Many CEOs find that the reality of their company’s Voice of the Customer program fails to deliver on their vision of CX success. In fact, 80% of them say it serves as a basic system of customer data collection and analysis, rather than an actual agent of change.
The reason for this is that many companies, whether or not they like to admit it, are still pretty conservative and stick to traditional business-driving metrics and compartmentalized reporting.
Because, in spite of what you might hear, most companies aren’t really:
abolishing functional silos
fostering cross-level collaboration
consolidating the objectives of all company departments
mapping out the full customer journey to build a blueprint of customer needs at every interaction
building a Voice of the Customer corporate culture around those expectations
and aligning strategic decisions accordingly.
In other words, they’re not really breaking down any walls.
And, well, for a VOC strategy to work, you kind of have to.
Churn and Retention rates, CSAT and NPS scores, product reviews, website behaviors and customer support data etc., are all well and good. But unless you know exactly what to do with any of this feedback, e.g., support sales and marketing teams, empower employees to better engage customers, streamline processes, remove service frictions etc., these will never create the seamless and efficient omnichannel customer experience that yields the business results you were hoping for.
Think of it as a 2-loop framework, with an inner loop and an outer loop. The inner loop steers activities on how to use feedback to retain, train and empower your front-line employees. The outer loop uses the learnings from the inner loop to identify and fix processes or personnel issues, spot channel opportunities and fill product or service gaps to ensure a smooth sailing CX.
Before even thinking about designing a program, you should first carefully define its concrete objectives. As we just said, if you start gathering data without an objective in mind, you’ll find yourself with potentially great insights but no action plan that makes the whole effort worth it.
You’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:
Depending on your various teams’ functions, the objectives will be different. Outlining these clearly for everyone to see is essential to press upon everyone the importance of VOC on a global scale and foster alignment across the company. For example, it may be to :
Gauge current CX performance
Improve a specific business operation or product
Revamp brand image
Identify new customer trends
Gather information for innovation
Test a new product
For each listed objective, it is important to specify who is the recipient, i.e., the one who will most immediately benefit from hearing what the customer has to say: IT, customer service, sales, marketing, HR, general management, etc.
You have to decide what and what not to listen to depending on your objective and who it will serve. For example: complaints, criticisms, suggestions, expectations, needs, requests, emotions, etc. For each of these “categories” it’s necessary to specify the "when" and "where" they occur within on the customer journey (which is why you need a customer journey map).
This is where customer segmentation comes into play rather crucially. To discern the voice through all the brouhaha, you’d best home in on a particular audience segment rather than listen to the whole chorus of clients. These could be your first 100 customers, fans or detractors on internet forums, potential prospects, a specific age group or community etc. Defining the target to listen to also depends on the objective of the approach.
At this stage, we’re delving into the methodology proper. To successfully receive actionable feedback, you have to factor in two key criteria: asking the right question at the right time. To do so, you’ll need to map out your customer journey from beginning to end, to identify all the critical touchpoints where you need to ask for feedback, figure out accordingly the best way to get actionable feedback (appropriate channel, format and questions) and determine the relevant metrics to use in those moments.
There are numerous options for accruing solid, reliable data on your customers. Ideally, you’ll want to add as many strings as possible to your bow to make sure you’re approaching every customer from the right angle.
A tried and trusted way to help you understand your customers and the kind of issues they’re facing. Make sure you’re asking relevant questions; keep it concise and easy to complete and come up with targeted questions that reveal important aspects of your business.
Draft your surveys with care. You’ll have to switch it up in terms of tone and wording, length and format, as roughly surveys will approach technical, transaction-related or relationship issues.
There are several different question types you’ll want to frame specifically as either rating, a multiple choice, top-of mind, one word, YES/NO, or open question – depending on your defined goal, such as:
Would you recommend our service or product to a peer?
Did you find what you were looking for today?
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of our company?
What service or product do you wish someone would offer?
What would you change about our product or service?
How would you describe your last interaction with our Customer Support team?
What factors most in your decision to make a purchase?
What is your preferred form of communication?
How did you hear about our product/service?
Did we solve your problem to your satisfaction?
Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys are efficient ways to get into the minds of your customers about very specific areas of business and to pinpoint pain points. They’re fast and simple to send at different junctures of the customer journey – like just after purchase and just after onboarding. Basic NPS and CSAT surveys typically ask close-ended questions with limited responses that range from Yes/No to True/False to rating on a scale from 1 to 10, and so on. They uncover quantifiable data that’s easy to calculate and gives you a pretty clear picture of what has just happened.
You can, however, dig deeper by adding open-ended questions. At Hello Customer, every NPS, CSAT or CES question is followed by an open text field for elaboration. The customer can explain the reasons for their rating of that company/product/service. Data without quality insights or context is practically useless. It gains its value once it’s linked to customer feedback that gives meaning to a specific score, making the metric understandable and actionable.
Surveys are not one-time shots. You have to implement them repeatedly and design them for different purposes. You can break these down into two phases:
An initial “Discovery” phase where you are candidly approaching the customer to get feedback on say, a product launch or opening up a new touchpoint to uncover any issues. You’ll want to keep it sweet and short and combine a metric with an open feedback question that makes it easy for your customers to voice their complaint or frustration, for example:
Metric: On a scale of 1 to 10, to what degree would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?
Question: What’s the most important reason for your score?
Next, a follow-up, or “Confirmation” Phase, which aims to give you specific feedback on the actions you intend to take to try and resolve the issue. Here, you’ll want to privilege multiple-choice to narrow down your choice of action based on the answers, for example:
What is your preferred way of communicating with customer support?
Social Listening is a great technique for understanding what customers are saying about your brand and products on social media. They can message you directly about their concerns through live chat, prompting a quick and efficient response on your end. Unsolicited customer feedback (forums, etc.) is also incredibly useful for identifying trends based on what people are liking and sharing. The comments allow you to learn about the conversations that take place surrounding your product or service.
Often unrestrained and unsolicited, customer reviews offer viewpoints full of strong opinions and feelings that are especially helpful for VOC analysis, namely because customers who leave reviews have typically gone out of their way to do so. As such, they’re quite “telling” about an experience. You can extract this data from review sites all over the web using web scraping tools.
A lot of companies forget to look at the data they already have. Chances are, you’re probably receiving a great deal of useful data from your CRM, or other customer support devices, emails, chats, and more. With the right tool, you can integrate VOC analysis into your customer service processes. Not only will you be able to extract extremely useful data, but you can also build a full-fledged ticket management system that funnels all your customer support information to a single spot, streamlining processes.
Internet tracking tools and e-commerce applications give you an understanding of customer behavior and captures data for future analysis. This analysis often provides more quantitative than qualitative results. However, joining up website behavior with customer support data and other insights can yield quite personalized results great for targeted marketing campaigns.
This is intrinsically linked to the “what and to whom are you listening?” questions, since your Voice of the Customer tool has to be carefully adapted to the type of information you want to collect and to the audience you’re targeting (their preferred device, channel, format etc.,). It is fundamental to identify the right tool that will allow you to collect the type of information you want to obtain in the manner in which your customer wants to give it to you.
This is the crux of the matter. Once you have answered all of the above you’re obviously going to think about the processing, analysis and conclusions drawn from all this data. You have to create a common, comprehensible language for everyone in your company to be able to operate in. Besides website behavior and feedback surveys that are based on a numerical scale, most of your customer feedback is going to be qualitative. This means transforming qualitative data (words, phrases) into quantitative data (numbers, scales), using different types of templates.
So, now that you can do something, actually DO SOMETHING
This is what’s called closing the loop. Now that you’ve heard what your customers have to say and know how they feel about different aspects of your business, you have to act accordingly. The ROI for each improvement will vary based on the business area. But depending on the Voice of the Customer feedback you receive, you’ll be able to prioritize your actions, decide whether a complete overhaul is necessary or just a simple optimization to reduce friction, and whether the effort of making a change now or later is worth the time and employee bandwidth.
Most importantly, let your customers know that you’ve heard them. Always be sure to close the feedback loop by telling them that you’ve listened to their advice and implemented relevant changes in their interest, thanks to them.
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