Transforming the Voice of the Customer (VoC) from insights into action

Building a Voice of Customer (VoC) program has become a priority for many brands, as it can help them deepen customer relationships, improve experiences, and create new products and services. This article includes answers to the most common VoC questions and explains how to execute a Voice of Customer program that is customer-centric and actionable.

This article explains how to execute a VoC program that is both customer-centric and actionable. You’ll learn:

  • The current state of VoC programs.
  • How to close the feedback-loop and breakdown data silos.
  • Why your VoC data isn’t actionable (and what to do about it).
  • The Usabilla methodology for building a customer-centric Voice of Customer program.

Content Summary

The State of Voice of the Customer Programs
Why else do VOC programs fail?
Why Voice of the Customer Need to Transform
How to Transform your Voice of the Customer Program
Customer-Centric Culture: It begins with the culture
Enrolling & Equipping the organization
Structured Framework
Measurement, Analysis & Reporting
Action & Accountability
Four Customer Insight-Driven Action Loop
Communication, Applications, & Driving Innovation
Conclusion

“Transforming the Voice of the Customer: Turning Insights Into Action”

Discover how to execute a Voice of Customer program that will transform customer data into information that can inform decision-making and drive cross-functional ROI.

As companies compete more and more on the quality of their customer experience, the depth and reach of Voice of Customers programs grow. The problem is that VoC programs are inherently cross-functional, covering the entire customer journey and requiring business departments who rarely engage with each other to come together towards a common goal. Still, many programs like these fail. In Actionable VoC, we look to top Customer Experience research firms and publications to find out why so many programs are failing, and how to build up a future-proof strategy that your organization can actually act on. These actions, as we’ve found, turn into insights that lead to organizational success. It’s not easy, but with the right steps and foundational strategy – your VoC program has immense potential.

The State of Voice of the Customer Programs

Like many large and daunting organizational changes, VoC programs constantly fail to live up to expectations. According to a survey done at Avaya of 1000 companies, 81% report that their CEM (Customer Experience Management) programs failed to deliver results in the last three years. “ 43% of Managing Directors, CEOs and owners think the top reason for CEM failure is project misalignment with customer preferences, indicating communication barriers within organizations themselves.” Of companies without a CEM program, 31% blame its absence on a lack of appropriate technology in place.

The foundational problem is that many companies are stuck on only measuring and reporting on CX and:

  • Not Acting on the Feedback they receive
  • Not treating it as an ongoing program
  • Not communicating to the customers (or even their staff) how they acted on that feedback

Companies need to move beyond reports and dashboard to make sure they’re actually acting on VoC programs. Metrics need to move away from survey response rates and data collection and instead focus on how to use customer feedback to engage employees, break down silos, and improve processes to create a seamless and efficient omnichannel customer experience.

Why else do VOC programs fail?

Inconsistency: There is no defined beginning or end to collecting VoC data and improving CX efforts. It’s a constant, ongoing effort — companies that succeed have CX “embedded in their DNA ” because there’s always something to fix, polish, or fine-tune.

Companies shouldn’t get distracted by “the next big thing,” such as AI or predictive analytics, but instead, focus on building a consistent and strong CX program over time that helps them garner the voice of their customers.

No Goal: Without a clear goal and a way to measure your progress on that goal, your VoC program won’t be actionable.

Michael Korda said, “One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” Choosing the correct Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will differ per industry and organization – think in terms of your executive’s organizational goal and work backward.

Fear of Change: At their core, CX programs are about making changes over time. Don’t be afraid of making actual changes. With continuous testing, you’ll be able to analyze new information more quickly, which means any failed experiments can be fixed in no time, and new insights may force you to change processes previously considered evergreen.

