We used to get so excited to talk about the Voice of the Customer (VoC).
It sounds so appealing to really hear the customer in their own voice, to understand their intentions and understandings. But too often we turned this exciting idea into a program of surveys that led to metrics that led to discussions about metrics that led to…not the powerful changes we expected.
And yet, it’s not surprising to know companies categorized as customer-centric reported much higher revenue than their counterparts, as documented in Hotjar’s 2019 State of Customer Experience Report.
How to set up your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program for success
Here are a few ways the best organizations set the stage to really understand their customers.
Gather your champions
The best organizations have leaders who support these programs from the ground up. These are the leaders who understand that customer feedback is the top driver of successful customer experience strategies.
These champion leaders need to understand what the investment is worth. Communicate how you will measure success. Will VoC feedback help you live up to your customer experience mission and brand promise? How will you act on your VoC feedback on an ongoing basis? How will increased happiness from customers drive bottom-line results?
What can VoC do for you?
Of course, you need leaders across your organization to really take actions that get results. Don’t only gather champions from the highest levels. Find those managers and supervisors who need to understand your Voice of the Customer program and their role in it. Help them see themselves as the important parts of this process that they are.
Get your leaders and champions to see how these efforts will help your overall goals as an organization—this will earn their investment in your vision for VoC. Explain how these programs help you see customer issues before they become widespread company challenges. They help you hear what customers are seeking before they go to your competitors. Customers have a chance to really tell you what will keep them loyal and where there are gaps to close in their experience. There is so much to learn from customers, but we must ask them to learn it.
Understand the journey
Your customers are following their own customer journeys, not necessarily the processes you created for them. To know what to measure, it’s important to understand the actual customer. This means knowing where there may be friction in the journey, and how to ask about that to get the best results. Can you start a VoC program without a customer journey map? Yes, but it will be a lot better with one.
Create your VoC feedback mosaic
There is no perfect formula for what to measure in a VoC program. There are key ingredients to consider when gathering both structured and unstructured feedback from customers on an ongoing basis. And a bonus is that customers want you to ask them for feedback.
When asked, 90% of customers say they want to be asked for feedback, yet less than half of them believe that feedback is invited consistently and nearly half believe no action is taken on the feedback provided. A great VoC program turns listening into action.
Here are the three key ingredients:
Consistency: Measuring anything consistently is better than no measurements at all. Once you have a baseline of your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) or customer sentiment or the like, you will have a way to gauge if you’re doing better or worse for customers.
Combined viewpoints: Customers are complex and nuanced, just like each of us is. Using both structured feedback, like CSAT scores and NPS ratings, with unstructured feedback, like customer’s verbatim responses on surveys and social media, provides a richer, more robust picture of the customer. This wonderful combination is what helps us really hear the Voice in Voice of the Customer.
Storytelling: Your VoC program should tell the story of your customer. Use real quotes, call center recordings, and other powerful emotional data to share what’s really going on with your customers. And guess what? 75% of marketing leaders are failing to understand shifting consumer behavior. That means all the data in the world can’t tell a story like the actual voice of your customer. Use what they tell you to share their story to the leaders who matter. (In other words, don’t be afraid of anecdotes and direct quotes!)
Two types of customer feedback to include in your VoC program
Customer feedback is typically categorized as structured and unstructured. A great VoC program includes a combination of both types.
This feedback is the formal feedback gathered via surveys. This feedback is typically quantified in a rating system of some sort.
Your organization may select a metric to use that helps capture how customers are feeling about working with you. Surveys may be collected in several ways, and they may measure different things. There is a place for a regular, relationship-based survey, as well as transaction-specific surveys, based on your organization and industry.
Popular ways to collect structured feedback
The NPS score is based on the “Ultimate Question” raised by Fred Reichheld: “How likely is it you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”
This question leads to a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being definitely will recommend or something of the sort. Those who rank the likelihood of recommending to others as 0–6 are considered Detractors. Those who select their likelihood of recommending as 7–8 are considered Passives. And those who select 9 or 10 are categorized as Promoters.
To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors. This number (a percentage) is what you track as your overall NPS.
Such as: (% Promoters) – (% Detractors) = NPS.
Measuring CSAT can be used to determine how a customer feels about the experience overall, parts of the customer journey, or even specific products or services. The question is typically presented to the customer using a 1–5 scale, with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied.
VoC programs often include CSAT in a percentage. You can determine that approach with a formula to see the percentage of customers who selected very satisfied or somewhat satisfied against the whole of your customers surveyed.
