Guest: Dana Alvarenga – Creating & Growing Your Voice of the Customer (VoC) Program
Join us when we speak with Dana Alvarenga, VP of Customer Experience at Slap Five. Dana Alvarenga is a very well know and leader in customer experience and customer success, with a big focus on voice of the customer programs, advocacy and customer marketing.
In this episode, Dana shares her insights into growing and expanding your Voice of the Customer Program.
Guest: Dana Alvarenga - VP of Customer Experience (Slap Five)
Dana has over 15 years experience in the technology industry within sales, sales training, management, customer education and success. At SlapFive she is the VP of Customer Experience and leads the Customer Success function, along with Education, VOC, and Advocacy. In her role she is always striving to deliver an amazing customer experience by constantly improving, educating, and building customer focused programs and processes. Dana is customer obsessed, lover of travel, food, her family and a reality TV junkie!
Contact Dana Alvarenga
Slap Five: https://www.slapfive.com/
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[00:00:00] Jason Noble: Good afternoon. Good evening. Good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s take on podcast with myself. Jason Noble here in London and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, say hello, Jason.
[00:00:12] Jason Whitehead: Hello, Jason. Thank you everyone for joining us today.
[00:00:14] Jason Noble: We are super excited today.
We have a, another really amazing guest on a well known CS leader. Customer experience community. We’ve got Dana. Alga apologies. Dana, if I’ve got you, soname there wrong. I did ask in the beginning, but I just wanna make sure I’ve got it right. But Dana’s joining us today. Dana is a very well known leader in customer experience in customer success.
She has a massive focus in what she’s doing on voice of the customer programs, customer marketing advocacy. She’s also the co-host of the customer X therapy podcast with Kaylie basket and she’s the VP of customer experience at slap five. And a rockstar voice, customer, voice coach, and customer marketer therapist.
I love that. Welcome Dana.
[00:00:59] Dana Alvargena: Thank you. Thank you. That was a mouthful, but I am all of the above.
[00:01:03] Jason Noble: And you do so much, and this is what I think we, we are thrilled to have you with us big fan of what you’ve been doing. And I think we, we see a lot of people in customer successes.
They do a lot more than just their day. And I think willing willingly as well, people want to give back to the community. And it’s so exciting to see this. Could you go ahead and give an intro to yourself? I’ve said a little bit, but list, some listeners might know you not know you as well as I do, but we’d love to know a bit more about, about your own journey.
What’s brought you to where you are today.
[00:01:31] Dana Alvargena: Yeah, exactly. And thanks for having me. As Jason mentioned, I’m the current vice president of customer experience at slap five. But my background really came from, I started way, way back in my career of at enterprise rent car. So I’ve done management training program, renting cars, cleaning cars, but also running a business and moved into kind of more of.
An inside sales role, and this is pre customer success days. I was doing a lot of the pre-work and figuring out what customers wanted to do and building out really their customer journey and then threw it over the fence to account managers. And I hated that. I was like, no, I wanna see. What they do, what happens?
So I ended up finding a full sales cycle role, cuz this still was pre customer success days again. And then fell into customer education and customer success. And that grew into an advocacy role. And then I landed where I am at today. I was actually a prospect of slap five at my last role. Was thinking of bringing slap five on and ended up going to work for them.
[00:02:36] Jason Noble: I lo I love that journey and I know quite a few people that have come through a similar journey where they’ve been a prospect or a customer of an organization, seen a lot of good with there’s a lot of lines the way they’re thinking. I love your kind of description as well about the rock store, rockstar, customer, voice coach, and the customer marketing therapist thinking, can you tell us a bit more about what those are and the kind of the work you’ve done for.
[00:02:57] Dana Alvargena: sure. So the rockstar is actually tied to my customer program that I run with my customers, it’s called the slap five rock stars. So I’m looking to make my customers rock stars, get them on stage speaking engagements, talking on webinars, like really rock stars, like having them be that spotlight talking about themselves and what they’re doing, not talking about slot five.
I want them to talk about how they are awesome at their job. Obviously slot five is helping them do it. So it helps. And then the therapist aspect is my customers are a lot of one person teams. So I after a lot of weekly, check-ins like probably my first year into my role. I got off and called my CEO.
And I was like, I just really. Honestly just had a therapy session with that customer. We did not talk once about strategy once about the product. It was what she was dealing with. There was new management, she couldn’t get this approved and it just became a thing and we spun up a webinar series and it’s still living today.