Moving slowly, without purpose: “ CX programs are like mountain climbing — if you aren’t confidently moving through the problem, you may be wasting valuable energy trying to figure out where you’re going.” ( HBR ) CX programs are either in a state of growth, peak, or decline – if you aren’t confidently moving through, you may be wasting time and energy

Funneling data into Silos: When data is funneled into silos, it isn’t used properly and leads to many organizational challenges and cost burdens. Data is streaming everywhere now, but 80% of it is dark and untouched. That means it’s collected but either (1) never used or (2) used in different ways by different divisions, so ultimately it’s useless. On top of that, only 23% of companies — less than 1 in 4 — are able to generate real-time insights with customer data.

This results in companies being unable to act on the data properly as it gets funneled through many channels and has a negative impact and customer retention and acquisition.

The foundation of any customer-centric organization is a Voice of Customer program. So why do so many organizations struggle to realize true benefits from their Voice of Customer investment? Our experience has taught us that there are three common mistakes…

Mistake #1 Plug and play: Too often, organizations rely on VoC technology that promises a significant uplift in customer outcomes. But organizations need more than just a technology platform – VoC programs require an ecosystem of support including a culture that values customer feedback and business processes that empower employees to take action and close the loop on customer feedback.

Mistake #2 Playing a numbers game: Often CX metrics ( like Net Promoter Score (NPS) ) are regarded the single marker of customer success, but numbers alone do not provide insights that drive continuous improvement. CX leaders seek insights from KPIs to drive continuous improvement for their customers.

Mistake #3 The illusion of customer-centric culture: CX leaders understand the need to embed the Voice of Customer in their DNA. It’s an integral and enduring part of how they do business. Commonly, employees tell us that their executives talk-the-talk, but do not ‘live’ customer. VoC is an ongoing commitment that requires organization-wide buy-in.

More often than not, success comes from how you make your decisions, not the decisions themselves. Defined goals and a basic, but intuitive, vision of customer demands are key to guide the series of decisions you’ll have to make with am actionable VoC program.

Without these basic principles, your organization’s VoC program can easily become one of the 81% who has failed in the last 3 years.

Why Voice of the Customer Need to Transform

By now, many companies have some form of a Voice of Customer program. From basic setups with a call center and online comment cards to full blow CX teams with VoC technology in place, many companies have the moving parts but lack the principles to make their programs actionable.

Like most business programs or improvement efforts, what you’ll get out of it depends on the effort and time you put into it. A successful VoC program, requires real effort and resources. But, the benefits are immense.

“It’s true that VoC programs often require significant resources. But they don’t always have to. Regardless of investment level, the right programs will deliver insights that chart a path to an improved customer experience in addition to measurable increases in wallet and market share, acquisition, and retention. After all, ROI is key to such initiatives; without acting on your insights, it’s impossible to post the results that drive it.”

Destination CRM echoes this sentiment, alarming you of the risk of not investing in a Voice of Customer solution: “If you’re not doing VoC today, you risk losing customers and revenue, you’re not making the process improvements that you could, and so you’re probably incurring more costs.”

Destination CRM echoes this sentiment, alarming you of the risk of not investing in a Voice of Customer solution: “If you’re not doing VoC today, you risk losing customers and revenue, you’re not making the process improvements that you could, and so you’re probably incurring more costs.”
Destination CRM echoes this sentiment, alarming you of the risk of not investing in a Voice of Customer solution: “If you’re not doing VoC today, you risk losing customers and revenue, you’re not making the process improvements that you could, and so you’re probably incurring more costs.”

However, for some organizations evidence of success elsewhere is not a guarantee of internal success. For this reason, you need to look at a more micro level in several different ways that benefits can be created. Think about the benefits this could bring your company from all aspects of the program. This could be increased revenue, increased average spend, reduction in operating costs or increased employee engagement. Then you can prioritize these as part of your business case considering the value and complexity of each aspect and the availability of the data.

Because these benefits are so far-reaching and impactful, they can be difficult to materialize. We’ll break down how to set up your VoC program to ensure you see an impact.

