Listening to the Voice of the Customer


New technologies are enabling a more immediate connection between businesses and their customers. In response, many companies are undergoing major customer experience transformations to remain competitive.

One of the tools that drive these transformations is Voice of the Customer (VOC). VOC is a method of improving the customer experience by embracing a more comprehensive approach to gathering and assessing feedback.

Sales data and other traditional ‘pulse checks’ only offer one perspective on the customer experience. VOC combines several data points to identify the root causes of customer experience issues.

Yet, as companies prepare to adopt VOC, they often overlook parts of the process that can limit the impact of their transformation.

To make the most of VOC, you must ensure 3 things: First, that you are keeping all your customers in mind. Second, that you are keeping your insights objective. Third, that you are keeping the process continuous.

What is Voice of the Customer?

First, lets discuss what VOC is. VOC involves gathering, sorting, and analyzing data from a myriad of sources to what your customers are saying about your business. This includes their preferences, problems, and complaints. By listening to this data, your business can better understand customer needs, wants, experiences, and expectations.

Businesses often capture this data via surveys conducted over email, text, and the web. Additionally, businesses can use interviews and focus groups to gather solicited feedback.

On top of solicited feedback, digital transformation enables businesses to capture unsolicited or inferred feedback. This is done through techniques including social media monitoring and speech analytics.

From there, the business can tap into VOC by using text analytics and sentiment analysis. This ensures you can find meaning in the customer feedback data. 

When paired with data from the purchase experience, this provides insight into improving customer experience. This transactional data, such as price, time, location, demographic details, and more is then combined with operational customer experience data. Together, they give a more complete picture than either would individually. 

An example of this would be if a barista works at two different locations for the same coffee chain. Lets say Customer A rates their experience with the barista at Location 1 as, ‘Very Good.’ However, Customer 2 rates their experience with the same barista at Location 2 as, ‘Very Poor.’ you can uncover the cause of the discrepancy.

When we pair VOC data with operational data we discover that Location 1 is supportive of staff and enables a creative output, while Location 2 has a stifling environment. With this knowledge, you are then better enabled to make positive changes to the customer experience. 

Keeping All of Your Customers in Mind

The above example in particular is an excellent picture of why you must commit to keeping both your internal and external customers in mind.

According to Six Sigma, “A customer can be defined as the person, organization or entity that is the direct receiver of the output (product or services) your organization produces.” This includes external customers, the person, or organization purchasing your goods or services. They are what most businesspeople think of when they hear the word ‘customer.’

However, this definition also includes internal customers. An internal customer is a subset of your company or line of business that is downstream or directly affected by output. External customers are different from stakeholders who have a vested interest or concern at the forefront of the production process.

In our example, the barista was an internal customer. The barista’s experience within each shop affected the external customer’s experience as well. According to Forbes, 62% of external customers feel they have a relationship with their favorite brands. Much of this emotional connection has to do with a customer’s experience. With that, 88% of external customers agreeing that their experience matters just as much as the product they’re purchasing.  80% of customers that claim to have exceptional experiences are likely to recommend that brand to friends and family

This carries over to internal customers as well. According to Salesforce and Harvard Business Review, 55% of executives that they surveyed agree that an excellent experience for external customers requires a comparable experience for internal customers.

What this means is that engaged, satisfied internal customers not only have more longevity and commitment to your company, they’ll reflect that satisfaction to your external customers and improve their experience.

A helpful term for this unified view of your internal and external customers is ‘Total Experience.’ Gartner defines Total Experience as, “a business strategy to create superior shared customer and employee experiences and a primary element of customer experience transformation is to develop that strategy.”

 This means avoiding the urge to silo internal customers from external customers. Not only is the practice outdated but will also harm the experience of both. 

There are a few ways you can unify the interests of your internal and external customers. Your customers only see how things all come together from a single perspective. Internal customers will often focus solely on their given department. Instead, leverage inter-company transparency to that customer vantage point in all decisions.

You can also provide real-time feedback to all departments. With this, they can assist in the singular mission of entwining customers at every step of the process. 

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, perhaps put it best when he said, “We’re not focused on the numbers, we’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.” Remembering both your internal and external customers accomplishes just that. By taking a holistic view of your customer experience, you can tune it to achieve amazing results for all your customers.

Keeping it Objective

As your organization commits to implementing VOC, key decisions need to be made. Concerns about how your architecture supports internal and external customers, areas of pain or frustration that they have, and more all need to be addressed.

Therefore, success is dependent on assessing the state of your customer experience, then making a roadmap. 

This process is intensive and methodical. Above all else, the analysis must come from an objective perspective.

It can be easy for competing interests or pressure from management, intentional or otherwise, to color the insights we get from VOC data. This is especially true when looking at your internal customer experience. Managerial interference can easily derail your transformation.

One way to combat this is by starting with a specialized core team. This team must have no direct connection to any internal or external customers. The freedom that this approach gives to the core team is perfect for ensuring that their summary and analysis are as impactful as possible.

From there, you can have your core team collaborate with your implementation teams. Combined, they can initiate the deployment of effective solutions.

Leveraging this newly accessible data is an opportunity to learn, process, analyze, and act. But, this can only happen by creating an environment that facilitates objectivity. This puts you on the path to a forward-thinking, customer-centric organization driven toward better outcomes.

Keeping it Continuous

However, objective feedback is worthless unless you continuously gather and incorporate that feedback.  So, the final key step we’ll consider is how to facilitate this continuous improvement. 

In our previous article, we referenced Gartner advising the unification of AI and machine learning. Together, they are better equipped to analyze customer interactions and develop improvement pathways.

Keep in mind the 4 levels of analytics (Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive, and Prescriptive). As all of them are applicable to customer experience transformations.

Proper architecture and implementation of AI and ML along with the correct use of the 4 levels of analytics are necessary for VOC to succeed. Yet, following the data where it leads is vital for change to have the desired impact.

Ensure that you are not looking at VOC, or any other customer experience tool, as merely a short-term fix. Rather, they are a means of continuing to push your customer experience to greater and greater heights.

Preventing this short-term mindset means committing to: readiness to change, planned implementation, and longevity.

There isn’t room in a successful VOC program for half measures. Adopting modern technologies, such as Omni-channel experience or Service Model Innovation, is not enough. By empowering your customer experience team to act on VOC data, you ensure accountability at all levels of the company. You also allow for autonomy and possession of customer experience.

How do I initiate a Voice of the Customer transformation for my company?

Listening to the Voice of the Customer is an important investment in your company’s customer experience transformation. When your entire organization is fully committed to a VOC program, your business will see meaningful business results.

Committing to a VOC program means ensuring that all of your customers’ voices are heard, including both your internal and external ones.

It also involves keeping an objective view of your business and its customers by creating an environment for dedicated teams to analyze your customers’ experiences with no competing, external interests.

Finally, committing to a VOC program requires that you commit to pursuing continuous improvement, leveraging your data infrastructure to garner constant feedback and continue to elevate your customer experience more and more. EIT has a consistent track record of helping clients produce customer-focused data to produce business results. To learn more about how EIT can help you optimize your customer experience, click here.