Voice Of The Customer – Are You Truly Getting Their Feedback?

Voice of the Customer - are you truly getting their feedback?

Voice of the Customer. We all know what I mean when I say that, right? Not necessarily. The more you dig into the term, it has different meanings depending on where you are sitting.

At its core, I think we’d all agree it is exactly what it says – giving your customer a voice – but as soon as you try to clarify further, it becomes murky.

This murkiness is apparent when looking at the range of VoC technology providers. There are analytical tools to collate and analyze different data sources. There are customer feedback management solutions capturing data from a variety of quantitative and qualitative sources, from customers and employees alike. Finally, there are those that have a narrower focus on perhaps one data source.

In practice, the most common VoC programs are those with a singular focus on transaction-triggered short surveys asking standard items such as Net Promotor Score (NPS), satisfaction, and future purchase intent. These surveys are now everywhere. Think about the survey link on your grocery store receipt or within the car dealership follow up email.

This is not to say that the information gathered in these short surveys are not useful. Quite the contrary provided the returned data is reviewed and feedback acted upon, it can be pivotal to improving that aspect of the customer experience.

However, a short post-transaction survey isn’t enough in and of itself. Truly understanding your customers goes far beyond this. To really deliver relevant and exceptional customer experiences, you need to understand them in totality. Why did they choose your brand/product/service in the first place? What different interactions have they had with you? On what platforms? How has each point of the journey been? How will the journey continue? How do they feel?

In short, the transaction-triggered implementation of VoC feels like a missed opportunity. It’s a narrow definition of customer experience and the depth to which you can understand your customers. You aren’t going to understand how they feel, and feelings matter.

In fact, how someone feels has 1.5 times more impact than how they think in driving business outcomes such as purchase, loyalty, and advocacy (2019 Forrester Consulting Study sponsored by FocusVision.) Yet you aren’t going to understand feelings through NPS or similar metrics.

Here’s an illustration (although I’m sure you can come up with your own very easily). About a month ago, after some time of research and deliberation, I bought a new mattress. This week I received an email inquiring, ‘How are you sleeping, Zoe?’ You know the drill. I was then asked to take their quick survey to ‘let us know how we’ve given you a better sleep’. I opted to proceed because truth be told I’m on the fence about my new mattress and, if it didn’t feel so wasteful, I would probably send it back. Feedback, I’m sure, that would be very useful to the company.

Yet the survey questions were all about the shopping journey. How I heard about them, why I started searching from a mattress, other brands considered, difficultly of the shopping journey, and, of course, that all-important NPS.

What happened to wanting to know about how the mattress is helping (or hindering) a good night’s sleep? How is NPS going to tell them anything other than I’m neither a detractor nor an advocate for their brand?

If we are going to give a voice to the customer, we need to make sure that it is exactly what we do. This is why, in my view, broader customer feedback management systems are a better way to get to Voice of the Customer. It includes the ability to ask those all-important transaction-based survey, but also go far beyond and include rich information, such as through immersive qualitative data.

Forrester recently updated its Now Tech: Voice-of-The-Customer Vendors document for Q1 2020. They provide a useful overview of numerous VoC providers, categorized the different offerings and what part of your VoC they cover. So whether you have a program in place and are trying to get more value from it or are just starting out, this is a good overview.

Customer feedback is all about asking the right questions, at the right time, using the right mechanism. So make sure when you are working on your VoC strategy, you’ve considered how to gather feedback to give your customers an opportunity to tell you truly what they care about and how they feel so you can holistically understand how they think, feel and act.

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