Excellent CX Delivery Relies on Completely Hearing the Voice of Customer

Jan 13, 2017

A NICE executive correctly pointed out to me recently that companies rely too heavily on surveys to obtain the voice of the customer (VoC).  Consequently, they end up hearing the “voice of the survey” rather than a true (and representative) VoC. 

Here’s why, he explained: only a minority of customers responds to surveys. Of those that do, they comprise of highly dissatisfied customers--and very happy customers--in that order.  But only listening to the extremes distorts the picture of how the market perceives the brands.

Moreover, there may be fewer and incomplete survey responses, which further call into question the validity of the results.  As a new Frost & Sullivan report, Hearing and Acting on the Voice of the Customer points out, survey response rates have reportedly been declining. That’s understandable. Customers are mobile-first and time-pressed. They don’t want to be bothered with long and rigid feedback surveys.

Think of our behavior as customers. How many of us have responded to the invites on sales receipts or the online prompts, or hung up on survey calls?

Equally critically, while surveys touch on customers’ issues from their immediate and fresh experiences they do not capture the breadth and impact. Companies may require additional details to ascertain the problems, determine the causes, and fix the problems.

There is also the employees’ side of the interactions.  Customers who scream how terrible the agents or sales associates were may be the ones at fault.  Customers may not have the correct information, failed to follow instructions, are trying to game the system, or are obnoxious, or all of the above.  

But the systems the agents have to use may be to blame. The tools may be out of date, require too much time to access and key in, and the data may reside in multiple silos. A new Frost & Sullivan report, Enhancing Omnichannel Agent Productivity, looks these issues.

It isn’t that customers don’t want to give their feedback. Quite the opposite is true. Customers feel empowered in their relationships with companies and want to engage with them. They are more willing to make their views known than in the past. This is clearly demonstrated by the exponentially increasing volumes of customers’ social comments about their customer experiences (CXs). But it is also shown in customers’ remarks and tones in voice, online, and in-person conversations with customer service staff.  

Ultimately, customers show their feedback in their buying patterns. Money talks the loudest. In these days of commoditized, modular, no-contract, and on-demand products and services, customer loyalty is as only as good as their last transactions.

But as a result of not intaking and aggregating all feedback, included inferred feedback from transactions, companies are left with inaccurate and incomplete views of CXs. Consequently they risk making bad decisions.

So how can companies truly hear the VoC? The NICE executive suggested that VoC needs to be broadened and rebranded to include customer conversations, social media, and surveys.  Also, as the Frost & Sullivan report points out, surveys must be short, multichannel, and mobile-first. They have to have free-form responses that allow customers to embed images and video.

Further, VoC must include voice of the employee (VoE). VoE surveys, along with quality monitoring, can uncover issues that cause unsatisfactory CXs or discover ideas that improve them.

To make the VoC complete, it must encompass customer interactions and customer knowledge.  Companies need to know who the customers are and their total value to them. The most valuable customers must have their views heard very clearly, and acted on, forthwith.

This leads to the last and critical point of VoC in that it must be actionable, whether by process changes, or by directly responding and engaging with customers, or both. Closing the loop by analyzing and acting on the feedback improves the CX and leads to a more positive outcomes: sales, loyalty, productivity, and survey results.

The vendors are moving in the right direction by connecting the varied VoC pieces. But it is up to the companies to connect the customer touchpoints and data sources, and create customer-focused corporate cultures. Then every employee who handles customers relationships, whether directly or indirectly, can hear (and act on) the true VoC.

Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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