But let's start with the most common problem, customers aren't completing your surveys, so what can you do about it?
Firstly, it's comforting to know that you're not alone, we encounter brands and businesses that have this very problem, making it a real struggle to capture the true Voice of the Customer. Instead of a survey led approach, we encourage businesses to ask only one open-ended question (and capture a score alongside this) at relevant parts of the customer journey and immediately after service delivery. This approach leads to response rates of between 35-50% (compared with 2-5% for traditional surveys - and this doesn't even take into account drop out rates), as well as much richer insight, as we are getting the views of customers in their own words.
If you imagine the entire customer journey, and then pick up on the key touch points and ask for feedback at them, you're still able to build up the same intelligence you would get with a survey at the end of the journey. However, this way makes the questions much more relevant to the customer and the insight is more valid because it's captured in the moment.
“Feedback collected at the point of service delivery is 40% more accurate than feedback collected 24 hours later.”
Now imagine a survey being asked weeks if not months after certain interactions have occurred, your views will be skewed and impacted by other interactions, not only with that company but other things that may have happened in your day-to-day life (your emotional journey).
We suggest you try the following....
1) Map out your customer journey - It doesn't have to be the whole thing, just one area will do.
2) Grab the scissors! - Take your current survey and cut up the questions so they are individual.
3) Make it relevant - Place only the questions that are relevant at each stage of the customer journey. If you have gaps in your customer journey then maybe your survey isn't telling you everything you should know, this means you might need to reconsider your questions.
4) Capture the right metrics - At points along your customer journey, certain metrics will be more applicable. For instance, if it's an online interaction then a customer's priority is to get this done quickly and with as little pain as possible, in this scenario the Net Easy metric (was that easy? yes or no) would be most applicable. If, however, it was at the end of the journey then NPS would more than likely be the most relevant. Equally, C-Sat would probably be best used in a contact centre interaction.
5) Don't create feedback fatigue - You want to ask for feedback at the moments that matter, so ensure that you aren't bombarding customers with too many requests. Instead only ask at key times and at other times give them the ability to reach out should they wish (signs that prompt them to do so), this could be a Point of Sale Display encouraging customers to text some feedback to a shortcode, leaving feedback via a widget on a website, or via a button on the bottom of an email (we call these Listening Posts).
There's no exact science to this so we advise that it’s important to constantly experiment until you get the insight you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and if something isn’t working then stop and try something else.
Now that you've mapped out the customer journey you can start to think about the Voice of the Customer programme itself. Some of the best-known brands have fallen by the wayside because they’ve not kept pace with modern customer needs - they don’t understand the traits and characteristics that define what customers now want.
In almost every industry, new brands have emerged as challengers purely on the strength of successful VoC programmes. Their approach has resonated with an audience of customers who are fed up with how they are treated and expect an exceptional experience. We know that the successful companies of today have earned their position because of the quality and consistency of these programmes.
It’s also not enough to simply conduct a VoC programme, brands have to cultivate a genuine, heartfelt approach that allows everyone in the organisation to listen and react to customer needs. So to kick thing's off, here are the 4 key traits that make a VoC programme successful:
#1 Integrating all of your feedback channels into one place
Whether your feedback comes from Amazon Alexa, email or SMS, having it all in one place is vital for a successful VoC programme. Not only does this allow you to identify specific trends or themes within your feedback, it also means that when a customer leaves multiple pieces of feedback via different channels they can then be associated with each other.
For example, if a customer makes a complaint via text and another via a phone call, the feedback sources will be feeding into one place. This allows brands to identify two things - firstly that this particular customer is upset and the issue needs to be prioritised, they're using more than one channel to voice their frustration.
Then secondly, you can associate both feedback items together, removing the possibility of assigning twice the resource to handle that single issue. Failing to solve this means that multiple agents could potentially get back to the customer via different channels, highlighting you're not joined up and damaging the customer experience for your brand.
#2 Removing silos between different departments
Often, brands will have different sets of data residing in various departments. Marketing systems will hold particular customer data, the product team will be using data from another source and the service desk have their own customer data set.
The problem with this approach is that businesses can end up creating silos, essentially where there is no single truth about the customer. Often they can occur because of legacy systems which have never been integrated. If you can bring all of this data into one place, such as your CRM, then you’ll have a complete picture of your customer allowing you to extract more insight.
#3 Embedding your own Voice of the Employee programme
VoC programmes can only ever be a success if your people are also engaged in the process. Your employees are the heart of the business. Without them, there would be nobody for the customer to turn to when they need help.
Listening to what your employees have to say and working to improve their experience will have a positive impact on the way they engage with your customers. Never underestimate the power of your people, happy employees are more likely to go the extra mile for customers and do what is needed to deliver an excellent experience.
#4 Showing a Return on Investment to the business
While the view that VoC is a nice-to-have or an added-extra is thankfully becoming less common, it’s still tough for businesses to invest in programmes that aren’t seen as a driver for financial results.
VoC programmes are long-term investments, but that doesn’t mean they can’t impact the bottom line for a brand. Taking straightforward steps like process tweaks that make life easier for the customer and reducing the number of inbound calls you receive will make a real difference.
This leads us into the final part of what makes a truly successful VoC Programme - diving a little deeper into how you demonstrate a return on investment.
- Understand the benefits - Demonstrate the value of the work you’re doing day-in and day-out for the business. When it’s time to put in your budget request for the next financial year, make your position strong. Like any programme or initiative that has a long lifecycle before delivering value, it’s hard for senior execs to provide support and budget without proof it will have a positive impact on the business. By providing senior execs with real evidence early in the process, you’ll reassure them that the company’s budget is being put to good use.
- Have a plan in place - To get any meaningful insight, you’re going to need to pull together the relevant data sets. Before you even start with a new technology or new approach, it’s really worth thinking about what data you might need to collect and how you’re going to get hold of it. By doing this early on, not only will you make your life easier when the programme gets going, but you’ll also be able to analyse its progress more easily and more often.
Typically, brands will use information like average call handling or first call resolution alongside their CX metrics to draw a comparison over time. But to get the most out of this data, you also need to have the resources available to analyse it in depth. Having one of your business analysts on hand and briefed in early will make sure that you can get the most out of your data, helping you not only prove ROI but get a clear insight into how your programme is progressing.
Understand how quickly you can show ROI to the business - As previously mentioned, VoC programmes are long-term investments and these investments take time to have an impact. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Often, brands will have low-hanging fruit, where quick wins and fast improvements can be made.
This can be as straightforward as minor process tweaks, which make life easier for your customers, or small website amends, which mean that information can be accessed faster by customers. The time to achieve a ROI will depend on your specific circumstances - what is your organisation currently trying to achieve with its VoC programme? What are your current challenges and priorities? How much initial investment are you able to make?
To speed things up, you can take advantage of real-time feedback, helping you to collect insight and quickly understand the impact of your the programme. Real-time feedback is not only quicker to collect than other data but, often, much richer. As the customer provides feedback while their experience is still fresh in their memory, meaning you’ll stand to gain some real insight on how your programme’s working.
So now you've learned what it takes to build a successful VoC programme. What else can you learn?