The do’s and don'ts of voice of customer programs

From measuring impact to understanding customer stages, there’s a treasure trove of things to consider when crafting the perfect VOC

Voice of customer (VOC) programs are becoming increasingly popular with marketers, but there are some general do’s and don’ts to follow if they're going to succeed.

CMO reached out to three industry commentators to reveal what’s hot and what’s not on their voice of customer approach and what it takes to successfully create and implement a program.  

But first, let’s be clear on what a voice of customer program is comprised of. According to InMoment customer experience expert, Andrew Park, a comprehensive voice of customer programs is comprised of four distinct components: Listening (collecting data), understanding (analysing data for insights), sharing (distributing the insites across the enterprise), and taking action.  

“For the listening component, many brands rely primarily on structured surveys, such as scores and rankings, with a smattering of unstructured comments. With the multitude of channels and forms customers are talking about their experiences, surveys are simply not sufficient anymore,” Park told CMO.

Andrew Park
Andrew Park

“Brands should collect as much structured, and especially rich unstructured data from social comments and reviews, voice recording, chat logs, community postings, and so on. They should also be collecting contextual data about the customer. This includes CRM, loyalty, financial and operational information.”

So what are some of the all-important ‘do’s and don'ts’ of a customer voice programs?

The Do's

Start from the end

First and foremost, Park said marketers need to design the program with the end goal in mind.

“Start by understanding that your program needs to tie directly to your brand promise, corporate objectives and initiatives -- including financial goals," he advised. "Next, design the insight roadmap and reporting based on the user personas in your organisation. Then design your collection strategy and feedback plan. Only then will you ensure you will have all of the data you need to create an actionable program."

Get your tech in order

Another key component is ensuring marketers have a comprehensive VoC technology that allows them to provide automated actionable insights throughout the entire organisation.  

“Your people cannot take action if they don't have enough information, or if the information does not reach then in a timely manner," Park said. "The right technology should be smart enough to recommend the right actions by persona and area of the business. A solution that requires too much interpretation - especially at the front line - can cause more harm than good.”

Remember your people

Then it comes down to leveraging the best resource you have - your people.

“Your front-line employees are an amazing resource. They understand the customer experience better than anyone because they work closest to it every day," Park said.

"Create a voice of employee program that allows employees to provide insight into the customer experience, identifying points of friction, root causes, and inefficiencies that prevent them from providing the exceptional experiences you are hoping for. Give them opportunities to get creative and recommend new ideas as well.”

Focus on growth

For growth marketer and CX leader, Christian Bowman, investment into a CX strategy and specifically a VOC program should be motivated by a desire to grow the business.

“This means that the organisation should believe that by listening to customers via a voice of customer program coupled with brand leadership, is driven by a desire to grow, whether it be market share, customer engagement or plain old simple sales,” he said.

Christian Bowman
Christian Bowman

Pick a touchpoint and metric

Bowman also suggested companies need to “just get started” by picking one touchpoint and one survey question. This could be deciding between Net Promoter System (NPS), Customer Effort (CE) or Customer Satisfaction (CSat).

On the measurement front, organisations then need to split-test new activities or set controls to ensure the treatment group is isolated well enough to prove impact. “This could be as simple as removing a percentage of your customers from VoC workflow to determine the variance,” Bowman said.

It’s also important to be clear on the company’s strategic goals. Aligning with these ensures clarity on why activities are undertaken and helps define the language used.

“If you're a challenger brand and you know your company is in the consideration set and it's about conversion to a trialist, then you may have a lot of phrases within the customer journey from your frontline like ‘Thank you for choosing Brand X’,” Bowman explained. “Or your surveys might be ‘Why did you choose Brand X instead of Brand Y’.”

Get a grip on the customer journey

Additionally, Bowman said it’s important to understand the different customer stages.

“Customer experience is really an evolved version of the traditional sales process, where you are clear on the objectives on each stage and who are responsible. If you haven't done one already, a customer journey mapping workshop will help with this process. This is also how you ensure clarity on your KPIs and targets,” he noted.

Close the loop

Bowman’s last steps involve taking action (closing the feedback loop); connecting the VOC program into the company’s innovation or product review process; and measuring impact.

“If you're going to do any survey, let alone run a full voice of customer program, make sure you have planned how to close the feedback loop,” he said. “How will you manage complaints - small or big and will these complaints require a case to opened to investigate? Which feedback do you escalate?  How do you keep the customer up to date with the progress?”

Follow the money

Meanwhile, Ellipsis and Company managing partner, Tim Tyler, said following the money is key, and suggested marketers need to spend their money on CX improvement in line with customer value. It’s crucial to retain high value customers, even if there’s a smaller opportunity for short term sales lifts.

“Make changes where there is the most opportunity for financial returns. Start with those customers who are important to keep or who can increase their value to you the most,” he advised. “Keeping valuable customers happy and loyal is more profitable and as important as the never-ending new customer acquisition treadmill.”

Broadcast internally

On the broadcast front, Tyler said he’s amazed so many Australian companies are afraid of their customers, and afraid to publicise both criticism and praise.

“VOC works better if you broadcast internally, share results, engage employees. Let everyone know about your service and encourage (even empower) employees to improve the service,” he said.

Think about your promoters

Additionally, preserve some energy and budget for promoters, not just complaining, squeaky detractors. “The temptation is to focus exclusively on ‘fixing’ problems or detractors. Though this should remain the priority, picking up some powerful word of mouth from promoters may be as simple as asking them to post a review,” Tyler said.  

And finally, persistence is key. “VOC-led customer experience optimisation is not a ‘do once and forget’ task,” Tyler said. “Customer expectations change, sometimes unpredictably, so you need to keep asking, checking, and improving - or risk drifting away from competitive service levels.”

Up next: The don'ts of VOC programs

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