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Improve Your Voice of the Customer Program: Focus on These 3 Things

My client walked me into the lobby of their shiny new headquarters. He exclaimed:

“You’ll love this! We have the Voice of the Customer on screens everywhere!”

The first screen I saw, behind the receptionist, rotated between company logos, inspirational sayings, and a colorful dashboard of graphs and numbers. “There it is!” My client proudly pointed to the dashboard.

I squinted, trying to find the word “customer.” But it wasn’t there.

There was a graph that showed NPS, along with a big red arrow pointing slightly down. There was a bar graph showing the satisfaction score by channel. There was a circle chart showing sentiment analysis.

So I asked some questions.

What does that downturn in NPS tell you?

“I’m not sure.”

What channel are you seeing the best trends in satisfaction scores?

“Good question!”

Has anything changed in the sentiment analysis since you’ve been tracking?

“Maybe we’ve had some more neutrals lately?”

Therein lies the rub of Voice of the Customer programs: While the data is collected, the true voice of the Voice of the Customer is not heard. The result? Lots of effort, lots of data, little to no meaningful improvement.

If this describes you, it’s easy to be defensive or to feel discouraged. Instead, let’s look at how to fix it.

But first…

What is a Voice of the Customer (VoC) Program?

Ideally, a Voice of the Customer Program gathers feedback in a consistent, ongoing basis from customers. This feedback can be sorted, categorized, and measured. As Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.”

Measurement is a tool to understand how customers feel, what needs are unmet, and where there might be problems. VoC programs have a mix of measurements, based on the organization and their goals and needs.

Most VoC programs include the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric to track loyalty behavior. Other metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Churn Rate or Customer Retention Rates might also be included.

Sentiment analysis tells leaders what types of emotions customers are sharing, either in unstructured feedback given directly to the company, or on social media or other public forums.

These are all great tools! But the best VoC programs provide more than a dashboard.

Is your VoC program leading to meaningful change? If not, it’s likely missing one or more of these three key ingredients:

  • Context
  • Storytelling
  • A Closed-Loop Process

Let’s look at these ingredients in more detail.

'Is your VoC program leading to meaningful change? If not, it's likely missing one or more of these three key ingredients: 1) Context 2) Storytelling 3) A Closed-Loop System.' - @jeanniecwClick To Tweet

The Three Key Ingredients of a Meaningful VoC Program

Context for VoC Data

Numbers go up. Numbers go down. What does that mean? Employees review arrows going up or down and might think, “That’s good” or “That’s not good.” Then they go on with their day.

But changes in VoC metrics don’t happen in a vacuum, and it’s a mistake (albeit a common one) to look at them that way.

Customer experience leaders need to provide context by explaining what these increases or decreases mean.

  • Why is that NPS dropping?
  • What known issues might be causing it?
  • If we don’t know of related issues, what are the next steps we can take to find out why?

Recognizing and sharing these knowns and unknowns helps employees actively participate in solving the issues.

Ask for input from customer-facing employees to find out more about the context of what’s happening. Ask your service reps to stay alert to new issues or the sentiment from specific groups, based on what the numbers are telling you.

In short: When you see a change in your Voice of the Customer metrics, ask why.

When you recognize how events going on inside the organization correlate to your VoC metrics, you can begin to anticipate changes in customer sentiment, effectively turning it from a less-useful lagging indicator to a more useful leading indicator.

'Your Voice of the Customer data isn't the whole story, they're just the first chapter. When you see a change in your VoC metrics, ask why and find the story.' - @jeanniecwClick To Tweet

Telling the Customer’s Story

Your customers provide feedback because they want you to hear it. Who else needs to hear it?

  • Your executives?
  • Your contact center agents?
  • Your product developers?

Who, when provided with meaningful customer feedback, can apply that feedback into action that leads to change? Not every piece of feedback will need to be shared with every leader or department, but when you can map the types of feedback that need to be heard to who they need to be heard by, that feedback will suddenly become so much more useful.

