Voice of the customer….. Engagement ….. Loyalty.  What do these buzzwords mean?  How do we use them to drive value? 

These often-used terms have connotative and denotative meanings that can be quite different depending on who uses them and how they are used.  Loyalty 360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association continues to see uncertainly about loyalty, engagement, and voice of the customer.  Questions posed by our members and partners about these buzzwords keep coming fast and furiously. 

The confusion indicates that in this challenging economic environment, the focus on loyalty and engagement is becoming ever more important. Customers, clients, employers, brands and channel partners believe that voice of the customer, Web 3.0, the Groundswell, etc. can give them a well-needed competitive edge.  Yet, they don’t know how to execute these initiatives effectively. They’re looking for best practice examples of groups creating engagement, excitement, and commitment to help the answer the overriding question:  HOW? 

The answer is two-fold: 

(1)   Listen.  Listen, not in a lip service fashion, but listen with the belief that there is wisdom in crowds. Listen with the purpose that small is the new big. One blogger, one online community not addressed can have serious impacts on a brand.  Being truly committed to listening to and engaging customers requires a corporate mandate guided by a visionary leader who compels the organization to look at their actions and address these questions honestly: 

  • When companies say they are committed to voice of the customer, yet they are only focused on call center responses, is that a true voice of the customer
  • Or when companies say they are committed to voice of the customer, yet they are only focused on social, mobile and emerging media responses, is that a true voice of the customer?
  • Or when companies say they are committed to voice of the customer, yet they only use third party opt-in data, is that a true voice of the customer?

(2)  React.  Once you listen you need to react with the purpose to engage and empower the dialogue with your audience. There’s no doubt the pendulum has swung from the brand to the client.  For every success story that becomes lore within this new “social community” and “engagement marketing” space, we hear five where the “visionary” that sold them on the new technology that would revolutionize their brand, their company, their product, their offering has failed. That’s because it comes down to commitment and a realization that the world of marketing is going to be more dynamic now than it has ever been. Customers, clients, employees, brand participants want control. Yet control means engaging in an interactive dialogue with the brand and brand participants. It means making the input for the various channels concise, relevant, interest and actionable.

I was recently at a loyalty conference where one of the speakers purported that we should treat our “best customer” with the best rewards and engagement. I thought to myself, what is your best customer?  How do you define that customer and what are the best rewards and engagement for them? There’s no place for this type of old school thinking in this new media market of engagement, loyalty and voice of the customer.  I challenge you to listen —- to truly listen —- to react, and to engage.

Author: Mark Johnson is President and CEO of Loyalty 360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association. Loyalty 360 is the only organization that addresses the full spectrum of both customer and employee loyalty issues.  An unbiased, market driven clearinghouse and think-tank for loyalty and engagement opportunities, insights, and responses, Loyalty 360 is the source business leaders trust for industry metrics, market driven research, actionable case studies, and networking opportunities.