How to Transform your Voice of the Customer Program

At Usabilla, we use a “Triple-A” framework (Ask, Analyze, and Act). This framework allows our clients to identify, understand, and improve their KPIs, which ultimately ensures they can close the loop on feedback collected.

But, there are some initial questions you have to ask yourself before you delve into a mature customer experience journey. In order to capture actionable feedback, you need to prepared to follow and adapt a wide-reaching strategy. According to CX University, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Companies will need to combine multiple strategic “levers” to create their own version of success in their VoC program.

These include:

  • Goals that are clear and measurable
  • Expertise in understanding your customer’s needs
  • Creating good relationships between your VoC program and your data systems, analytical resources, funding for research efforts by investing in resources to take action on VoC insights
  • Following your gut to make changes that your customers want; Think about Netflix. Netflix preempts customer needs by strategically pioneering new features customers didn’t even know they wanted. How are you successful? Through constant data analysis, A/B testing, feedback collection, and quick turnaround time.

Now, let’s dive deeper into a mature and fully-fledged Voice of Customer program

Customer Centric Company
Customer-Centric Company

Customer-Centric Culture: It begins with the culture

Create a culture of accountability. Make sure your executives have ownership and accountability of your VoC program.

Let’s face it, a successful Voice of the Customer program creates a fundamental change in corporate culture that puts delighting the customer the core focus of day-to-day business. At the very top of the organization, people have to literally and figuratively buy-in to customer-centricity. Whether you put all your efforts into getting Executive buy-in and let customer-centricity bleed down, or spread customer-centricity from the ground floor up- feedback has to be looped back to the front lines of your business to improve behavior or connect it to product changes.

According to a Forrester Customer Experience survey, 65% of companies do not make VoC results readily available to the organization. Both the executive support and cross-functional teams mentioned above inherently help with this issue, but even if you don’t have either of those, you must communicate the results for them to have any value for your company.

Enrolling & Equipping the organization

Today’s customer-focused companies need a single comprehensive system – a listening architecture to ensure they garner the best insights from the right customers using the most effective methods – all aimed at meeting the objectives of their business.

Focus on aligning your teams cross-functionally, which means you’ll be involving Marketing, Operations, IT, and even HR in some cases to join in your vision for a truly customer-centric organization. Be sure, consideration is paid to the following:

  1. Inventory: Consider all existing listening methods and how customer intelligence is processed and analyzed.
  2. Objectives: Identify important business objectives and make sure objectives aren’t too shallow (response rates, customer ratings, NPS). Instead, focus on how the voice of the customer can influence business performance.
  3. Stakeholder needs: Focus on the needs of each department, KPI, and function to identify what customer insights are needed and how they will be put to use..

Structured Framework

Building a strategic VoC Framework, with goals and measures, ensures that businesses can define what success looks like. A strategic framework will allow companies to gain a single view of the customer, use root-cause analysis to re-engineer processes and drive change across the board.

A framework for an actionable VoC Program needs to identify customer segment and their specific drivers and actions attached to each driver.

Who am I asking? VoC best practices suggest creating customer personas. Building standard personas help to easily define who is involved and the level of their interaction. This will take the guesswork out of finding the right person to answer your questions.

Where/When in the Customer Journey will I be asking? In order to get the most insights, you need to focus on your customer journey. Measuring touchpoints has its benefits, but measuring the entire customer journey correlates far better with business outcomes like churn, than simple transactional touchpoints. Break down your customer journey and map it out. Assess what steps a customer goes through when using, buying, or learning your channels. This way, you can start your program in a broad way, covering the entire journey, finding key points of interest, and digging deeper from there. As testing and hypotheses build momentum, your strategy will form itself simply by analyzing the data and reading into the customer feedback you receive.

Align your surveys with important milestones along the customer journey. Establish a cadence for your surveys so you can be confident that you’re reaching out to the right people at appropriate intervals.