And it’s part of our conference that we’re doing in September two. We do group therapy, breakouts and just go along with a therapy. That is just
[00:04:04] Jason Whitehead: fantastic. I love that. We we do a lot of coaching for customer success leaders and a lot of that is the therapy is clearly a big part of it.
And people need help. People need to have someone they can talk to and they can trust. So I think that’s fantastic. Yes. I’m curious though, since we’re on this topic too, why is customer marketing so important today? And what are some of the key areas that our listeners should focus on when they build their programs?
What is it that you go over with your customers and what that people need to
[00:04:28] Dana Alvargena: know? Yeah, so customer marketing and I look at customer marketing more as a facet of customer experience, you have customer experience under that is the customer success, the customer marketing, the customer advocacy, and having a program that encompasses all of that builds.
Builds advocates. That’s huge. In this day and age, and it’s been huge the last couple of years with what’s been going on in the world of people wanting to. Your current customers. So how do you do that? You make them advocates, you bring them to the forefront. You make them, like I mentioned, the rock stars and you have them talk about what they’re doing, how they’re saving time how their life is easier now.
And they’re talking about their role and it’s elevating their own brand and it’s helping their career path. So it’s really nurturing that relationship piece and Then if those customers leave, they go somewhere else. They bring you on at the new company. It’s a full circle. So customer marketing, I think is huge because it, it helps drive renewals.
Renewals are pretty weak if you don’t have a strong customer marketing or customer advocacy, because you don’t have those advocates . Yeah,
[00:05:37] Jason Whitehead: exactly. So if someone’s looking to start their customer marketing program today that doesn’t have one, or they’re new to this, where do they start? What are some things that they should really focus on when they’re thinking about this?
[00:05:48] Dana Alvargena: It’s definitely doing your homework internally, doing internal roadshow. Talk to other departments. There may be another department. Is talking to customers, they’re gathering customer voice and surveys, or they’re doing interviews or they’re getting email feedback. So do that internal homework to see what you have do that inventory of what internally other customer other departments are doing, but then go back and see what customers have done things for you in the past.
Who spoke at an all hands meeting. Who’s been on a webinar and go back and talk to them and see, did you like that experience? Is it something you’d wanna do more of what other type of activities or acts of advocacy I call them? Would you like to participate in? So that’s the kind of two main areas.
Do your internal work with your internal teams and then also. Talk to your customers. It seems like a no brainer, but it doesn’t always happen.
[00:06:39] Jason Noble: We, we I realize in the introduction I was so excited about talking to you that I missed off what we’re gonna talk about. And it is it’s how you, it went with the flow.
It absolutely. I think it, it came across. So actually, but it’s the first Ja. We the focus and why we’ve got you here is to talk about evolving voice of the customer programs. A and it really fits in really nicely with custom marketing. It’s a critical part of that, but how do you go about defining what a voice of the customer program actually is?
We, we talk about them a lot. I do. It’s absolutely fundamental for what we’re doing, but how do you understand really what it means? How do we represent it back to our leadership teams and our teams, but what it’s all about and why we’re doing it?
[00:07:16] Dana Alvargena: Yes. Yes. So the way I define a voice, a customer program or customer voice program is more on it being a two way exchange of value.
So it’s a defined program where not only you as the company, you’re getting something out of it by capturing true, authentic voice. And when I say voice I’m meaning like the authentic voice, the video or audio, not necessarily an NPS result. Yes, you get that number. That’s a great stat, but you’re not getting that true, authentic voice of why they’re happy or why they are doing what they’re doing.
So I look at it one as an authentic voice and then two making it that two-way exchange of value where your customers are they’re selecting their electing to be a part of the program. And they’re raising their hand too. Yes. I would like to be served up an opportu. To cohost a webinar. I would love to be a guest on a podcast.
I would love to be a peer to peer reference call. So then when the time comes, you’re not scouring your email database talking to different team members and putting out fires to find a person that you need. You go right to your pool of customers that already raise their hand, that wanna do it, and you provide them that opportunity.
And it becomes that two way exchange of value for them giving them the opportunity to share their voice and. Getting that authentic voice.
[00:08:38] Jason Noble: Have you ever come across any challenges when you’ve implemented them, that people not understanding why you’re doing it either, either internally or your customers and if you have, however, have you worked through those or do you find most people say, absolutely get this.
We, we need to do this.
