you A) demonstrate that you are confident in their quality and B) have respect for your customers. This way, you’re also demonstrating that you’re more interested in maintaining a good relationship with your customers than making a one-time sale. Also, a person returning the product is usually not satisfied with it and offering them a full refund might, potentially, prevent them from leaving a negative review. In this way, a good return policy also becomes a method of damage control.

4. Work on your brand

In theory, all you have to do in order to start selling on Amazon is make a registered account, however, in order to maximize your profit, you need to do substantially more. First of all, you should host a website, potentially even a blog. Nonetheless, like Amazon, there are just platforms for the promotion of your business. What you also need are brand markings like a logo, a slogan, and a company name. You need to understand that buyers tend to judge products by the title of a listing. In order to maximize your appeal, you need to include a brand name, the name of the product and list a couple of features to the title.

5. The importance of images

The downside of selling items on Amazon (and of e-commerce, in general), lies in the fact that your audience can’t personally examine the product like they would if they were to visit a brick and mortar retail place. The closest you can get to make up for this is to take quality photographs, use adequate photography methods and upload them to the product page. The method is particularly important and it depends on the type of the product. For instance, a ghost mannequin is ideal for selling clothing items, while it’s an unavailable option for other product types.

Conclusion

In the end, you need to understand that the choice of staying on Amazon or switching to a platform of your own depends only on your preference and long-term plans. As for the profit and chances of advancement, there’s really no limitation. You see, over 70 percent of all U.S. consumers have a tendency of buying from Amazon and there are those who managed to profit from this idea. In fact, the simplicity of this process is something that could potentially allow a one-person startup to earn several thousand dollars per hour. Nevertheless, it will take quite a bit of time and effort until you reach this stage.

Does Everyone on Your Team Know the Goals?

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Transparency in business leadership is critical. When leaders are transparent, they build trust and credibility. Their teams generally have a more favorable view of them, as well as the company as a whole.

Transparency encourages open communication, problem solving, and respect. These are the foundations of a strong company culture.

What Happens When We Fail to Be Transparent

Still, many companies and managers struggle with transparency. They will point out the potential pitfalls with too much transparency.

What happens when you have to make difficult or unpopular decisions? What happens when ethical or regulatory questions arise? What happens when confidential insider information gets leaked to the press or to our competitors?

While it is true that some secrecy is required at the highest levels of an organization, the more transparent we can be, the better. And that’s not just a matter of culture. It’s a matter of performance.

Study after study has shown that healthier company cultures lead to stronger company performance. And when management is open and honest with their employees, they give them the tools to succeed.

Share the Goals

In most companies, you get a kind of goal pyramid. There are overall goals at the very top – revenue growth, profitability, etc. – that are driven in turn by shorter-term goals that vary from department to department. Marketing goals, sales goals, financial goals, hiring goals, product goals, and more. They all build on each other and successfully hitting all the individual goals should lead to the company hitting those top level goals we started with.

You count on your team to help meet the goals of your department. But do you share with them what those goals are? And if you do, do you also share with them the larger goals for the company?

In the spirit of transparency, we should all strive to share all the goals the company is aiming for. Our teams deserve to know how the work that is expected of them is going to help the company achieve its goals.

This kind of openness encourages feedback, incentivizes performance, and adds meaning to each and every role throughout the organization. When your team members all know the goals, they can do their part to help reach them. Otherwise they are just checking boxes as part of some vague mission that does not involve them.

Conclusion

Be open and honest with your team and you will drive better performance.