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I originally wrote today’s post for Clicktools; it appeared on their blog on July 26, 2016.

Last month, I wrote about 20 tips to design better customer surveys. That post ought to be helpful whether you’re designing a new survey or redesigning existing surveys. But what if you’ve been listening to customers for years? How do you know when it’s time for a refresh or a complete VoC program redesign?

When was the last time you took a long, hard look at what you’ve been doing in terms of listening to customers in order to figure out if it’s time for a redesign or a major overhaul? Have there been personnel changes on your team? Have you acquired other companies? Are the people who originally designed the surveys still with the company? If they aren’t, is there anyone else who  recalls the original objectives? If they are, do they recall the objectives, the overall roadmap, the reason for the approach, etc.?

Either way, it’s likely that it’s time to revisit your customer listening efforts to ensure they meet today’s standards and requirements. Businesses change, acquisitions happen, new products are developed, customers change, customers’ needs evolve, the jobs customers try to do change, the industry grows and advances, new competitors enter the marketplace, etc.

It’s important to regularly revisit your listening efforts to ensure that you’re listening to all customers and in a manner that they prefer or in a manner that ensures you hear what they want/need you to hear.

Have you mapped your customer journeys? Have those maps identified new listening needs or opportunities that you hadn’t considered? The customer journey can be improved through listening and identifying areas where the journey is failing or causing customers to look for alternatives. Don’t ignore the learnings and outputs of this exercise.

How do you know when it’s time to redesign or to update your customer listening efforts? It might be time if you…

  • Don’t (or no longer) understand why you’re doing what you’re currently doing
  • Don’t know/remember the original objectives
  • Haven’t achieved your original objectives
  • Have nothing to show for the feedback you have received
  • Have seen a drastic drop in response rates
  • Only use the feedback to report one or two numbers; the rest of the data isn’t looked at or acted upon
  • Only have one person (yourself) looking at the feedback, and even then, it’s infrequently at best
  • Have had major staffing changes within your organization
  • Work with a vendor who has had staffing changes on your account team
  • Have experienced staffing changes within both your organization and your VoC vendor’s organization
  • Have acquired – or merged with – new companies and brands
  • Have rebranded your products
  • Have changed your product focus or your audience focus
  • Have changed your business/business model
  • Are not listening in a mode preferred by your customers
  • Aren’t listening via social media
  • Have new competitors
  • Haven’t had any actionable insights or results in years
  • Notice that recommendations for improvement haven’t changed
  • Aren’t making improvements based on the feedback
  • Discover that what you are currently doing is not/no longer working

If you’ve been doing the same thing for forever, it is seriously time for a refresh. Data collection methods have changed. Respondent preferences (for completing surveys) have changed. VoC has changed and now includes more than just surveys; it’s not just about asking customers but also about listening – wherever your customers want to speak and voice their opinions. Key metrics for your business may have changed. There are new analytical tools that require actionable inputs – not that previous tools didn’t have the same requirements, but the new tools make this requirement that much more evident!

There are a lot of things that have changed over time; but if your approach to VOC – not just the way you capture feedback but also the way you distribute it, analyze it, strategize and operationalize it, and communicate improvements – has remained stagnant, you’re not only wasting money, you’re doing your customers and your business a huge disservice.

Ultimately, if your customers continue to complain about the same issues and if your employees still feel shackled by the same tools, policies, and procedures – if you feel like the experience hasn’t improved and you don’t know how to fix it – it’s time to rethink how you’re listening to customers.

Your customer listening efforts shouldn’t follow a “set it and forget it” approach. You should take a look at your approach on an annual basis. Review what you’re doing and update or modify as needed.

Does your VOC initiative suffer from any of the symptoms listed above? If so, it is definitely time for a redesign!

You need to have a redesign because familiarity breeds a kind of complacency. -Timothy White