[00:08:52] Dana Alvargena: Usually it’s the latter. I personally work with a lot of customers that have been doing it either. Piecemeal siloed. So it’s making it a program. Maybe product marketing sting, one part customer. Marketing’s doing one part customer success is doing another.
So it’s bringing it into one, one program where there’s there’s insight into who’s doing what so customers aren’t being over asked or overused. So that’s the main part of it is making it a program to know what your customers want. To participate in, but then also being able to track who’s done. What, and when, so you don’t get that burnout and always have that same customer on your website or that same customer on every webinar, you wanna be able to share, spread the wealth.
[00:09:33] Jason Whitehead: And what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve found? Is it that people internally don’t quite. Knowing what to do once they have the information or, oh, we’re asking questions and we’re not liking what the answers are. So we really don’t know what to do with it now. Or is there something else entirely that, that usually gets in
[00:09:46] Dana Alvargena: the way from folks?
That’s a great question. I would definitely say challenges is our yeah. Not putting. The customer voice to use and not putting it to use directly tied to an initiative or a specific campaign. And just capturing it just to say, oh, I got customer voice. Yeah. So having it tied to a go to market initiative and that, that plays internally is a challenge that it could fall flat.
And then externally the customers, if they don’t see how it’s being put to use, why am I gonna share again? You already asked me this last quarter, right? So it’s that closing the loop aspect of it. That is a challenge that does get, does come up. And in the side companies, I think too, what we talked about before of getting started, if you’re looking within a company and you’re building out a new customer voice program If you don’t do the internal homework, there might be other people doing something.
If you’re working in a siloed company or it’s not a top down priority, so it’s not getting the support that you need. So that’s a challenge I’ve faced in the past too.
[00:10:45] Jason Whitehead: I I worked with one client very briefly and it was interesting. They had a very technical product and when they were gathering.
Their KPIs and the metrics. And then they tried to convey it into a sales message, future customers, everything they were talking about oh, X number of bites were saving you or data flow and things like that. It really fell on deaf ears, but it was interesting cause they had also gone through and recorded a lot of YouTube testimonial videos from very satisfied customers and in their own voice, which I love that you said actually capturing their voice, literally.
They were saying how great it was, but they were talking about in terms of things. How much time it had saved them or that they doubled their throughput of work without having to have a single staff member or all these other equivalent metrics that were actually important to them. And it just struck me that they had the customer’s voice, but they weren’t really listening.
They didn’t know how to translate in that and something meaningful for the future. And I’m curious if you’ve seen similar things or what are some of the creative uses or ahas people have had through a good effective customer voice program.
[00:11:41] Dana Alvargena: Yes. And that’s so a lot of that I would say and I’ve seen that in the past and still see it of you get this great.
Interview this great feedback from the customers. And then it gets put into marketing speak, not the customer’s voice. So then it’s like the drone video, the super sophisticated two minute video that’s coming in and showing the office building and words flashing on the screen and yeah it, it gets lost.
So it’s more of, yes, those can have their place and their value. Those two minute produced videos somewhere on your website. When it comes to new prospects and sales partnering with customers, or they wanna maybe they can’t line up a live reference call. They’re able to provide them what hits the cutting room floor.
Those other Tibit that were in that recording. Take those out, have one to two minute short snippets that are then given to a prospect. Or we create at slot five, we create storyboards. So it’s like a landing page that they can serve up. But you could do this. Just editing out one long zoom call and cutting out two, three minute slips that mentioned, like you mentioned the time to value and didn’t have to hire a new person.
So it’s taking one recording, one customer voice, ask. And reusing it multiple ways and fuse it everywhere. So yes, if the end goal is that produced video. Great. But take all of the other stuff that they recorded and use it and put it to you. So even if it doesn’t go on your website, you still could use it internally or to those prospects.
[00:13:12] Jason Noble: I, I think that’s one of the key things is you, because you there’s so many things that you could use it for and do with it, that it I love the way that you’ve thought about this has to be something that’s not siloed internally. You need to have joined up thinking much like a lot of what we do in customer success.
I, and it’s how do you get those? Any silos broken down and work collaboratively internally, but to then come up with all of these different ideas once, once you’ve got your program defined and your vision for what you’re trying to do, what are the first steps that you go through to get it set up and working and get it actually up and running.
