goat roadblock
PHOTO: Jarkko Laine

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a major element of most customer experience programs. VoC can not only signal but help explain if the company is succeeding or failing in its CX efforts. Yet establishing and maintaining a robust VoC program can run into numerous challenges. Below are just a few of them:

Missing Customer Context

“One of the top challenges VoC programs continue to struggle with is taking action on the many sources used to listen to the customer,” said Rick Blair, vice president, product strategy, experience management for Verint. Blair noted while some would think the increasing number of channels and volume of customer feedback VoC programs collect would be the roadblock to taking action, that isn't the case.

According to Blair, it’s context about the experience that’s critical to supporting action in two very specific ways:

  • Context that helps teams understand the details surrounding the customer's experience. Basic information like a score and a customer’s comments are key, but to effectively take action you need to know a lot of the things they may not be telling you — where they are (e.g., a specific store or a specific spot in a digital experience), and key details about the experience (like what device they were using or who they are and what they were trying to do).
  • Using this context to automate the distribution of VoC streams to the teams that can act on it. Without the right context, teams struggle to quickly get it to the right place. VoC programs need to identify the right contextual elements they should use to route things (they can be different across channels and by industry).

Another issue with context is knowing the timeliness of the customer feedback, said Kat Kalmykov, head of deployment and customer success at Thankful. “You must understand what your customers are saying NOW, not one month ago or three months ago. You need to have a way to record their feedback and apply a monetary value on how often it is happening and what it will cost if this continues.”

Related Article: Elevate the Customer Experience Through Timing and Context

Lack of Organizational Commitment

Based on what customers are saying, the company should find projects or initiatives to fix issues, Kalmykov added. “You must get buy-in from your COO or CEO because only then upstream teams are going to listen and take things seriously.”

VoC is often looked at as though it is the customer success team's problem to fix, Kalmykov said. "Often, that is not true — the customer may be saying I hate this service or I am unhappy with, but the root cause is actually upstream — perhaps the manufacturing of the product wasn't great or the logistics team is having issues but the customer only interacts with customer support. The important thing here is that the entire organization must take the voice of the customer seriously and make it a priority — not just the CS team. And this requires a specific company culture."

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

Overcoming Survey Bias

When capturing the feedback from customers, the design and method of surveying have a profound impact on the results, said Michael Sena, founder of Senacea. "If the survey seems personal, client's unfavorable response will likely be suppressed. When a vague or overcomplicated scale such as 0 to 10 is used, the results will fail to carry an informational value that is aligned between the company and client. Furthermore, the depth of question might also encourage the customer to make additional assumptions that influence the answer."

To minimize such bias, Sena recommended that the surveys be depersonalized and possibly anonymized. For example, a survey about the quality of the IT development could be asked when developers delivered the project and no longer visit client office.

Choosing an adequate level of detail and clarification goes a long way to improving survey quality — it’s more natural and more indicative to rate the service, Sena added. For example, the survey could indicate service was "good — all my queries had been answered, but the process was slightly longer than it should have been," rather than a scoring of 7 out of 10.

“Leaving no room for guessing is essential, especially when benchmarking,” Sena said. “Instead of asking the client how much would they pay for a coffee, it's better to ask how much would they pay for a double organic espresso consumed inside a non-chain café in downtown Chicago.”

Related Article: Move Beyond Surveys to Gain a Full View of Your Customers