With change happening so quickly, how can businesses spot opportunities and threats that may relate to their business? A key element of this to use your employees and existing customers as your ‘eyes and ears’. This is why Voice of the Customer (VoC) and Voice of the Employee (VoE) programmes are now more important than ever.

Today it’s possible for markets and business models to experience radical change and disruption within a very short period of time. Just think how quickly Uber has revolutionised the local transport industry or how fast Airbnb has become a major player in travel. Entry barriers in many sectors are lower than they’ve ever been. And social media can mean a clever idea can catch fire without the huge marketing budgets that might have been required in the past.

With change happening so quickly, how can businesses spot opportunities and threats that may relate to their business? A key element of this to use your employees and existing customers as your ‘eyes and ears’. This is why VoC and VoE programmes are now more important than ever. Rather than just add-ons that measure the customer experience and employee engagement they can be a vital source of business intelligence that can reveal fresh opportunities. For example, after listening to customers and analysing their needs the AA launched its own insurance company, with a target of selling 250,000 policies to existing members.

Here are four important areas you should consider if you want you VoE and VoC initiatives to deliver the insight you require:

1. Unify feedback and insight

Just looking at either employee or customer feedback on their own gives you only a partial picture. The real value comes when you are able to combine them, or if you can share ideas from one group with the other. Individual feedback systems will primarily only flag the biggest themes and concerns, neglecting those that are smaller. By bringing all of your feedback into a single system, these ‘long tail’ trends become easier to identify, revealing valuable opportunities to improve processes or deliver new products or services.

2. Make it easy to gain insight

Business managers have probably never had access to so much data, meaning they easily fail to spot meaningful insights or not react fast enough to seize opportunities before they disappear. Ideally you must have the ability to carry on a constant dialogue with customers and employees, asking questions quickly and getting the results in real-time. Responses need to be easy to access and understand by managers, allowing them to interact with the data with confidence and use it to underpin insight.

3. Ensure you collect feedback constantly

Many companies still rely on annual employee surveys, while VoC programmes are often focused on regular, quarterly surveys. This is too infrequent when change can happen so quickly. Companies need to be continually looking for feedback from both groups, and not missing opportunities to let them have their say. If you you’re planning an office move for example, why not use it as a chance for employees and clients to provide input on design. You could uncover ideas that radically transform how people work, as well as increasing engagement (as people feel more involved). Sainsbury’s is currently buying fellow retailer Argos – polling customers and employees of both brands about what they want from the merged company will help shape strategy and ensure the best chances of growth and staff retention.

4. Target people’s preferred channels

There’s no denying that employees and customers, particularly Millennials, are happier to give and receive regular feedback that they’ve ever been. But they can be put off if the only options for them are to respond to surveys that don’t give them space to give more complex, qualitative feedback or suggest ideas. Look at using online communities as part of your strategy, for example, as they provide a less formal, more flexible feedback mechanism that enables easier interaction with key audiences, allowing you to ask questions and collect detailed insights. Working with Questback, a leading financial services company set up an online community and used it to support new product development, and to test marketing messages and literature to ensure it met customer needs.

Central to all of these factors is the importance of implementing a unified, integrated approach when collecting and acting on feedback from VoC and VoE programmes. Without being able to track emerging market changes you could miss valuable opportunities or allow your competitors to seize them before you do.

This post first appeared on MyCustomer.com on 11th April, 2016.

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