[00:13:45] Dana Alvargena: So that’s, it’s, that’s, that comes back to again, having it be a formalized program. And it’s partnering with, depending upon where the voice of customer and the customer voice program lives, if it’s living in customer success, great use the customer success managers as the ones that are figuring out who should be nominated to join this program, to raise their hand of what acts of advocacy they’d like to do.
Make it part of onboarding with new clients, new customers here, we have this program, voice of customer program. And let them pick from the menu. It could be a Google form. It could be any type of signup sheet where they’re able to fill in their information. Yes. I’d love to be presented with an opportunity to be on a webinar.
I’d love to be on stage and speak at one of your industry conferences, whatever it may be. Give them the choice to elect what they want and start to gather that details. But also. With that, make sure you have a content calendar of opportunities to serve up to the customers ready once you’ve launched it.
So you have to do both at the same time, ha have some opportunities to capture customer voice and customers participate. But then get the customers into the pipeline that will raise their hand to be a part of the program
[00:14:57] Jason Whitehead: now for something like that, to be effective, how. How big should a company be to start really engaging things like that, or when’s the right time in a company’s IUR like you mentioned, you worked a lot of solopreneurs and things of that nature.
If you’re just one person, should you be doing that already? Should you wait until you have, 10 or 15 clients when’s the right time to really put together a more structured program?
[00:15:17] Dana Alvargena: So this is this is probably a debate out in the world of customer advocacy, customer voice. I, my opinion is it should be for every customer.
They don’t need to hit a certain stage. They don’t need to be enterprise level all size companies. You could have five customers. You could have 5,000. I mean it’s and I think it should be. Part of when are they the happiest right after they’ve signed on, not even after onboarding’s completed capture it, then either capture some customer voice then, but also make it part of the selling process.
We have this customer voice program that you could be a part of it’s branded. You can share your voice network, it’s it involves peer to peer networking. Cuz you could have some. Webinars where you’re on with your peers speaking or whatever that may be. So I say, do it up front. I know that out, out in the industry there are folks that do wait until onboarding is completed, or they wait until customers have hit a certain usage stage dependent upon the industry.
But it’s not anymore after the first year of renewal, this is the first six months. You wanna get them invited and engaged in.
[00:16:19] Jason Noble: Once you’ve got your program up and running and you’re seeing results from it. So say you’ve done kind of first year great effect. You’ve got the rest of the team on board.
How do you look to evolve it further? What’s next? And what is really the future of this? What do you see as the next major revolutions for us when it comes to advocacy, custom marketing and customer voice program. .
[00:16:40] Dana Alvargena: Yeah. So the future, once you’ve had a program up and running, you wanna not just annually, probably quarterly evaluate it.
What activity engagements of these customer voice program. Opportunities. What are you serving up to them? What are you lacking? What are they liking? Talk to your customers? What are they enjoying about it? Pivot, change, change the program if you need to. And I think the future for sure is going to be tying.
What’s done with customers in regards to customer marketing, customer advocacy, acts of advocacy, whatever you wanna call it. Tying it back to revenue. So customers that are engaged, they’re speaking on webinars, customers that are doing case studies, did that help support an upsell? Did that help with a new business?
Did they renew the people that are engaged in this program? So that’s the next wave of tying it all back to revenue.
[00:17:34] Jason Whitehead: To that in tune. What do you see as the most effective ways for folks to track those customer participation in a voice program? Is that just activities in a CRM system? Are there other ways that you prefer to do.
[00:17:44] Dana Alvargena: Yeah. It’s yeah, it’s gonna be activities. Yeah. And a CRM or a customer success tool. Really anywhere where you’re tracking customer activities and reporting on it. I started years ago on just reporting on customers, completing. Their education through our learning management system and another company that I was at.
And I tracked that to see, did it tie to renewals or expansion because they were going through the self-paced learning in the LMS. So a similar role like that, creating a field check, check the box there a customer voice program member would be the best way.
[00:18:15] Jason Noble: I think there are I love ideas like that, cuz they’re so easy to implement aren’t they really are.
And it, and what it does, I think it makes it. The forefront of what your team are doing. They think about it. I, there was an organization I worked at some years back and we had a marketing team that was focused purely on new BIS. And we had nobody even just talking about opportunities and videos.
We started doing video programs, interviews with customers, and we just weren’t thinking about it. But we very similar to that. We built it in to part of our conversations with customers, part of the playbook that you’ve. Voice of the customer program, then you’ve got what are they doing? Would they be an advocate for us?
