When Was the Last Time You Heard Your Customer’s Voice?

Contact center advisors talking to customers on the phone

Kate Kompelien, Executive Director of CX Strategy and Design at TTEC Digital, explains how to use VoC to understand your customer’s needs across the Total Experience. 

Consumers increasingly choose to do business with companies based on the experiences they provide. Eighty percent of consumers reported in a recent Salesforce survey that customer experience (CX) is as important to them as a company’s product or service. And, according to McKinsey, consumers are increasingly on the move: 75 percent of U.S. consumers have changed their shopping behavior or tried a new brand since the COVID-19 pandemic.

What can you do now to make sure your business and brand are living up to the great expectations of consumers? How can you connect with them before they post a public review, to make sure the experience you provide is not only competitive, but differentiating?

Start by listening to the voices of your customers. Establish a Voice of Customer (VoC) program or improve the one you have.

What is VoC? Voice of customer (VoC) means that an organization listens to its customers’ feedback across experiences to understand and then address their needs. It’s a way of keeping your finger on the pulse of customer needs, expectations, and preferences. A VoC program can help you understand the wants and needs of your customers across the Total Experience and align decision makers around where to invest to improve CX.

No matter the industry, a carefully orchestrated VoC program unlocks powerful benefits for companies and their customers. A VoC program helps identify where your business is excelling and where it misses the mark. It provides an opportunity to share customer experience performance throughout your organization, incentivize employees to put the customer first, and foster cross-functional alignment on decision-making and budget spend.

There are six essential steps to building an effective VoC program:

  1. Define your Strategic Focus

While it’s important to gather a broad range of feedback and data from and about customers, one of the biggest mistakes organizations make when drafting VoC strategies is failing to create a clear objective for the program. Typically, VoC programs seek to understand what customers are experiencing daily, by using “listening posts” at various key touchpoints with those customers.

But how do you decide when and where to listen? Start by developing an understanding of the experience itself. What experience are you wanting to examine and improve? What issues are you seeking to solve? What channels are involved in delivering that experience? Once you have a stronger baseline understanding of the experience(s) in question, you can use that knowledge to map out the logistics of your listening posts.

  1. Foster buy-in and engagement

It’s essential that key stakeholders, including your CEO, believe in the importance of listening to customers systematically and improving their experience. For organization leaders, buy-in involves a commitment to supporting the program and sustaining it until it is developed, recognizing that these programs build over time, and that you must commit to act in order to turn VoC insights into ROI.

Senior leaders, directors, middle managers, and on-the-ground staff in key departments must be willing to engage in the program, at various levels. Make sure people know their role in the execution of the program, and make sure to communicate with front-line employees, especially those who are customer-facing, from the onset of your planning. When building your team, choose an internal executive sponsor who will help steer the VoC effort and support its execution.

It is easy to build a listening program; it is much more difficult to ensure it is connected across functional and channel groups, that customer KPIs are measured with financial KPIs, and that action is taken on the findings. Buy-in upfront can help make sure all of these elements are connected and engaged in the process.

  1. Build a VoC program with the customer in mind

VoC programs add another customer touchpoint with your brand in the broader customer experience ecosystem. Because you will be adding an extra step, and asking the consumer to participate, you’ll need to make your program as easy for them to use as possible.

Return to your plan for listening strategies and select those that fit best within your customers’ journey. Methods to consider are digital surveys, video surveys, data mining, accessing existing customer interactions, field conversations, interviewing customer-facing staff, and social media monitoring. To maximize the effectiveness of your data collection, consider your customers’ preferred communication channels. Decide if you will measure the customer’s overall experience (sometimes called the relationship aspect) and/or their experience with various interactions inside the customer journey (the transactional aspect). Consider how automation can assist your VoC program, and when and where human intervention makes more sense.

  1. Plan to act on feedback

VoC programs are only as good as the actions that come after the listening. Too often, organizations go through the effort of conducting a VoC program, only to fail to act on the learnings and address customer concerns and implement improvements. If your new information is never used, the initial investment is wasted. Not only will the lack of action impact the ROI of the VoC program, it may amplify customer frustrations and alienation.

To avoid this, plan for how you will process the information and use it to solve the identified problem(s). Determine who will be empowered to act on insights collected through your VoC program. Actions may include duplicating and amplifying your strengths and/or identifying bright spots and making plans to replicate their success. Pinpoint your weaknesses and create plans for fixing them. A good goal is to identify two to three specific changes you will make to the business with each wave of VoC.

  1. Coordinate technology partnerships

While it is certainly possible to conduct an effective VoC program with an internal-only team, it can be extremely helpful to augment your group with outside experts who know how to navigate a variety of VoC listening technologies using your contact center, CRM, conversational AI, and other parts of your business. Many internal teams simply don’t understand how to activate technology for the VoC program. An experienced outside partner can put together a personalized VoC solution that integrates with your existing technology platforms and seamlessly adds capabilities that will augment your strategy and maximize your results. The outside partner you select should have implementation expertise from many years of experience developing VoC programs, and detailed knowledge of VoC best practices, and has designed VoC programs from the ground up and assessed and improved existing VoC programs. Make sure to have them show you program outcomes they’ve delivered for other companies. Partners can be involved in any or all stages of VoC, including the ongoing management and maintenance of your VoC program.

  1. Turn your VoC into action

With your strategy, implementation roadmaps, and technology know-how, you’ll be ready to act on your VoC program. Follow your plan, rely on your partners, lean on your internal sponsors, and deliver the program.

Asking your customers what they need and want from you sounds simple but is easier said than done. Taking a thoughtful, methodical approach will help you design and deploy effective VoC for your organization. After all, how can you get better if you don’t understand what’s wrong? Why wait until you see a bad review about your own CX? Ask your customers now to share their feedback directly with you, and then earn their business by doing something about it.

About the Author

Kate Kompelien, Executive Director of CX Strategy and Design at TTEC DigitalKate is Executive Director of CX Strategy and Design  at TTEC Digital, one of the largest global CX technology and services innovators. The company delivers leading CX technology and operational CX orchestration at scale. TTEC Digital’s 60,000 employees operate on six continents and bring technology and humanity together to deliver happy customers and differentiated business results.

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