Part 1 of 2: You May Be Listening to Your Customers, but Are You Hearing Them?

Get to the Heart of Your Customers’ Expectations and Experience

As Customer Experience (CX) leaders, we talk about CX, we analyze it, and are emotionally invested in it. We do this because CX matters and it is what separates the “good” brands from the “exceptional” brands. Those most committed look beyond the bare minimum of resolving issues. They get to the heart of what their customers expect and understand, without a doubt, how they are performing against those expectations. While this may seem obvious, there is often a disconnect. In fact, when comparing corporate and consumer results from the Execs In The Know and COPC 2019 CXMB Series, 76% of companies said they believed their customer care departments were meeting customer needs…yet, only 35% of consumers said their needs were being met.

Given the changes in recent months, it is more critical than ever to understand what customers are experiencing and leverage those insights to make meaningful changes. To meet your customers where they are NOW and deliver on their expectations, you need to not only LISTEN to customers but HEAR what they are telling you – only then can you be confident the actions you take will have the desired results.

This all starts with your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. It is the cornerstone for companies that focus on CX, with a majority of programs primarily centered around customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. But for many organizations, CSAT survey data alone does not provide a complete picture.

“To truly understand and improve the customer experience, companies need to take into consideration everything customers try to achieve when making contact,” explains Ian Aitchison, CEO of COPC Asia Pacific Inc.“ Companies need to not only resolve the customer’s issue they have today, but also anticipate any related issues the customer may have tomorrow.”

So how do you take your VoC program to the next level to prepare for the rest of 2020 and 2021?

To assist with that journey, we offer a two-part series focused on best practices for collecting rich customer feedback data through your VoC program that is meaningful and relevant, followed by how to leverage that data to establish the right strategies, processes, and approaches that will best position you for the future.

Part 1: Get to the Heart of Your Customers’ Expectations and Experience
Part 2: Operationalize CX Data to Drive Meaningful and Lasting Change

So, let’s get to it.

Part 1: Get to the Heart of Your Customers’ Expectations and Experience.

Understanding a customer’s experience with your brand and what they expect goes beyond the binary yes/no, “would you recommend,” or “was your issue resolved” survey questions. Aitchison, who works with global clients to improve the customer experience said, “The best VoC programs are built to provide organizations with a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data on a regular basis. Getting VoC data from as many sources as possible enables multiple layers of analysis to be done. When this is done consistently, meaningful action can be taken to improve the customer experience.”

With that in mind, let’s review nine ways you can really get to the heart of the matter with your customers, and tips for how to quickly review and update your own VoC program.

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Surveys: Some companies say they have backed off conducting surveys in the age of COVID-19. However, with so much change and volatility, now is not the time to abandon them. If you have not recently reviewed your survey questions, the timing of them, or the channels you are measuring, now is the time to start anew. What may have been a relevant question in January, may not be relevant today. And your contact channel mix may be quite different, requiring an adjustment to your channel survey strategies.

There are several types of surveys from 5-point Likert scale satisfaction surveys, to Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Scores (CES). You do not have to use just one, and in fact, best practice is to use different surveys for different purposes. For example, NPS is a good measure of broad organizational loyalty, but it lacks more detailed/actionable information. A 5-point scale with a neutral midpoint allows you to ask detailed questions for more actionable data but may not give you that broad organization loyalty picture.

If you are not sure what questions you should be asking, you can also conduct a comprehensive Key Driver Survey (KDS). This is typically done every one to two years, but even if you conducted a KDS in 2019, it would be advisable to do it again now given recent market changes.