Would there be a reference you’ve got all of these things there and, yep. I don’t think it was the right thing at the time, but we actually targeted the team on some of these metrics. It worked well for what we were doing there because we needed to get some of these marketing pieces of work in, but I, don’t not convince that’s one of the right things to do longer term, but it worked really well then, but.
That really helped change the way that the team thought about it and actually got a really quick and positive and very encouraging engagement with customers.
[00:19:17] Dana Alvargena: Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Dan,
[00:19:19] Jason Whitehead: I’m wondering as well. What is it that you recommend people do in their organization to really drive support for customer voice program?
Are you, have you seen people do things like, oh, it’s part of a compensation or a bonus criteria that they must get a certain rating from customer voice or other things like that, or. Are there other activities that say this is what’s really gonna make a programming sell in your organization and have the impact you want by online.
[00:19:42] Dana Alvargena: Yeah, so I think that’s varied because there’s more and more customer marketing roles. Today than there were a year ago, three years ago. So it they’re building out that actual function of a customer marketing manager. That’s responsible for a customer program. Tails customer voice. If that isn’t the case.
Then I do see, and I completely lost track of what you were asking me now.
[00:20:14] Jason Whitehead: I lose track all the time. No. What are the things that organizations should be doing to get
[00:20:18] Dana Alvargena: widespread internal support? Oh yeah. Buy-in buy-in support. Yeah. So I was saying if it’s not a team, the buy-in, so the buy-in would be one going to the customers of that, that the customers want to be a part of a customer program and getting, and gathering that feedback.
Obviously going out and doing some competitive analysis against what your direct competitors are they offering a customer program is that differentiator has helped in the past. I’ve done that. So those would be the aspects and then really just putting together what that process would be.
What are these opportunities and what objections will it help knock down? One of my customers, she just put a together a great slide of this is what we were doing before. And now with the customer program, this is what. Knocked out these objections and these hassles internally in regards to like burnout asking multiple customers the same, having those fires to always look for someone to speak for something that they have that pool of customers already, that they know.
So bringing the negative to light of what the program could help cross off would help too.
[00:21:24] Jason Noble: I love that way of thinking. I think this. Like I say, voice of the customer is something that we’ve talked about a lot, but I think you’ve really brought to life that kind of focus on it and the need for this Dana look, this has been a great conversation.
One, one thing we always like to ask our guests is what we call a bold challenge. Question, nothing to be worried about. But for you what would you say? The number one thing is that business leaders can do today to help set up a real voice of the customer program? What’s the number one thing that we can.
[00:21:55] Dana Alvargena: I would say the number one thing that you could do is, make it a part of your go to market initiative that having customers involved in a program is one of the goals and having your campaigns aligned to needing customer voice, to be supported of these and included everywhere. If there’s a piece of content that goes out, wear.
Where’s that snippet of that customer, giving that quote in audio on there, support a blog post with it. If there’s LinkedIn post going out, where’s the video or the audio of the customer reinforcing what that use case is that we’re talking about. So it’s less marketing talk and have your customers be the forefront of your business.
[00:22:36] Jason Noble: Fantastic. Dana, thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Absolutely thrilled that you’ve joined us really excited about this and looking forward to hearing more about your conference later in the. And
[00:22:47] Jason Whitehead: Dana, thank you. We also wanna invite you to give a shameless quote for your endeavors, your organization, whatever is inspiring you to greatness.
So what would you like to share with folks and how can they get in touch with
[00:22:57] Dana Alvargena: awesome. Thank you. Yes. So yes, I alluded a little bit before I, I work at. At slap five or our customer marketing tool. So I partner work with customer marketers, customer reference managers, and we help build and capture customer en engagement tracking of your customers, what they’re doing.
They can actually capture their customer voice right within the tool on audio or video on their phone or their desktop. It also helps manage with reference management as well. So it’s an all in one tool. For customer marketers, and we’re bringing all the leaders of customer, the customer X world.
So X factor of customer experience, customer marketing, customer reference management to customer Excon in September for our third annual customer X conference in Boston. So looking forward to seeing what’s gonna be happening there and all of the insights from the practitioners that have built the agenda and built the conference.
So it’s gonna be pretty.
[00:23:51] Jason Noble: Sounds that sound sounds an amazing conference. That awesome.
[00:23:55] Jason Whitehead: Thank you so much and we really appreciate it and have a great day. Thank you so much, Dana. Thank you.