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How does… a voice of customer programme work?

We've asked some of the industry's most knowledgable boffins to break down jargon to help you through those confusing meetings and indecipherable conferences. Here, MaritzCX's Gillian Mackay explains how voice of customer programmes work.

What is a voice of the customer program?

A voice of customer program refers to the process of capturing customer feedback so that a company can improve the customer experience (and consequently improve business performance).

Oh, you mean when I’m asked to participate in a survey?

Survey responses are just one way of collecting customer feedback, but there’s so much more to it. Really effective voice of customer (VOC) programs collect solicited, unsolicited and inferred feedback from their customers so they get the full picture. This means looking at feedback from across the whole customer journey and pulling in customer voice from all sources, for example from customer complaints and compliments, as well as from surveys sent to customers. It also gets much more valuable if it includes ‘spontaneous’ or unprompted feedback from customers from things like product reviews on third-party websites, unsolicited comments on social media sites and customer support inquiries.

To go one step further, leading organisations combine the customer feedback data (what customers say) with the operational data (what they actually do) in order to find out how to make improvements to drive increased business performance.

Why have a voice of customer program in place?

Insights from VOC programs discover and drive new opportunities for revenue growth, improved products and processes and even brand-new product development ideas. They also have an important impact on customer loyalty and happiness. Consumers buy from businesses that listen and respond to their needs – they may not think of it in these terms but when consumers feel invested in a product or service then they become (hands down) the best kind of strong, vocal advocates for a business and its products.

In short, VOC programs help businesses make more money. In today’s market there is a huge amount of consumer choice so it’s imperative to listen to customers to find out how to improve their experience and how better to sell to them.

Can you give me some examples?

Sure – let’s take a look at one of our large telco clients.

They recently launched a VOC program with the aim of identifying and retaining at-risk customers. This meant implementing a software platform that collects customer feedback through all channels (email, SMS, call centre, website etc), analyses the feedback to determine whether a customer is ‘at risk’, and then create alerts to ensure corrective measures are taken (the alerts are generated if the customer hits certain criteria, such as feedback score, sentiment, contract value, tenure and more).

Once an alert is generated the customer service team is able to proactively step in to take immediate corrective action – after which the customer is sent a quick survey to make sure they are happy with the solution.

Our client has found that the customers who received comprehensive follow up not only remain a customer for longer, but they also increased share of wallet over 5 per cent on average.

So, what constitutes a voice of customer program – is it technology or people?

It’s really a combination of both.

On the tech front, the right technology is a necessity to collect the feedback from across multiple channels, analyse the data and produce actionable insight to implement and track improvement and action.

On the human front, it comes down to how you then make effective change in an organisation once you have a voice of customer programme in place. Companies need to ensure that the feedback gets back the people that can effect change. This is multi-layered. In the first instance management needs to be able to weave voice of customer feedback into strategic business decision making to address systematic issues and in the final instance front line staff need to be coached in order to implement the changes (with a lot of people and steps involved in between).

The important takeaway here is that it’s pointless investing in a VOC program if you don’t have the people to champion it and who can effect meaningful change off the back of it.

Gillian Mackay is a strategic consulting director at MaritzCX.

In the mood for learning stuff you never knew you needed to know? Cick here for more from this series.

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