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Today’s post is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Confirmit in April 2013.
What is a stakeholder? And why should I engage with or interview one?
According to Investopedia, a stakeholder is…
A party that has an interest in an enterprise or project. The primary stakeholders in a typical corporation are its investors, employees, customers, and suppliers. However, modern theory goes beyond this conventional notion to embrace additional stakeholders, such as the community, government, and trade associations.
Basically, a stakeholder is someone with an interest in a project or process and will affect, or be affected by, its outcomes.
Consider this. Is a customer a stakeholder? Yes. By that definition, a customer is most certainly a stakeholder. In this post and its second part, though, I will address executive stakeholders.
So, based on the definition above, I probably don’t need to explain why it’s important to talk to stakeholders as you begin to build out your VOC strategy, but I know that many companies skip this very important step in the process. So here’s a little refresher on what stakeholder interviews are and some guidelines to follow to conduct them.
Stakeholders should be interviewed very early on in your VoC efforts, as their input and alignment is key to defining and designing your strategy. We want to ensure these efforts effectively align with stakeholders’ business objectives, priorities, and needs; gather information about stakeholder needs and concerns; and identify believers and naysayers, in other words, their level of engagement in the process.
Other objectives of the stakeholder interviews include:
- Clarifying the vision, strategy, and key metrics of the business units
- Uncovering pain points, bright spots, and general information needs
- Identifying key customer segments and critical relationship factors
- Defining customer insights needed to support business planning and operations
- Getting buy-in for the work that lies ahead
To expound on the last point, stakeholder interviews can help to achieve executive buy-in, an important, nay, critical requirement to ensure success in building a customer-centric culture. Giving stakeholders an overview of your strategy, along with the objectives, highlights of their involvement, and well-documented reasons for putting customers at the center of the universe will set things off on the right foot. At the same time, understanding stakeholder needs, concerns, and roadblocks as well as identifying what insights they’d like the initiative to provide will help you identify ways to better engage them. Whether you’re just kicking off your CX and VOC strategies or have a more-mature program, stakeholder interviews can help to bring executives (back) into alignment with the effort.
To start the interview process, you’ll need to identify your stakeholders. Start with an org chart, and make sure you look across your various business units. Identify stakeholders in each department. Stakeholders might be supporters, opponents, influencers, and/or beneficiaries of these VoC efforts.
In this post, I’ll take you through getting prepared for the interview, and in the next post, I’ll tell you what you need to do before, during, and after the interviews to ensure you get the most out of them.
Do your homework about your company; get your hands on (and read/review) the following information:
- mission statement
- brand promise
- background on recent acquisitions
- leadership changes
- previous/current VoC work
- org chart
- annual report
- marketing and/or strategy document
- and any other background information that will help you understand the business
Prepare an interview discussion guide. List your key questions but be sure to include probative questions in case responses are not thorough enough and you need more detail.
Have a high-level understanding of your customer types (including the various personas), customer touchpoints, and the customer journey.
Create supporting materials, e.g., customer journey map, potential governance structure, etc., to use during the discussion.
Send out meeting invitations:
- I prefer a 1:1 meeting so that the individual stakeholder can speak freely; it also allows individuals to “keep their own stories straight” and not be influenced by other participants.
- Interviews should be scheduled for no longer than one hour.
- Your invitations should include the purpose for the interviews and some background information, if necessary.
In the second part of this blog post, I’ll share instructions for what to do immediately prior to, during, and after the interviews to make sure you get the most from the process.
If you work for – and eventually lead – a company, understand that companies have multiple stakeholders including employees, customers, business partners, and the communities within which they operate. -Don Tapscott
You are right Annette, this is very important. We are a pack animal Annette, we look to see what the top dog is doing and if the top dog isn't doing what we need them to do we might as well give up and go home.
Getting your senior stakeholders saying the right thing is critical and you can only achieve that if you know what is important to them.
Like you point out in your post, one of the keys here is to conduct interviews one-to-one as it eliminates any group dynamic and reduces organisational politics. I would advocate adding a 'Chatham House Rules' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatham_House_Rule) element to any discussion or process to encourage openness.
I hadn't heard of that before, Adrian. Thanks for sharing. I think it's a great addition.
I am doing BBA, i know what is stakeholders. By reading your article i get much information about it which would help for my educational career. Please post this type of post and thanks for it.