For the last few years I have been telling executives and entrepreneurs that the language of business is accounting. If you want to understand how a business operates, follow the money. It doesn’t matter the functional area or industry, money is the same wherever you go.

I believed this truth so much that I studied investment finance, accounting and valuation in grad school.

It turns out that I have been wrong the entire time. Accounting is not the language of business. The real language of business is the Voice of the Customer (VoC).

The Voice of the Customer should be the single guiding factor in making business decisions.

Marketing. How can I reach my customers and communicate to them in the way that they prefer?

Sales. How can I ensure my sales team and sales process provide value early and often? How does my customer define value?

Fulfillment. How can I fulfill customer orders in a timely manner? What are theirexpectations?

Customer Service. What are my customer’s expectations and what problems will I need to solve?

Product Development. What products and features do my customers care about? What are they willing to pay for?

VoC and Value Add Activities

The Voice of the Customer can help business executives and entrepreneurs in any industry and any functional area define what business activities are actually valuable. Every activity a business performs is either valuable to customers or invaluable to customers.

Some invaluable activities are necessary. Does payroll accounting for employees really provide any value to customers? Not at all. Is it necessary? Absolutely. There are certain activities and tasks that businesses must perform. The goal is to identify what areas of your business actually provide value and invest in that area to maximize value.

It is impossible to know what your customers care about without asking them.

Ideally, businesses should involve customer feedback at every stage. Every employee of your company – from interns to the C-suite – should be empowered to listen to customers and communicate their voice back to the business.

Idea to Action

There are many ways to incorporate the VoC to your daily operations. Surveys, focus groups and interviews all work. The most effective way is to ask one question during every customer interaction. The question is the same online or offline and the same in billing, sales, marketing, support or development.

What can my company do to provide more value to you?