Phases of a Voice of customer program

Gathering customer feedback is a mainstay in business and a well-designed voice of the customer (VoC) program is a necessity for any company that wants to understand and act on customer sentiment.

Most companies have recognized the value of VoC and have taken the first steps into collecting open-ended feedback from customers however these surveys aren’t enough to gain powerful insights into the customer experience (CX) and many company's VoC programs hit a plateau, and progress stalls.

For businesses to succeed with their VoC efforts they should understand the roadblocks with the VoC program along with the essential building blocks for VoC success.

Many VoC maturity models could be useful as a guide for businesses to design their VoC program. Among them, the simplest one is the three-level model which can be leveraged to chart the advancement of the voice of the customer program.

Level 1: Foundational

This is the first step towards the VoC journey with a focus on building a scalable CX infrastructure. Businesses may implement basic survey functionality across more than one channel–such as voice and email and over time, they may add more customer listening approaches with some limited analysis and reporting capability. Some of the key characteristics of this level are as below:

Baseline Survey Functionality: Businesses should have a survey solution to solicit feedback from customers. For the best results, it is recommended to secure both quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Emphasis on quick wins: Start small in this phase and look for straightforward “find and fix” opportunities instead of pushing for a sweeping business transformation. For example, the customer feedback may alert you to usability problems in your checkout process. Reworking a screen may solve the issue. Or you may find that customers are having difficulty finding answers to certain questions. Reworking a frequently asked question (FAQ) page to make common queries more prominent can be a simple, high-value fix.

Ability to close the loop with customers: Identify customers who have had difficult encounters with your business. Most often, this involves an alerting functionality that reports on low survey scores to frontline leaders. Reach out to customers directly to address concerns and rebuild relationships.

Focus on Scalability: At this stage, the program will be small — but poised to grow. Look ahead to the next stages of VoC maturity and prepare for them. Choose infrastructure that can scale up, and ensure processes are repeatable by a larger team.

Level 2: Advanced

Level 2 of VoC is far more advanced than level one. In this phase, businesses utilize techniques to gather and assess unsolicited feedback. Besides, they have a centralized VoC program and have secured executive support. In this phase, businesses have more formalized processes for taking action on customer feedback and sharing insights with leadership and frontline teams. Some of the key characteristics of this level are as below:

Executive Support: In phase two, the focus is on building a more rigorous VoC program and evolving activities. This needs the unwavering support of at least one executive champion who can promote the merits of VoC internally and help organizations to understand the merits of having a customer-centric culture. Besides, start quantifying and communicate the program results, which can help fortify leadership engagement.

Advanced feedback gathering capabilities: In phase two, businesses integrate customer feedback from multiple sources. They build on the existing survey foundation by adding questions to gain unstructured feedback. Also, they can get insight from other unsolicited and unstructured sources, such as support calls, chats, emails, and website searches.

Formalized processes for reporting and taking action: In this phase processes for taking action on customer feedback are systemized. These processes can include taking corrective action to address negative feedback and addressing widespread issues.

Involvement of frontline teams: During this phase, frontline employees play an important part. Procedures are designed that empower customer-facing teams to share their observations of issues requiring attention. Also, devise ways to report to teams and individuals on CX performance and opportunities for improvement.

Level 3: State of The Art

At the pinnacle of VoC maturity, listening to the customer's voice is an essential component. Employees at every level expect to listen to and learn from customers often. Businesses will have sophisticated processes and techniques to calculate and communicate the business value of VoC.

A company at the highest level of VoC maturity infuses learnings from customer feedback into every corner of their business. At this level, VoC is a core part of a company’s culture and integral to day-to-day operations. Some of the key characteristics of this level are as below:

Complete Data Integration: In phase three, CX professionals can access feedback data from multiple sources. Also, they can combine CX feedback with customer data from related systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and point-of-sale (POS) solutions. This integration allows CX experts to identify root causes of customer dissatisfaction and recommend the right remedies.

Customer-Centric Culture that Supports VoC: At the highest level of VoC maturity, VoC programs empower employees to be customer-centric. These programs provide meaningful and actionable insights to executives who can champion the needs of the customer. Also, they provide frontline team members with the tools and information they need to deliver superior experiences to customers.

Focus on quantification and continuous improvement: During this phase, communicating VoC business results and ROI becomes systematized. Also, core procedures for engaging with customers and closing the loop on issues should be sound. However, businesses should maintain a focus on evolution and continue to add technologies and capabilities to access new insights and keep driving CX forward.

Incorporate VoC into design processes: To derive the most meaning and value from VoC, businesses need to connect VoC to other parts of their business. These customer insights should influence new product design and marketing messages. VoC feedback can also be shared with web design and usability teams to optimize your digital presence.

Wrap up:

Although most businesses have made forays into customer experience, very few have reached the top levels of the voice of customer excellence. Certainly, VoC presents challenges to companies that aren’t equipped to gather, assess, or act on large volumes of unstructured feedback. But giving up on VoC isn’t the solution. Instead, the best way is to get started, and working through them step-by-step will ensure that your program evolves.

I am a customer experience enthusiast with mission to discover customer experience challenges and designing programs that really delight customers.