To calculate your company’s CSAT Score, take the number of satisfied customers (those who selected the top two choices in your scale) and divide that number by the total number of survey responses. Multiply by 100 to see the percentage of satisfied customers.
Such as: (Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5) / Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers.
How much effort did it take for your customer to work with you? That’s the basic premise behind CES. If a customer feels he had to put in a lot of effort, he will most likely be more negative about the experience.
CES can be used as a survey to discover how specific parts of the customer journey are handled.
For example, after calling for support, a customer may be asked to complete a one-question CES survey that asks: “On a scale from 1-7, with 1 being strongly disagree and 7 being strongly agree, do you believe the company made it easy for me to handle my issue?” The customer will select the rating that best reflects the ease of accomplishing their goals.
To calculate your company’s CES, find the average of all responses. Use the total sum of responses, then divide by the total number of survey respondents.
Such as: (Total sum of responses)/(Number of responses) = CES.
Some organizations will want to include just one of these metrics, while others will have a combination of relationship-based and transactional results. To launch a VoC program, consider what you will consistently gather and act on.
Where do your customers talk about you? What do they really want to tell you?
These are the questions to answer when gathering unstructured feedback. There are ways we ask customers within our structured surveys, like asking the follow-up question “Why or Why Not” on NPS surveys. Within that open-text field, customers give you amazing gifts.
Be sure you are leveraging text analytics and tools available to you to look for patterns, stay updated on critical complaints and find those wonderful examples of your customer’s voice to share with others in your organization.
Other ways to collect unstructured feedback
Your customers are talking about you on social media, in user groups, and at events. Your salespeople and customer service agents are talking to customers every day. Is there a place to gather that feedback in a centralized location? Encourage your employees to capture what customers are saying.
If you are just setting up a VoC program, another powerful tool is often overlooked: conversation. Pick up the phone and call your customers. Ask for a chat about what’s important to them. Listen for tone and implied disappointments so you can set up your key listening posts around moments that matter to them.
Operational and customer lifecycle data
VoC is not just about where and how you ask customers how they feel, it’s also about how they act. Operational data like First Call Resolution (FCR) in your contact centers and customer churn and retention rates help you understand the big picture results in your VoC strategy.
Including customer behavioral analytics like service call frequency, purchase data, and last payment helps us see how to connect the dots between what they tell us and how they actually behave.
Putting it all together
The leaders in VoC have a few things in common. There is a centralized hub of information, typically a dashboard, that employees throughout the company can review and share.
Dashboards include the metrics gathered along with graphs, charts or other tools to tell the story over time. Dashboards should answer the question: How are we doing today compared to yesterday?
Employees should start asking, what can we do to improve these results tomorrow? How can we engage with our customers more?
As employees begin to see this information, it’s critical to communicate about what this means. Engage your employees to understand why numbers moved up or down and not just reporting they did. Voice of the Customer results should lead to innovation around customer experience.
A few creative ways I’ve seen organizations use VoC feedback to engage their employees:
USAA created the Innovation Community for Enterprise (ICE) to encourage employee suggestions and proposals to improve customer experience. Based on the feedback gathered and data shared, every employee has a chance to submit ideas. A remarkable 94% of USAA’s 30,000-plus employees have participated!
Share the dashboard throughout the organization, highlighting one “metric of the month.” This will help employees understand the difference between overall NPS and transactional CSAT.
Highlight a handful of customer quotes from survey open-text field verbatims. Use a rotation of good and not-so-good to show what drives these reactions.
Recognize and reward those employees who did something worth noting by name! If a customer takes the time to mention Sylvia because of her empathy, let the company know what a great job Sylvia did.
Your customers want to be heard
One of the best ways to do that is to set up a Voice of the Customer (VoC program that both hears them and closes the loop for them.
Are you ready to really listen? Your customers are definitely ready to share!
Voice of the Customer (VoC) educational video
We’re not the only ones obsessed with the Voice of the Customer. In fact, we recently partnered with our friends at Forrester and launched a webinar on how to build a simple and effective VoC program that impacts the bottom line.
The webinar covered:
Why VoC is a critical pillar in a strong CX strategy.
How to build a simple and effective VoC Program.
How to quantify the business impact of your VoC efforts.
Check out the full webinar recording here.
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About the guest author
Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and is CEO of Experience Investigators. She is a customer experience speaker, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in assisting all types of companies, including Fortune 500. Specialties include in-depth customer experience evaluations, customer journey mapping, user experience analysis, and leading workshops and training programs. Her mission is: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.™ Connect with her: experienceinvestigators.com | @jeanniecw