Voice of the Customer Programs: One Strategic Shift You Need to Make

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When it comes to creating an outstanding customer experience, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are a top priority and area of differentiation for operations teams and CX leaders.

According to Forrester, just 33% of CX professionals say their VoC program is effective at driving action to improve customer experience. This means there’s tremendous room for improvement in the implementation and execution of these programs.

VoC programs require a wide skill set, deep expertise, and a significant commitment from leadership within the company. As a result, it can be challenging to get these programs past the infancy stage. In many cases, leaders are looking for ROI, yet the programs don’t have what they need to impact business results.

It’s time for strategies to evolve so that VoC programs can drive increased customer loyalty and proven ROI. For that to happen, there needs to be a fundamental shift where programs move from listening to customers to truly understanding them.

Why Customer Understanding?

Listening is a passive activity, and for VoC programs to have a business impact, the focus needs to be on taking action.

Gaining an understanding of the customer is about more than collecting data. The companies who see the biggest wins will be the ones who gather insights across all channels and business units and follow-up that up by forming and acting on the plans needed to improve CX.

Here are three specific strategies you can implement to improve VoC programs and help increase customer loyalty and revenue:

#1. Turning Insights Into Action

The first step to taking VoC data and shifting it into a meaningful plan is ensuring the insights being gathered are readily available to employees — particularly those on the frontline. Employees need to be aware of what customers are saying about the business and have the ability to resolve issues quickly if they’re going to effectively contribute to improved business outcomes.

When making plans that need to be actioned by teams, it’s often unclear who’s responsible for what, and this can result in key opportunities being overlooked or ignored. A closed-loop approach is needed when a problem is identified, so that next steps are clearly outlined, and employees have a defined role in resolving the problem.

Employees are one of the most valuable resources when it comes to moving the needle on VoC programs, so they need to be empowered to recover detractors and engage with promoters. Most of all, employees need tools that help to ensure issues are managed to resolution — and CX professionals need verification of completed actions to attribute revenue growth to certain activities.

Real-time tracking and management are also required so that insights are available at the moment in which they are needed. Employees participating in VoC action plans need the ability to review and analyze data in real-time so action plans can be implemented to resolve issues before they become recurring problems.

#2. Move Beyond Solicited Data

For VoC programs to see the greatest success, traditional methods of collecting VoC data simply aren’t enough.

With consumers providing valuable feedback through channels other than customer surveys, there’s an opportunity for companies to mine insights from unsolicited data sources such as social media, blogs, online reviews, and forums through natural language processing.

VoC programs need to use intelligent, predictive analytics to actively anticipate their customers’ needs. This requires introducing new ways of listening to get a complete picture of the customer experience. The goal is to gain a deep, holistic understanding of what each customer is experiencing with the brand.

For example, a customer may complete a survey a week after their purchase, which provides one data point. If the feedback on the survey is positive, it would be easy to assume that that customer had a positive experience.

However, weeks or months later that same customer may contact the company multiple times and post about their frustrations on social media. This unsolicited data provides a much more complete picture of what that customer is experiencing. The survey passively focuses on listening to the customer, while looking at unsolicited data provides an accurate understanding of the full situation.

#3. Close the Gap in Understanding

Typically, identifying stages in the customer journey that are broken or have an opportunity for improvement can be challenging. This is the result of many different reasons including not having a full view of the entire customer journey, the right questions not being asked, or customers aren’t forthcoming with their feedback.

For VoC to be impactful, it’s imperative that organizations can identify where there are opportunities and points of failure that need to be fixed. A shift in mindset from listening to customer understanding makes it easier to pinpoint areas of despair in the customer journey, and more importantly, how that impacts related KPIs.

As a customer moves through their journey with a company, there are countless touchpoints that shape their happiness and satisfaction. With listening, data may only be gathered at two or three points on that journey, and it relies on the customer being truthful when participating in unsolicited data collection.

To gain a holistic view of the customer, data must be actively collected at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey ultimately closing the gap and providing a complete picture of a customer’s interaction with a brand. With this knowledge, sources of despair can then be addressed and eliminated to significantly enhance CX.

For VoC programs to be successful and have a direct improvement on KPIs, they need to shift from listening to understanding and then taking action to improve CX. Companies that make this shift will be the ones to drive loyalty, increase revenue, and realize the full ROI of customer experience.

Lindsay Sykes is the Director of Marketing at Intouch Insight. To get more actionable strategies on how to move from customer listening to customer understanding with your Voice of the Customer program and other CX strategies, download your free copy of the Customer Experience Playbook: Designing a Winning Approach whitepaper.

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