I originally wrote today’s post for Eptica. It appeared on their blog on June 13, 2019.
Problem Statement: Brands have been running Voice of the Customer programs for years, but customer experience has generally not improved. How can brands make sure that their VoC programs deliver ROI?
You’ve invested a lot of time, money, and energy into designing and developing your VoC program. You’ve done that, right? You haven’t just thrown something together so that you can check the box that you listen to customers, right? OK, so, you’re listening to customers and getting all of this great feedback, but the experience isn’t improving. What gives? Let’s outline several ways that you can ensure that your VoC program delivers on its promise.
Outline objectives and success metrics
As with anything you do, start from the beginning; always start with outlining why you’re launching a VoC program, what the objectives and desired outcomes are, and how you’ll measure success of the program. Everything you do must tie back to this.
Practice proper survey and program design
The saying “garbage in, garbage out” couldn’t hold truer for your VoC program. If you’re not seeing ROI from your program, perhaps you’re not asking the right questions – or asking them of the right people. Don’t sell with your surveys. Don’t ask for things you already know. Keep the questions focused on the experience. There are a ton of best practices for proper survey design and VoC program design; educate yourself on these and incorporate them into your program.
Don’t focus on the metric
Too many companies focus on moving the metric rather than on improving the experience. Focusing on what it takes to move the metric can be detrimental and cause inappropriate behavior, gaming, and other undesirables that derail from the purpose of listening to customers. And it does nothing to improve the experience. When you focus on the metric, you do different things and do things differently than when you focus on improving the experience.
Act on the feedback
So, that means you that you’ve got to act on the feedback! Do something with it. Analyze it – not just with simple descriptive analytics but also with predictive and prescriptive analytics so that you identify where to focus, how much effort to put forth, and what the impact is on the customer. Share the insights. Tell the customer’s story. Identify and prioritize improvement opportunities. Conduct a root cause analysis. Develop an action plan and a project plan. And go make those improvements!
Link the feedback to operational data
When customer feedback is combined with customer interaction and transaction data, as well as other operational metrics, you’re able to conduct this rich analysis that paints a better and broader picture of the customer and of the experience. With better insights about the experience today, you can uncover what you need to keep doing and what you need to do better.
Share the data
In order for the appropriate actions to be taken on the feedback, it must be shared with the departments that need to act on it. As you design the survey, get input from departmental stakeholders and ensure that each question in the survey has an owner. If there’s no owner, i.e., someone who’s going to be responsible for doing something with the feedback from the question, then don’t ask it. Once the feedback starts coming in, be sure each stakeholder has access to it so that it can be used to understand the experience and to make improvements.
Close the loop with employees
Be sure to use the feedback to coach and to recognize employees. When employees don’t know what they’re doing wrong, they can’t change their actions and behaviors. Keeping them in the dark about how they are performing or how they are meeting customers’ needs is one way to ensure that you won’t achieve ROI from your VoC program. When employees are coached on the right actions and behaviors, they have the ability to immediately change the customer’s experience, so share the feedback with them. And then be sure to recognize them for the right behaviors, for delighting customers. Reinforce the right behaviors to ensure they continue.
Close the loop with customers
Customers provide you with feedback about your products and services; the least you can do is tell them what you did with their feedback, what improvements you made as a result, including both tactical and strategic changes. Doing so lets them know that their feedback is valuable, their time wasn’t wasted, and you actually use their feedback; what this does is ensures that they’ll provide feedback again. If you’ve wasted their time, they won’t. And we need their feedback if we are to improve the experience! Always communicate back to your customers what changes were made as a result of their feedback and thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts.
Know that it’s a continuous process
Your VoC program is a continuous improvement process. It must be always-on, not a point-in-time effort. It must evolve to listen and to ask in ways that customers want to provide feedback. You must analyze and act on the feedback continuously, not every quarter. And the surveys must be updated to ensure you get feedback on improvements you’ve made as a result of previous feedback.
Revisit and refresh your VoC program
If you’re not achieving the desired outcomes for your VoC program, perhaps it’s time to revisit the entire program. It may be time for a refresh. Data collection methods have changed. Respondent preferences (for completing surveys) have changed. VoC has changed and includes more than just surveys. Key metrics for your business may have changed. Customers have changed. The business changed. You’ve got new products or new competitors in the marketplace. There are a lot of things that change over time; but if your approach to your VoC program – not just the way you capture feedback but also the way you distribute, analyze, act on it, and communicate improvements – has remained stagnant, you’re not only wasting money, you’re doing your customers and your business a huge disservice.
Incorporate the data into journey maps
Customer understanding is comprised of surveys and customer data, personas, and journey mapping. All three of these are closely linked. So, it’s extremely important to be sure to incorporate your VoC data into your journey maps. Journey maps very clearly help you understand the current experience for your customers; adding customer feedback brings in additional customer perspectives, takes the map from qualitative to quantitative, allows you to analyze the experience, and makes the maps more actionable. In addition, the VoC data helps you identify the key moments of truth, and when you start making improvements at those moments, you’ll be sure to achieve that elusive ROI.
Which of these 11 tips resonate with you? Which ones are you already doing, and which will you need to incorporate into your VoC program today? Don’t sit idly by if you’re not seeing the outcomes you expected to see. Find out the reason behind it, and go set things straight! But know this: you must always be listening, and you must always be acting on what you hear.
Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked; listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place. -Simon Sinek
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.