Voice of the Customer (VoC) is not a new concept. It’s the marketing concept re-badged - the philosophy that firms should analyze the needs of their customers and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition.
It's the same, but it’s also different because we live in a digital world and finding out the needs of the customer involves smart use of digital technology.
Adopting a VoC programme is a good thing, but it needs to be implemented efficiently and fully to realise the promised gains.
A 2015 Aberdeen Group report, The Business Value of Building a Best-in-Class VoC Program, demonstrated that best-in-class VoC users enjoy almost 10-times-greater year-on-year increase in annual revenue compared to all others. What sets the best-in-class VoC users apart from others, according to the study, is going beyond the efficient collection of feedback and sentiment data to a keen focus on putting these insights into action. Makes sense!
A VoC programme can be summarised by the following diagram:
A best-in-class programme will comprise:
1. Efficient collection of feedback and sentiment from customers
2. Capture of data in a form that can be readily analysed
3. Operationalising the insights gained
Each step is equally important.
VoC data is generally captured from multiple channels:
• Surveys including online, telephone, in-person, interactive voice-response and text surveys
• Complaint forms on websites and mobile Apps or store comment cards
• Social media monitoring tools
• Traditional focus groups and interviews
• Input from Customer service staff
• Feedback from in-house marketing team about what works for your customers
• Direct observation of behaviour, for example by observing the stage at which prospects exit your on-line shopping process
The more information gained, the sharper the picture you can build of your customers. But there is a cost-benefit trade-off. Here’s where automation is valuable. Much of the information capture from customers can be automated in a way that is simple and convenient for the customer and requires no ongoing effort.
Automated feedback capture includes:
• Feedback during a web-purchase process including “exit insights” when a prospective customer exits the process without purchasing (what went wrong?) and feedback after the purchase (How was the experience?).
• Electronic surveys (via email, text or mobile App) to a sub-group of customers (or even lapsed customers) or following an event such as onboarding or a purchase or service case.
• Capturing relevant social media comments and/or sentiment.
• In-store rating (Please rate our service) via tablet or other capture device.
It’s clearly important to think VoC when designing and developing the organisation’s digital customer experience.
Another Aberdeen report, Voice of the Customer: How to Convert Feedback into Better Results, highlights best practices that help companies convert feedback and sentiment into actionable insights to drive superior performance. It states that “the top performing firms are 92% more likely than all others to have established an automated process to integrate feedback and sentiment data captured across multiple channels within the CRM system.”
Best practice is to integrate your Voice of the Customer software with your CRM system. This is because enterprise CRM systems allow you to:
1. Receive VoC feedback via multiple data channels
2. Attach customer feedback directly to the customer record.
3. Automatically notify appropriate staff when customer problems or exceptions are identified and then create and assign follow-up tasks.
4. Deliver reports to reveal patterns and trends in the customer feedback
5. Segment customers and analyse the information in different ways to generate ‘insights’.
6. Automatically perform text and sentiment analysis.
7. Provide easy to use access to VoC information to the organisation’s staff – including via mobile devices.
Survey functionality is available with Enterprise CRM systems such as Dynamics 365 - which is a good start. CRM also needs to be integrated to the digital customer experience channels and configured to store the information necessary to segment customers and categorise the feedback. To present the feedback simply and intelligibly, automation needs to be configured and reports and dashboards have to be set up.
All feedback should be analysed. If you’re not going to analyse it, then don’t collect it.
This is the stage where many organisations drop the ball. You must act on the insights obtained from customers and action must be constant and ongoing.
A key driver for action should be respect for the customers who have engaged in your VoC process. Asking for their time and then doing nothing may infuriate them. You need to follow the VOC process right through to telling participants what you did in response to their feedback.
Every level of the organisation must be involved and processes are needed to keep them involved. The Aberdeen VOC report highlighted that the Back Office needs to be a key part of VOC activities. It emphasises the importance of encouraging and enabling employee collaboration to appropriately address customer needs.
The Aberdeen VOC report concludes with the following observation:
“One of the traps companies fall into when implementing and managing VOC programs is only focusing on reacting to customer problems by determining factors that frustrate buyers and actioning them. Savvy VOC users, on the other hand, also adopt a proactive approach where they use the feedback and sentiment data to assess how the entire business performs in meeting buyer expectations.”
What savvy organisations do is to use the technology and tools available to get customer insights and then apply the marketing concept to the entire organisation.