What are the KPIs I plan on measuring? Actionable VoC requires a specific metric of success to measure yourself against. Companies spend hours deciding which metric is right for their business. The reality is that it doesn’t really matter which metric you chose, just ensure you link that metric to financial reward. If your customers are 2 points happier – what does that really mean in terms of financial value? If you need choosing a metric of success or help to monetize that metric, use our resources here.

For a program to be effective, objectives must be clear from the start. Align it with key business objectives. If the purpose is understanding task-driven design, focus on metrics such as CES (customer effort score) and TCR( task completion rate).

What’s the goal of measuring this?? Metrics are just data points, so securing numbers is not enough, you must be able to take both qualitative and quantitative feedback and apply it to a greater system in order to make changes.

The goal of measuring specific KPIs needs to capture new insights on where action can be taken. What exactly needs to be fixed, or how to fix it.

How do I make this insight actionable? Close the loop with cross-functional and/or design teams by applying VoC insights that create incremental changes. VoC insight that is solid remains un-actionable, thus KPIs can never be monetized.

How to relate that with ROI? Identify what is driving KPIs and link to actionable changes. Making changes in these driver variables is the key to improving KPIs and eventually business results.

Measurement, Analysis & Reporting

The goal of analyzing VoC is attaining clarity on the business problems to be solved. While data mining is worthwhile and can sometimes yields insights, it does not close the loop. Customer insight should be transformed from data into information, and from hindsight into insight and foresight. The three layers are the Individual Customer Level (You vs. The Customer), the Aggregate Customer Level (The Brand vs. The Brand Perception), and Organizational Level (Internal Stakeholders vs External Stakeholders ).

  • Individual Customer Level. When individual customers provide feedback – whether a compliment, complaint or comment – they are providing information that is of value to the company and, as a result, the company should reciprocate and response with value. Closing the loop requires a process in which the subject of the customer’s feedback is recognized, the communication is routed to the appropriate person within the company according to a set of business rules, and the person’s responsibility to reply is tracked.
  • Aggregate Customer Level. The analysis of aggregate customer feedback may uncover opportunities for the company to institutionalize improvements through a change management process. These insights become new “clues” that customers detect, resulting in an action to take. Feedback provides an important catalyst for positive change, the next step might lie in seeking improvements at a more granular level (which lie in aggregate data). In strategic change management, it’s optimizing and creating these changes then valuing the efficiency and effectiveness generated.
  • Aggregate Customer Level. Acting on customer feedback also has a knowledge management component. By capturing and disseminating that knowledge throughout the enterprise, the business benefit is multiplied. Organizational focus on a Voice of the customer program provides a better understanding of the challenges and priorities that clients anticipate in the future. This forward-thinking insight helps leadership more effectively align the organization’s efforts with the future needs of your clients. As a result, new features and products will be attractive and valuable to the respected audience.

Action & Accountability

Unless the company alters some aspect of its behavior toward its customers, it will fail to realize a return on its investment in a VOC program.

Those actions can occur at the individual customer level (case management), at an aggregate customer level (change management), and at an organizational level (knowledge management).

One of the most exciting developments of the last decade has been the introduction of technology that significantly boosts the speed with which VoC data can be asked for, analyzed, and acted upon. New VoC platforms have been specifically tailored to enable managers, employees, and partners at all levels and in all areas of an enterprise to access customer feedback in real-time and on-demand. Increased speed and ease of use support best practices in sharing VoC data and insights.

Assign a cross-departmental “customer focus team” charged with reviewing customer data and insights, identifying and prioritizing opportunities, and developing and tracking initiatives to act on these opportunities. Use business value calculations to determine which changes have been most beneficial to justify further investment, and prioritization frameworks to decide which improvement projects to embark on first.

Four Customer Insight-Driven Action Loop

Four Customer Insight-Driven Action Loop
Four Customer Insight-Driven Action Loop

Communication, Applications, & Driving Innovation

Communication

First, sharing the results and the improvements with customers also lets them know their feedback is heard, valued, and used.

