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Voice of the Customer: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?

The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is one of the most enduring programs to emerge from the era of Customer Experience.

For companies intent on becoming “customer-centric,” VoC has been a staple of their strategies. VoC metrics have become a critical way of understanding the customer experience, and it holds a lot of weight as the feedback comes directly from the customer.

But VoC programs, like the rest of the customer experience, is undergoing a dramatic shift as companies and customers alike grapple with the effects of the pandemic and advancing digital transformation.

In today's post, we're going to break down what Voice of the Customer means, why it matters to companies, and how companies can improve their VoC programs to meet the demands of today's customer experience.

What is Voice of the Customer?

Let’s start with the fancy definition.

Here's how Forrester defines and explains Voice of the Customer: "Companies use VoC programs to collect and analyze customer feedback, inform CX improvements, and track the results of those improvements. To manage the complex challenges involved with running VoC programs, CX pros can turn to a variety of vendors that support some — or all — components of their VoC program. Forrester defines VoC as:
A systematic approach for collecting customer feedback, mining that feedback for insights, and then incorporating the insights into business decisions."

Digital transformation is rapidly fragmenting the customer experience into more channels and more types of data—keeping up with all of It requires gathering feedback from all these sources and analyzing it to try to understand what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Listening to the customer through the data you collect and transforming it into insights and actions is at the heart of VoC.

VoC programs have been around for years, but perhaps the best way to understand it is through the 1996 hit song “Wannabe” by the British girl group the Spice Girls.

     Company: So tell me what you want, what you really, really want...
     Customer: I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want...
     Company: So tell me what you want, what you really, really want...
     Customer: I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
                   I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah...
     Company:
Okay, but what is “zigazig ah”?

Ask, listen to feedback, ask again, listen more, analyze, and act. But it’s not always clear what customers mean by their feedback, in part because VoC customer feedback is largely driven by quantitative metrics (i.e. what is happening). Increasingly they’re taking more qualitative approaches (i.e. why is it happening) as well to track and measure the customer experience to get to the heart of the “zigazig ah” in the customer experience.  

How Do Voice of the Customer Programs Measure Success?

Usually, when you think VoC, you think surveys. You’ve undoubtedly encountered pop-ups on a website or in emails are that ask you to rate a product or a service on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10. These surveys form the core of most VoC programs.

Surveys help serve two purposes: benchmarking the customer experience and, for more mature organizations, taking steps to improve the customer experience. The most common types of feedbacks surveys include:

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Asks customers to rank their experience with a company’s product or service based on a numerical scale at key points in the customer journey such as checkout or after a service call.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): Asks customers how simple it was to accomplish a task, typically to procure support from call centers or other service channels.  
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Asks customers how likely they are to recommend a product or a service to a friend based on their experience.

Each of these surveys complement each other to capture a snapshot of the customer experience in the moment. Customer Effort Scores, for example, are most useful in the context of customer support interactions

But the customer experience also includes social media, web behavior, and live chats, and listening to your customers now requires a more diverse, robust approach. As many VoC programs focus on perceived “crucial” moments with their feedback surveys, the other touch points in the customer experience might not get the same survey-love.

Typically, this more robust approach needs two elements: the first ties into creating a cross-channel customer feedback system covers as much as the customer experience as possible. It’s a tall order, especially as teams and budgets shrink. But new tools like Experience Analytics Platforms powered by Smart AI™ are putting the power back in the hands of the business users to bring the data together and uncover insights in minutes, not weeks and months.

The second element seeks to answer the question: “Why?” Such as, “Why won’t you recommend our product to a friend?” or “Why did you struggle with this interaction?”  

Uncovering the why takes a VoC program beyond the role of benchmarking and into the realm of proactively improving the customer experience.  But to do this, companies need to be able to capture and analyze the unstructured data behind the customer experience, like the voice and text files from customer interactions. That’s where AI-powered analytics platforms that can process unstructured data comes into play, uncovering trends and anomalies in the data faster than traditional methods.

Why is VoC Important for Companies?

At this point, it’s no secret that consumers are making purchase and loyalty decisions based on customer service and experiences. VoC programs are one way to try and correlate good and bad experiences to tangible points in the customer experience. Voice of the Customer is one of the driving reasons that companies are investing in CX technology.

Taking in customer feedback and making changes is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate a commitment to your customers. Some brands have built huge, happy customer bases by placing customer feedback scores. Slack, a messaging service, bases its success on its NPS and CES scores, not sales. While most companies would likely say something similar, they’ve incorporated customer feedback into the heart of their product development to ensure the happiness and success of their customers.  

They’ve achieved these by understanding the customer experience through data and feedback to get at the “why.”

VoC Beyond Surveys

Surveys are a great start for any VoC program, but they’re not the end point. Alongside VoC, it is important to also incorporate other feedback and data points:

  1. Voice of the Employee programs provide a way to capture employee feedback alongside customer feedback to get a holistic picture of the interaction, and to uncover the internal processes that may be impacting the customer experience or trends that traditional CX tools may not have picked up yet.  
  1. Publicly-available customer reviews can provide another point of customer feedback. If your products are sold on a site like Amazon.com, then analyzing that feedback can provide a valuable insight into the customer experience with your products you might not otherwise have access to.
  1. Taking emotion and sentiment into consideration provides a new lens to view feedback through. Since the point of a VoC program is to foster a relationship between a brand and consumers, emotional intelligence needs to be part of the equation as well. Combining sentiment with customer satisfaction scores and net promoter scores allows your company to understand what most impacts your customers.

New data points aren’t the end though; showing the ROI of a VoC program is equally important.

One of the biggest mistakes companies can make with Voice of the Customer programs is not tying the associated metrics (NPS, CSAT, CES) back to tangible business goals. The point of collecting all that feedback is not simply to improve the scores on the surveys, but to show that the changes you’ve made in response to the feedback is driving more sales, reducing churn, or reducing the number of customer service interactions.

Conclusion

Voice of the Customer programs are just one piece of the rapidly changing CX puzzle. Like all of those other pieces, VoC programs are facing unique challenges this year.

Looking for more about the future of CX and VoC? Watch an on-demand recording of “Best Practices for Solving the Three Biggest Challenges Facing CX Teams in 2021” featuring Kurt Trauth, Vice President of Experience Strategy at Stratifyd, and guest speaker Faith Adams, Senior Analyst Serving Customer Experience Professionals for Forrester, as they walk you through how to overcome the three biggest challenges facing CX teams this year.

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