Improving your Voice of the Customer listening posts? Ask these questions

by Jeannie Walters

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Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs often start with a general plan on how to gather customer feedback. The plan typically includes suggestions for customer listening posts.

Customer listening posts are specific tools, locations and mechanisms to gather customer feedback along specific touchpoints on the customer journey. Listening posts:

  • Help us understand individual customer needs and experiences closer to real-time.
  • Can provide qualitative, emotional feedback to add to the overall quantitative feedback of the customer’s experience.
  • Offer specific measurement for parts of the customer journey, like tracking Customer Satisfaction Rates for a high-stakes touchpoint like product delivery or a customer service interaction.

When designed to be an active part of the Voice of the Customer program, these are more than just a passive “nice to know.” Listening posts are integral to gathering the right insights at the right time and then turning those insights into action.

It might seem like an obvious thing to plan. But there are key questions to ask regarding:

  • How to gather customer feedback
  • What feedback to gather
  • Where and when to ask for it
  • What outcomes will be achieved

Let’s review 5 questions to consider as you set up customer listening posts for your Voice of the Customer program.

5 Questions to Ask When Setting Up Listening Posts to Improve your VoC Program

 

1. What feedback do we want?

Ask: What are the obstacles, challenges or new parts of the journey we want to explore? What are we unsure about in our customer’s experience?

This might sound crazy to ask because it seems so obvious. But this question helps narrow down what the most important feedback is to gather.

Another way to rephrase this question is: What feedback do we really need the most?

It can be tempting to want ALL OF IT! Of course we want to know what customers have to tell us. But asking for too much feedback can be detrimental to gathering the correct feedback for your organization.

Start with where you’re already listening. Be sure to review what customers are already sharing via surveys, social media comments, user reviews, and frontline interactions. This feedback could provide clues about where customers want you to listen more.

For example, a retailer earned high marks from customers on the sales and purchase process, but received many unsolicited complaints about the painful return process. The complaints were offered via social media publicly or came through the generic “Contact Us” form on their web site. There was nothing specifically designed to gather insights about the overall return process. By setting up a specific, transactional survey to ask for feedback during that process, the retailer could focus on improvements that mattered most to customers.

  • Ask: What are the obstacles, challenges or new parts of the journey we want to explore? What are we unsure about in our customer’s experience?
  • Brainstorm a list of potential questions you’d love to ask customers in real-time. What answers would provide the most helpful insights?
  • Be sure to align what feedback you gather with your Customer Experience Success Statement. Will the answers to these questions help you achieve more success for customers, for your brand, and for your organizational leadership? This can help prioritize what is most important.

Related Resource: Create a CX Success Statement with our CX Success Statement Workbook

2. Where on the journey should we ask for feedback?

Ask: What are the key moments along the journey where customers want to give us feedback? How do those line up with what information we want to know?

This is where a customer journey map can come in really handy! There are probably key milestones or moments where listening is most important.

Related Article: Why Journey Map? 3 Problems They can Solve

It’s common, for instance, to check-in with customers who download software along their onboarding journey.

  • This could be done in a date-based way, like 30 days post-installment.
  • Better yet, this is based on the individual customer’s journey.
  • Some tools allow for triggers like the first time a customer logs into a new tool, or when they interact in a specific way.

If you don’t have robust tools yet, look for ways to collect feedback at key points of the journey in less formal ways. Customer success leaders often create triggers or timelines for account managers to follow up directly with a customer. Or there might be seasonal cycles that provide a good timeline for listening posts.

For example, insurance providers might support an open enrollment timeline. Since that’s such a critical part of the customer journey, setting up listening posts to gather feedback from customers before and after that time period could be very insightful.

  • Ask: What are the key moments along the journey where customers want to give us feedback? How do those line up with what information we want to know?
  • If you don’t have robust tools yet, look for ways to collect feedback at key points of the journey in less formal ways.
  • If nothing else, get a general sense of when and how feedback is gathered to create consistent listening posts. Focus on where the feedback will make the most impact.

3. How will we use the insights gathered?

Ask: Will our organization use this feedback in meaningful, timely ways to improve the customer experience?

It’s tempting to gather feedback for feedback’s sake. The more we know, the better we can make the experience, right?

Yes… in theory. But what’s realistic for your organization? Asking for feedback and doing nothing with it is frustrating for customer experience leaders and customers alike.

  • Ask: Will our organization use this feedback in meaningful, timely ways to improve the customer experience?
  • If you can’t truthfully and confidently say YES, then reconsider setting up the listening post in the first place.
  • Before introducing a listening post, have a plan on how that feedback will be used.

4. How will you close the loop with the customer?

Ask: How are you providing meaningful closure to open communication with customers at each listening post?

Another neglected part of the listening post puzzle is considering how customers will hear about how their feedback was heard and used. If customers have a complaint or issue as part of their offered feedback, then what processes or protocols are in place to close the loop with them individually?

What about those customers who offer great ideas that are turned into better experiences for all customers? They should hear about those successes, too.

Related Article: Improve Your VoC Program: Focus on These 3 Things

There are some hypotheses you can make about what you might hear at each listening post. If you know, for example, that you’ll provide a feedback mechanism for customers when they are filling their shopping cart online, then you’ll want to be sure to close the loop quickly if they have issues or concerns to share.

  • Ask: How are you providing meaningful closure to open communication with customers at each listening post?
  • Who is responsible?
  • How can you alert the right people in your organization? Do you have tools like chatbots or automated communications to help manage that?

5. How do you decide what to keep, remove, or evolve?

Ask: Is this listening post still providing the right insights for today?

Customer expectations change, your market changes, and your customer lifecycles change, too. Create a plan to consistently review your Voice of the Customer listening posts and the feedback you gather.

The in-person “how are we doing” tablet-based VoC experiences may have provided lots of great feedback in 2019. Most companies experienced lower in-person customers and much higher adoption of digital experiences once the pandemic and regional restrictions arrived. Without considering these factors, the feedback provided could look drastically different or just not be providing the insights you need.

Solving the issues identified can also provide feedback measurements and insights that don’t change much from one month to the next. If customers were getting lost on your mobile app, but the updated version solved that issue, asking about it 12 months later might not be a great use of a listening post.

  • Ask: Is this listening post still providing the right insights for today?
  • What changes have occurred, internally and externally, in how we gather feedback?
  • What changes should we make to our listening posts accordingly?

A moment in time with your customer

Once you’ve collected thoughtful answers to these 5 questions, you’re ready to align your listening posts with your objectives, desired outcomes and available tools and resources.

It’s not realistic to send an army of customer experience professionals to meet with every customer individually, in most cases. It’s also not realistic to insert a clunky survey experience in the middle of a sleek mobile tool.

  • What can your tools do?
  • How are they best leveraged?
  • What resources do you need to launch them, track the outcomes, and then prioritize the actions to address them?

Listening posts are really just a moment in time with your customer. Have a strategy, a plan, and a willingness to ask these questions before setting them up to serve your customers and your brand better.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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