For example, people and processes are put in place to respond to customers who call or email with questions, requests, or complaints. A similar approach is used to respond to “hot alerts” triggered by survey feedback from dissatisfied customers.

Many organizations also monitor and attempt to follow-up with customers who share negative (or positive) experiences via social media. The goal is to use these channels and mechanisms to identify opportunities to manage and leverage individual customer experiences and relationships.

If a customer has had a particularly good experience, the organization may encourage the customer to share his/her story with others via social media or testimonials that can be used in marketing communications. On the other hand, they may also use their other channels such as a feedback button or satisfaction email to deter customers from posting about a negative experience on social media.

Secondly, customers touch your business in countless ways and they expect their interactions and feedback to be acted upon, regardless of who in the organization they provided it to. Feedback provided to Customer Service doesn’t belong just to Customer Service; it belongs to Product Management, Operations, and Sales. Research gathered by Marketing is critical to the C-Suite, Sales, and Product Management. The list goes on and on. Having a cross-functional team of VoC champions helps to ensure that the entire organization is working together to transform the customer experience, and therefore the business itself.

Senior leaders need to regularly share VoC results and insights at company-wide events. Each department or unit regularly reviews results and insights that are specific to that department/unit. VoC reviews by cross-functional teams also are characteristic of successful VoC programs.

Application

When employees see that the VoC is actually being heard, they begin to be customer-centric and helps to sustain a customer focus over time.

  • Consider reporting upon the current KPIs in employee communications, and how the VoC is making a difference.
  • Customer-facing teams should be required to demonstrate how they’re putting what they’re learning into action.
  • Managers need to create a culture that’s comfortable with adjustments in the business based on feedback.

Customer feedback can be used to coach and develop managers, employees, and partners, particularly those who have direct contact with customers on a frequent, regular basis. VoC metrics can be used to set performance goals for these managers, employees, and partners. They can identify top performers so that best practices can be defined and shared. These metrics, along with other customer feedback, are used to identify employees or partners who need additional help, training, or resources. The overarching objective is to leverage insights drawn from the Voice of the Customer to enable and empower the people who have a hand in shaping the customer experience.

Driving Innovation

Organizations that have successful VoC programs use customer feedback to make strategic changes.

When you have a formal process for translating data into action and improvement, this process establishes ownership for specific elements that have been targeted for action planning and implementation. It ensures that stakeholders clearly understand what customers want the organization to do differently and target and fix the “right things.”

This added layer of insight can help enterprises define strategies for new product offerings or design thinking. Then, the same data collected again will validate decision making.

In this customer-centric mindset, customer’s priorities drive innovation and design, not the business’s presumptions. The customer defines value.

With the proper Voice of Customer solution, your product decisions go from guessing or spending a large piece of your budget on market research or focus groups, to asking a wide range of your customers exactly what you want to know directly. The more exact your Voice of Customer technology allows you to be, as in targeting specific users at specific points in their journey across multiple channels, the more impact your strategy can have.

With VoC, customers know their voice is heard and can respect the changes you make. If you can accommodate that definition, the customer will give you value (loyalty) in return.

Conclusion

Improving the customer experience will continue to become a bigger and bigger part of corporate strategy. The benefits are huge, but it’s not enough to know the potential. The obstacle lies in rolling out an effective an actionable strategy with key stakeholders involved to ensure longevity. Used correctly, VoC data can directly influence all outward-facing ventures that impact revenue. Still unsure if there really exists a tie between VoC and revenue? Take a look at our ROI guide here.

Programs fail for many reasons, from inconsistent goals, lack of executive buy-in, and funneling data into silos. In order to reap the benefits a solid foundational VoC program can have on your organization: massive financial gains, easier flows of information, and happier customers- you need to dedicate time and resources to your strategy. With clear goals, understanding of your journey as a whole, constantly capturing data with feedback and testing, you create a strategy built for action that will make real change in your organization.

Source: usabilla

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