Skip to content

Voice of the Customer Programs Need to Become Proactive

  • 7 min read

Everyone has some form of feedback program in place. Most, however, are to put it politely “lacking in sophistication and provide little if any value”. 

I am perplexed that in 2023, after almost two decades of activity, so many companies that I speak to are still naïve when it comes to capturing and using feedback from their customers. There is so much that can be done without necessarily a lot of cost and effort that would transform the value companies get from their feedback program(s).

Addressing simple yet fundamental topics such as these three below can make a huge difference:

  • Rethinking what questions are asked and changing when and on what channel they are asked
  • Exploring what other non-survey based forms of feedback are available based on existing operational systems in place
  • Making sure a contextually relevant subset of the holistic dataset is available to those that can benefit from it across the organization

No Ownership Means No Progress

The problem of course is that all too often there is no centralized owner to grab the “VoC” initiative by the scruff of the neck and start making these changes. Despite the surge in CX leadership roles over the past few years the majority of organizations still have multiple siloed departmental feedback activities run by employees as an extra task, adding to their core day to day role. All of the above is obviously an area Actionary can help with but its not actually what I wanted to talk about in this blog.

The problem with above is it applies historical thinking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a critical start point, lets call it foundational, but I think more needs to be done and I think VoC needs to evolve to the next level.

If you delve into the output from a VoC program there have been two key evolutionary stages – initially where the feedback collected was just presented in reports and dashboards, then more recently (in line with the much used mantra “collect, analyse, and act”) incorporating an ability to alert, notify and even create tickets based on the feedback for employee intervention.

The problem here though is that this is all reactive. VoC is capturing a perspective of an experience that is happening (eg the real time analysis of a customer service interaction using speech analytics or rage clicking online via web analytics) or has happened (eg the traditional survey) and then some form of retrospective action is initiated.

What Needs To Happen

The next shift that needs to occur is to become more proactive and be able to not just act once the horse has bolted but to be able to directly influence future experiences. This shift is a fundamental one that makes VoC far more strategic and worthy of the “CX technology” label that many vendors use today. The market should no longer be just about the reactive handling of feedback. It should be about the use of insight to better manage and govern future experiences through greater control over other technologies such as CRM and supply chain.

This is not going to be easy to accomplish and most organisations will struggle to get there but the vision at least should be aspirational. If you think about it from a technological point of view – what technology has the best interest of the customer at heart? I’d argue none really do. Organizations have numerous technologies that influence the customer experience such as a contact centre call routing engine that routes customers to agents based on a set of rules or a campaign management system that fires out campaigns based on their likelihood of being successful and elevating the marketing department’s monthly pipeline report. But what technology tells the routing engine to route that customer straight away to the best agent available because they have had a torrid experience recently? What technology tells the campaign management system to hold fire on sending the campaign to the customer for the same reason? Answer: There isn’t one. I.e. there is no central technology “looking out for” the customer and ensuring their experiences are appropriate.  I believe this is the next frontier for VoC – to be the customer champion and start governing the experiences we receive as consumers.

Three Key Technology Investment Areas

Once the “reactive” foundations are in place I’d recommend three technological investment areas to become more proactive and truly put the CX at the heart of customer interactions.

  • Start with Intervention by feeding feedback data/insight into a central customer data repository (or positioning the VoC as the repository) and working with individual departments to encourage them to leverage this data when making decisions. For example, influencing the rules engine of a campaign management application so that it doesn’t launch a campaign to a specific customer if their predicted NPS score is <5 as it would likely only likely further annoy them.
  • Then consider Orchestration by using APIs to trigger actions within third party applications. For example, if the predicted NPS score of <5 was the result of a bad customer service interaction where the customer seemed frustrated as there were no instructions with their new gadget and the agent didn’t handle it well, then the VoC system would force the agent coaching application to assign an empathy training course to that agent to ensure other customers do not have the same detrimental experience as well as proactively trigger an outbound email to all customers with that product with a PDF of the instruction manual. The opportunities here are endless. They will vary enormously by industry and will require some degree of individual design and configuration.
  • Finally explore Mediation by incorporating a dedicated mediation engine that can reconcile the disconnect between operational and customer goals. For example, the VoC platform’s rules engine which solely has the customer’s best interest at heart may want the customer with the >5 NPS score to jump the queue if they call back and speak with the next best agent straight away whereas the routing engine would want to wait as other customers have been on hold for nearly 3 minutes and this might then breach the contact centre’s SLA and trigger a need to incur additional agent overtime costs. The mediation engine would look at both “perspectives” and agree a compromise – such as making the customer wait 30 seconds instead. The same logic could be applied to a marketing campaign rules engine where the compromise would be to wait 5 days until their service issues have been resolved.

Mediation is more of an aspiration concept but there some signs this could become a possible reality over the next decade, whereas intervention and orchestration are very much realistic considerations and I would recommend exploring both – once the foundations are in place.

The Author

Jim is an avid follower of all things customer and employee experience. His passion is in writing research and sharing thought leading insights.