Understanding – Not Just Hearing – the Voice of the Customer
The last two years have seen a fresh wave of attention paid to customer feedback. The previous wave, initiated by the wider availability of inexpensive survey tools, saw a lot of surveys and efforts to elicit customer interactions. These were effective – to a point. In many organizations, the sheer volume of feedback overwhelmed the organizations’ ability and resources to process it and turn it into actionable insight.
That wasn’t the technology’s fault – it was the fault of business leadership who, despite years of real-world experience to the contrary, sill minimized the importance of the Voice of the Customer. While they almost never said that, the meager budgets assigned to analyzing customer feedback said it for them. Things have changed. The buyer-seller power balance has flipped and now the buyers know how much weight they carry in the relationship. That’s forced the Voice of the Customer far up the priority list. But beyond that, simple experience is showing the obvious value of prioritizing a Voice of the Customer program. An Aberdeen study from last year shows that these programs have an outsized impact on the bottom line. Aberdeen’s numbers showed that the top-performing VOC programs enjoyed a 55-percent-higher customer retention rate. They reduced their customer service costs 26.6 percent year over year, and they enjoyed a 48.2 percent year-over-year increase in annual revenues. No one argues against the value of customer feedback. And yet, companies figure out ways to avoid doing something with it. A third of companies ignore online reviews about them. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of businesses believe they are good at implementing feedback, yet 62 percent of customers say they are not confident their feedback is heard, according to a survey by Apptentive. The same survey found that 55 percent of customer respondents said that if their feedback was ignored, they would be less likely to remain a customer. The majority of them (67 percent) said that they never receive responses to their feedback. Add to that the frequency of customer data being collected and then ignored, or failing to find a place in the organization where that data can be applied – a common problem within marketing departments – and it’s pretty clear that the Voice of the Customer is all too often landing on deaf ears. It’s easy to say the Voice of the Customer is important. It’s hard to put processes in place that act on that sentiment and deliver actionable insights to the right places in the organization. First, you need to ensure you have enabled the channels through which customers can deliver feedback. Surveys are hugely important – but don’t neglect the other channels customers use, like your community, social media, interactions at events, calls to your support department and direct emails. It’s a hazard to allow any channel to become disconnected from the process. The feedback submitted through that neglected channel could be critical to your success, but without connecting the channel, that feedback will go into an organizational black hole. Ask for feedback on a consistent basis. If you try to solicit feedback only when it becomes important to an executive in your organization, the result will be a series of disconnected snapshots of what’s going on with customers. Regular feedback makes it easier to track trends and changes, and it sets the stage for the organization to internalize and act on feedback as a way of doing business. Make sure that feedback is shared across the business. A problem identified through feedback may look different to marketing than it does to engineering or sales – and one department may have a more informed and accurate idea of what to do to address it. Only by sharing feedback data can an informed action result from feedback. These actions need to be both reactive and proactive. In other words, if customers identify problems, their problems need to be resolved and actions must be taken to ensure the same problems don’t beset other customers. And when a customer gives feedback that is helpful – such as when a customer suggests a change to a process to make it more efficient or a modification to a product to make it better – make sure that customer is acknowledged, both directly and publicly, so other customers are more inclined to offer their input. While episodes in the feedback process may stand out, don’t make the mistake of thinking of feedback as an event – it’s a process. And, like other processes, the actions it generates needs to be tracked. More importantly, these actions need to be linked to business success. Find ways to illustrate this early. And identify KPIs to measure them, because by demonstrating how changes to processes improve business results, senior management will be more likely to sustain investment in Voice of the Customer programs over the long haul. All of these steps are crucial in transforming your business from one that collects customer feedback into a business that understands what’s being said in that feedback and takes actions based on it. Being heard isn’t enough for today’s customers – they want results to come from those conversations. To learn how Clicktools by CallidusCloud can help you internalize Voice of the Customer data and turn it into actionable insight, ask for a demo today.
Chris Bucholtz | October 18th, 2016