If we’re asking our teams to care about customer feedback — to take the time and energy to break from the status quo and affect real change — we need to stir their souls. Here’s the problem: Data doesn’t stir the soul. Not even close.

If you want to compel your team to act, make it meaningful by telling the story behind the data.

  • Use real customer quotes.
  • Leverage call center recordings.
  • Find video testimonials on social media.
  • Share the stories that matter.

This doesn’t mean you have to abandon data! Maybe you find a specific metric that is compelling. Use that metric as a jumping off point for the story, but use the real voice of the customer to bring that story home.

Related: Changing Consumer Behavior: Your Brain Loves a Story

Now I hear you thinking, “We rarely have real customer quotes. We don’t have access to call center or video recordings.”

So be it. There are so many places to gather customer stories. Don’t let the lack of unstructured feedback stop you! If you don’t have access to what customers say, let them tell their stories in how they act.

  • Customers are using their “voices” by abandoning shopping carts and canceling renewals.
  • They are getting frustrated by calling your contact center and then having to call back again and again.

Your operational and lifecycle data can shed light on their stories. Don’t be afraid to pull that part of the narrative into your VoC program, too.

'If you want to compel your team to act on VoC feedback, make it meaningful by telling the story behind the data. Use real customer quotes & center recordings. Find video testimonials on social media. Share the stories that matter.' - @jeanniecwClick To Tweet

Closing the Loop

It’s a great thing to be able to receive customer feedback and let it guide your organization’s systems. But it’s not everything.

Communication is a two-way street. It’s important that we do more than hear customer feedback; we also must communicate back to the customer.

The solution is a “closed-loop” system — one that doesn’t just make it easy for customers to provide feedback, but that makes it easy for organizations to communicate back to those customers that their feedback has been heard and acted upon (and thus, “closing the loop.”)

Two points of data from Microsoft’s State of Customer Service Report clearly illustrate the importance of a closed-loop system, and tell the story of how many brands are letting customer down in this regard. While 90% of those surveyed report wanting to be asked for feedback from brands, more than half of them believe no action is taken on the feedback they provide.

Data from Microsoft's Global State of the Customer Report
Data from Microsoft’s 2018 Global State of the Global Customer Service Report.

On the whole, closing the loop with customers creates more loyalty and trust, and all the positive effects on your organization that come with those things.

Related: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Customer Feedback Program

'Is your VoC program 'Closed-Loop?' Closed-Loop programs create greater loyalty and trust with customers -- and more of the benefits for your org that come with them. ' - @jeanniecwClick To Tweet

Are You Ready to Build Your Daring Dashboard?

Want to really turn heads with your VoC Dashboard? Include real customer quotes. Call out both the good and the bad ones. Explain how the customer sentiment analysis is showing an increase in words that reflect frustration. Tell a customer story. Show the response from a customer who received confirmation their feedback was heard and acted on! Get creative.

And better yet, use the Voice of the Customer to get others in your organization on board with becoming a truly customer-centric brand.

  • Go ahead and share the dashboard throughout your organization, but invite participation. What “metric of the month” can you highlight? What should employees do to move the needle?
  • Tell a real story by showing a representative photo and quote from a customer. Use real customer quotes and share those emotionally-charged stories. Help everyone understand how important your customer experience is to your customer’s real life.
  • Recognize those employees who get shout-outs. If your customers respond to a survey about Joe the employee specifically, highlight Joe as a customer champion on that dashboard! Help your employees recognize and reward each other when customers take the time to share positive feedback about them. Then, better yet, share what that recognition meant with the customer who took the time to provide it!

Your customer wants you to listen to their stories. They want you to ask for feedback. Thanks to technology, you can do this at a scale that helps us see the “big picture” in data and metrics.

Just don’t forget to leverage what customers are actually telling you.

About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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