  • Quality Monitoring: Done correctly, quality monitoring data can be a predictor of customer experience and a barometer of how you are performing from a business process perspective. Yet, only 43% of CXMB corporate respondents said they believe quality is helping drive improvements. Quality monitoring should go beyond being a “checkbox exercise.” If forms are aligned with the key drivers of the customer experience, you will immediately have a clear picture of your customers’ experience, even prior to receiving CSAT data. In addition, your quality analysts are in a unique position to assess the customer’s experience in distinctive ways. They can also go further and capture customer sentiment at the beginning and end of the transaction, customer effort, and level of satisfaction. Specific customer comments can even be delivered back to various teams, such as marketing or engineering. Imagine the power of this data without waiting on customer survey data.
  • Agent Assisted Feedback: By the time customers get to your agents, they likely have a more complex problem and have already attempted to get their issue resolved via self-help channels. So, your agents have the most direct window into the customer experience. Agents are in the position to both help the customer and collect feedback and provide it back to the organization. Obviously, a few things need to be put in place to facilitate this: the time and empowerment for agents to collect the data, a closed loop system to capture/report/analyze, and appropriate training.
  • Proactive Communication: Companies that really stand out are going a step beyond surveys to “connect” with customers, with the added goal of “brand building.” One company’s executives made outbound calls to customers to ask how they were doing, how their company could best support them during this time, and what they needed most from them. The same could be done with an email, SMS, or social media post. It takes a bit more work to analyze the data from open-ended responses, but the value can be great. In fact, according to the results of the 2019 Consumer edition of the CXMB Series, there is a 26-point difference in how a negative experience affects future purchase decisions if brands proactively reach out to customers following that negative experience.
  • Social Media: Many companies have social media customer care teams. However, only 23% of CXMB corporate respondents measure CX in this channel. Few of them conduct deep dives of social media interactions to capture additional insights and customer sentiment. At a minimum, companies should be measuring CX in this channel. Beyond that, the comments can be a wealth of information that, if collated and analyzed, can provide incredibly valuable information.
  • Rating Sources: Customers also have access to a wide range of rating platforms and have the ability to share their experiences (both positive and negative) online, so companies should monitor these third-party sites as well.
  • Internal Data Sources: Organizations have a wealth of data at their fingertips – it just needs to be harnessed. Contact reason data, repeat contact analysis, sales data, website analytics, and completion rates (for online activities) are all examples of data you likely have that will give you robust insights coupled with customer-provided feedback.
  • Speech/Text Analytics: If you have this technology, use it. It is another tool in your toolbox and can provide another data point as you listen for and analyze customer trends and patterns.
  • Journey Mapping: Last but not least, if your company has not previously conducted journey mapping, now is a great time to start. In addition to the above methods for capturing feedback direct from customers, journey mapping allows you to map your customers’ “new normal” with you. Done effectively and objectively, you will identify pain points in their end-to-end journey and implement measures to address them.

Some, or all the ways above are what many high-performing companies are employing to ensure they have a pulse on the heartbeat of their customers. These may not all be relevant or feasible for you, or you may have others of your own to implement. The important takeaway is that you take a good look at your current VoC program to ensure it is providing you with accurate, comprehensive, and actionable CX data.

Five tips as you review your current VoC program:

  1. Assess your entire VoC program and how you are collecting data: Often there are multiple departments with various initiatives that may be working at cross-purposes or be redundant. It is important to first have a solid understanding of how your customers are being heard before you can determine what changes should be made.
  2. Review all proactive VoC methods for relevancy and update as appropriate: This is one of the first things you should do if you have not done so already. Given the current climate, ensuring the relevancy of your surveys or other proactive customer feedback communications is critical.
  3. Determine creative opportunities within your organization that can serve as a listening post to your customers: As previously mentioned, you may have opportunities with your agents or quality teams to leverage their unique positions to capture valuable customer insights.
  4. Leverage all current tools, applications, and data that can provide meaningful insights: You may decide you need additional tools, but chances are good that you already have some in the company’s arsenal that can be used. If you don’t, it is not a deal killer – as you can see, there are many ways to listen to and hear your customer.
  5. Design your organization to ensure the data can be consumed and analyzed quickly: We will review this more in Part 2 of the series, but the data is only good if you have the expertise and structure to consume it and analyze it effectively.

Collecting valuable customer insights is just the first step. Most importantly is how that data is used to drive significant and sustained improvements that exceed customer expectations and drive brand loyalty. Read Part 2 of this series – Operationalizing CX Data to Drive Meaningful Change.

If you have implemented unique and new methods for collecting customer feedback as part of your VoC program, we would love to hear from you!

To Learn More About The Voice of the Customer, Register For Our Upcoming
CustomerCONNECT Virtual Event on August 11, 2020


Blog post, written by: Execs In The Know