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I originally wrote today’s post for CallidusCloud; it appeared on their blog on October 1, 2018.

As I sat down to write this month’s post, I reflected on several conversations I had this week that were tied together with a common thread: common VoC program mistakes. I started to reflect on what was said and then began jotting down a list that grew much longer than I thought it would!

In this first part of a two-part series, I’ve outlined the first 10 common VoC program mistakes I came up with; part two will have at least 10 more.

It’s important to note that these are mistakes that are made either knowingly or unknowingly – either way, they need to be rectified.

But before I outline those 10, there’s an even bigger issue that needs to be addressed: thinking that you don’t need to listen to customers or ask for feedback at all! If that mindset is prevalent in your organization, you need to squash it as quickly as possible and shift the thinking to one of customer listening – always!

OK, on to the list of common VoC program mistakes.

1. Not defining your objectives
With any program, initiative, or journey you undertake, you must always start from the beginning: outline your goals, objectives, outcomes, and success metrics. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

2. Not getting executive commitment
Yes, you need executive commitment for your VoC programs. If you don’t have it, how will you get the resources you’ll need to improve what customers tell you is broken? You

3. Failing to outline the program plan
Fail to plan, plan to fail” definitely applies here. Your program plan needs to outline, among other things, the audience, a sampling plan, business rules to avoid survey fatigue, language options, customer data to append to the survey, alerts, closed-loop process, and more.

4. Poor survey design
I’ve seen more poorly-designed surveys than I care to admit. Some of the design issues include: survey is too long; there are navigation and UI issues; the survey is littered with poor grammar; it’s not designed for mobile; questions are not relevant to the experience being evaluated; questions are not actionable; didn’t ask open-ended questions; didn’t survey via customers’ preferred channels or methods; and the list goes on.

5. Not listening where customers are
VoC is not all about asking; you need to listen, as well. Know the difference between “ask” and “listen” when it comes to VoC. Be sure to listen on social media, in online reviews, via customer advisory boards, etc.

6. Trying to sell with surveys
Years ago, I read an article that stated: “The easiest way to grow sales and double customer loyalty is to send a survey and then do nothing with the feedback.” I’ll just simplify my response: “Just don’t.” I don’t even know how that makes sense. I’ve seen some surveys with poor intentions, and it really doesn’t help the rest of the folks who are trying to do the right thing.

7. Similarly, failing to keep the survey focused on the experience
Sometimes well-intentioned people design surveys about the experience a customer had with the brand but also include questions that could best be described as purely for marketing purposes. Keep it simple. Ask about the experience – and only the experience. Marketing questions should be saved for marketing surveys.

8. No owners for survey questions
Quite simply, if the question doesn’t have an owner, there’s no reason to ask it. If there isn’t a stakeholder who can claim the question and say that he/she will make improvements or do something with the feedback to that question, then don’t ask it.

9. Asking about things you can’t change
If you ask customers for feedback about some aspect of the experience, you set the expectation that you will do something about that aspect. But if there are things that you cannot or will not be able to change, then don’t ask about them. Looking to shorten your survey? Start here.

10. Focusing on the metrics, not the outcomes
Too many companies survey just for the metrics. Instead, survey to find out what’s going well and what’s not for the customer – and then use that to improve the experience. When you focus on the metrics and what it takes to move the needle, you end up driving the wrong behaviors. When you focus on improving the experience, the numbers will come.

Take some time to ponder these mistakes. How many of them are you guilty of? Not sure? Audit your program – or get someone to do an audit for you. Never a bad idea to do that on a regular basis, anyways. It’s not too late to make improvements. After all, you want to make sure you do this right so that you can get the right feedback in order to design and deliver a better customer experience.

Next up, check out part two of the series for eleven more mistakes!

A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself. -David J. Greer, Wind In Your Sails

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She’s on the verge of publishing her first book about putting the “customer” into customer experience. Stay tuned for that! In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.