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Today’s post is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Confirmit in April 2013.

In Tuesday’s post, I discussed the rationale – and preparation – for conducting stakeholder interviews before embarking on a VoC program.

In today’s post, I’ll focus on what to do immediately prior to, during, and after the interviews to make sure you get the most out of the process. Just like with your customers, there’s no faster way to alienate a stakeholder than to ask her questions and then take no action based on her responses.

Prior to the Meeting
Send a copy of the discussion guide/interview questions to stakeholders far enough in advance of the meeting that they have a chance to review the questions and any supporting materials, allowing them time to collect their thoughts and responses. When the stakeholder has time to prepare, you’ll not only stick within your allotted/scheduled time but you’ll also receive well-thought-out answers to your questions.

During the Meeting
As the meeting begins, explain your VOC efforts and CX strategy and their intended outcomes, and summarize the objectives for the interview. Other guidelines to follow include:

  • Follow the question flow that you’ve outlined, but adapt to the person as the conversation evolves.
  • Probe for details, if anything is unclear.
  • Not all questions may be relevant to all stakeholders, so be flexible during the interview and skip questions, if needed.
  • Don’t forget to focus on the customer, not just on the company.
  • Keep the discussion on course but allow for some sidebars, if relevant.
  • Make it a discussion, not an interrogation.
  • Upon completing the interview, thank the individual for his/her time, ask for other thoughts or concerns, and briefly summarize next steps.

After the Meeting
Compile the findings from all interviews. Prepare a Summary Report of the findings that provides a solid overview of the information gathered from the pre-work and the interview process. Where relevant, use direct quotes to highlight or illustrate key stakeholder points or to support the objectives of your VoC or CX efforts. This report includes details you’ll use to design your efforts to ensure stakeholder needs and requirements are met along the way and that the outcomes match their expectations.

Then you’ll need to compile a Stakeholder Analysis, which will identify and outline:

  • Interest levels of the various stakeholders
  • Conflicts of interest among stakeholders
  • Misalignment of goals and objectives for your program
  • Believers and naysayers
  • Objections and risks
  • An overall picture of program readiness

Along with your Summary Report and the Stakeholder Analysis, you’ll want to identify next steps in the form of a Stakeholder Management Strategy, which will include a Stakeholder Map that plots each stakeholder based on her interest in, and her power and influence over, the initiative. The Strategy document outlines how you’ll utilize stakeholders who support your efforts and what your strategy will be to overcome the objections that naysayers have, which will be crucial to success. Speaking from experience, if you can’t overcome the naysayers, you will have a tough time getting off the ground. The Strategy document will also inform each stakeholder of his or her role in your VoC and CX efforts and how you’ll involve them.

It seems like a lot of work, but you’ll be glad that you took the time to incorporate these interviews into the design of your VoC and CX strategies. This is one more tool to help get buy-in and commitment for your efforts. The bottom line is that when people are involved or know how and why they are involved, they’re more likely to step up, commit, and help ensure you have the resources you need for success. If you force this on them, they’ll probably push back.

It is not every question that deserves an answer. -Publilius Syrus