The best-known brands and successful companies have discovered how to take the data and customer stories from their Voice of the Customer practice and effectively use them to drive strategies across their organizations — from sales, marketing, and product development to service and support.
What is a Voice of the Customer Practice?
The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a practice of capturing customers' wants, needs, and challenges, then organizing and prioritizing them by their impact on experiences and value to customers. The practice creates a common customer language that everyone in the organization can understand.
What VoC is not
VoC is not market research, nor a survey, nor customer experience (CX) metrics management, though the VoC practice incorporates some elements and methods from each of them. As a component of the CX practice, VoC brings customer feedback into an organization's decision-making.
Build a Strong Practice
The power of VoC comes with shifting your mindset from a perception of a score to a system. This allows you to build an ecosystem where every person at the company — from the executive leadership to frontline employees — focuses on the customer and deploying continuous improvement.
Components of a VoC Practice
Strategy begins with your declared VoC objectives and defined operating model to manage the end-to-end customer listening system.
The second part of the strategy is defining what listening framework you are going to adapt and combining it with the definition or the selection of metrics that are relevant to your objectives and relevant to your customers as they go through their journey with you.
The third part of the strategy is to understand how to segment your customers and know what’s important to each customer segment.
A governance structure puts teeth in your execution and lets each department know they have skin in the game. This ensures there is no deflection of responsibility to another department or the VoC team. Membership in your governance body should consist of people in each department who have the authority to make decisions, are accountable for enacting the change, and can address the roadblocks that inhibit the organization from moving forward. If you don’t have a strong governance body, your work will be wasted.
Some key responsibilities:
- Define a consistent set of CX standards across the organization.
- Ensure programs and metrics are aligned to the company's CX vision.
- Facilitate coordination across groups that share responsibility for a given experience.
- Review and prioritize customer feedback for the entire organization.
- Manage CX improvement projects.
- Communicate progress and results to internal and external stakeholders.
Researching & Planning
Your active listening system gathers all types of feedback from your customers, from any channel through which they interact with your business or brand. So, it’s essential that you research and plan your listening system.
Here are a few methods for doing this:
- Solicit feedback from customers about their experiences with the organization (e.g., through surveys, interviews, or usability studies).
- Collect unsolicited feedback from customers about their experiences with the organization (e.g., by mining calls, emails, or postings on social media networks).
- Gather input from employees about their experiences with customers and their role in the CX ecosystem.
- Conduct observational research studies in customers' natural environments (e.g., observing customers' real-life activities, shadowing).
- Workshop and co-design with customers to map their interactions with the organization across multiple channels and touchpoints.
Planning and designing various research activities require a strong understanding of the objective of the research and solicited feedback, what feedback is expected, and how to best collect that feedback. It’s a deliberate activity that supports the desired outcome and should not be left to chance.
Capturing & Responding
Another part of your VoC plan is to define the methods for capturing customer feedback. Will you get the feedback you need in real-time using methods such as voice analytics and interviews? Or would it be better to use off-line methods like web surveys and text analytics? You will also need to decide what type of channels you will use to capture that feedback – from a manual phone interview to a fully automated survey tool.
When you get the feedback, will you respond and close the loop with the customer immediately or do you plan to gather and respond periodically? The answer to this question depends on the type of feedback you are collecting and the timing of it.
But, closing the loop with your customers is a critical action of every successful VoC system. This occurs when your employees who are responsible for interfacing with the customer communicate the process, setting the right expectations around resolving an issue or potential issue with the customer.
Analyzing & Informing
Analyzing customer data and feedback lets you systematically discover what is working and what is not and highlight problem areas where you can perform a more in-depth root cause analysis. Ensure that your data is reliable. Avoid analysis paralysis by checking periodically that what you are collecting is substantive and aligns with your business strategies.
An important part of the process is digging into the "why" of a problem to determine if it’s chronic or systemic. Sometimes customers want a specific feature added, but it might be a perception issue. For example, the feature works fine, but you need better training or documentation on using it. Or a particular group's hard work is not having the right impact on the customer. VoC gives you data that you can use to formulate the best approach to fix the problem.
Your employee communication strategy must be transparent so everyone is well-informed of the CX operations and the customer feedback. Clear and honest communication is also crucial for your customers and partners, ensuring that they are aware of the investment your business is making in this relationship.
To improve, you need to turn your analysis of customer feedback into actionable feedback that teams across the organization can use to make meaningful change. During the analysis, it’s common to find areas of immediate or tactical change as well as areas that require more strategy and long-term commitments.
This allows you to look more closely at your current processes, systems, services, and products — and learn more from customer feedback. It's vital to look at everything from the customer, or the outside-in, perspective and ensure there's accountability to act, find solutions, and fix any gaps.
A successful VoC practice must be updated periodically, as changes are continually occurring in your customer base, market, employees, management, and processes. Updates will ensure system robustness, put your customer at the center of everything you do, and continuously drive improvements and actions on their behalf.
Making Customers Feel Valued
You can’t take your customers for granted. Get to know them so you can give them the right type of attention. And while it's critical to know your high-value customers, those customers aren't simply determined by the revenue they bring in. High-value customers also have brand recognition power.
Pay attention to both your advocates and detractors. It's important to differentiate the what and why behind advocates and detractors. What motivates both groups is that they have different expectations, needs, and reactions or behaviors. Tailor your customer engagement according to each of their needs.
Building a Customer Culture
Customer culture means creating a mindset that lets your organization deliver a total experience by putting the customer at the center of the business.
Crafting a true customer culture mindset within your organization is the most essential ingredient to ensure excellent experiences for your customer. This requires every level of your organization to put the customer at the center of every business decision. Enable this by bringing customer stories and their feedback to life, creating empathy for the customer, and aligning your purpose.
So, how does your Voice of the Customer practice stack up?