Customers waiting in line.
PHOTO: AgentAkit

Why should CMOs care about Voice of the Customer (VoC) strategies? Paul Hagen, senior principal of customer experience and innovation at West Monroe Partners, said because VoC strategies influence budget, company health and how CMOs think about their jobs. 

“In a world where many firms have shifted to more subscription-based, digitally connected products or service models, post-acquisition renewals eventually comprise the biggest part of revenues,” he said. “Firms and CMOs that focus on customer experience and customer success, such as by monitoring VoC and helping orchestrate improvements post-sale, end up winning."

It isn’t easy work. Most brands admit to failing to get real business insight from listening to VoC, according to new research conducted by Eptica (registration required), which found that less than a quarter (24 percent) of brands feel that existing measurements such as net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and customer effort score (CES) give them the deep insight they need to transform their business and the experience they provide to customers.

However, CMOs aren't bailing on their customers, despite some negative industry numbers.

VoC Can Establish Credibility

Natalie Lambert, CMO at digital experience automation firm Instart, said VoC programs matter to business results, but first they must establish credibility. “To help stakeholders walk in the customer’s shoes, customer experience professionals should share as much about the customer experience in real-time to help bring it — good or bad — to life,” Lambert said. Share verbatim feedback from customer surveys, quotes from research interviews, comments on social media and call recordings to help stakeholders understand and better empathize with customers.

Related Article: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

When’s the Last Time You Spoke to a Customer?

What do most customer experience professionals do? Try and imagine what the customer would say, according to Randy Frisch, CMO at Uberflip, provider of a content experience platform. What movies do they watch? What playlist do they listen to on Spotify? What food do they prefer to eat? “From there, we try and determine what content we should create and what messaging will overall work best to make a connection,” Frisch said. “These are fun exercises, but too many of us don't bother to actually ask the customer to take a seat at the table for those brainstorms.” 

Marketers need to make sure the customer has a seat. What does this look like? “A bunch of things,” Frisch said, “but one strategy is taking your meetings with customers on the road. Face-to-face time isn’t always realistic or possible, but ask yourself, ‘When's the last time you actually spoke to a customer?’ If you can't answer with a specific day do you really have the voice of the customer at your office?" 

VoC Has its Challenges

Lou Weiss, CMO at digital asset platform Shutterstock, said VoC is a framework of qualitative and quantitative feedback from customers. It’s critical, Weiss said, to have a comprehensive view of VoC to know where we’re delighting customers, where we’re falling short and as input for our product and service roadmaps.

Giving customers a megaphone “helps develop the muscle of actually processing the feedback across the organization,” Weiss said, “and decide what changes to make because of it.” Further, customers don’t know what they don’t know, particularly around innovation, Weiss said. “Sometimes we know more about what’s possible than customers do, and so there are cases where we will give them what we believe they want and need, as opposed to what they asked for,” Weiss said. 

Case in point: Shutterstock has had customers in the past who said the company doesn’t have the content they are looking for. The problem? The company did have the content, but it wasn’t easily discoverable. To solve this problem, Weiss said, Shutterstock continued to invest in search technology.

Related Article: Customer Experience Is Lip Service Without CDP, VoC

The Quest to Emotionally Connect with Customers

How do we insert emotion into the customer experience and listen to customers in a way that captures what they really think and feel? Rebecca Martin, CMO of Calabrio, providers of a contact center optimization suite, returns to that question frequently. “VoC initiatives are all about leveraging smart analytics to monitor the entire customer journey across channels — web, chat, text, social and the contact center — so companies can understand what customers feel and engage with them in the right way, at the right time and on the right channel,” Martin said. “It’s all to ensure a strong emotional bond that keeps customers coming back for more.”

Capitalizing on Customer Directives

Tim Griffin, CMO of Amtrak, said that as his rail service company continues to invest in user experiences, its customers’ needs, wants and desires act as a directive that goes into every single decision. “Ultimately, leveraging that directive is what the VoC should mean to all CMOs,” he said.

Related Article: 4 Tips to Get More From Voice of the Customer Programs in 2019

Underutilized Marketing Intelligence

Kristi Knight, CMO of customer experience management firm InMoment, called VoC a “valuable, and massively underutilized source of marketing intelligence that can both accelerate prospects to the pipeline, and enrich relationships, and profits, with existing customers.” An obsession with digital metrics and quick conversions drives the bulk of marketing investments, but the “the failure to invest in listening directly to customers will leave you with blind spots that lead to bad decisions,” she said.

Brands and Livelihoods Depend on it

Marketing technology firm 4C Insights CMO Aaron Goldman said CMOs need to be thinking about all the interactions customers have with their brands and how they can improve them. “Doing this,” he said, “requires a process by which we can understand what our customers need and what they think of our products .… It's something all CMOs should be obsessing about as our brands and our livelihoods depend on it.”

Related Article: 8 Enterprise Voice of the Customer (VoC) Tools You Should Know About

VoC: Difference Between Transactional and Strategic CMO

Alex Withers, CMO of project management tool provider inMotionNow, said VoC is the “difference between a strategic CMO and a transactional one.” A transactional CMO sends campaigns and drives leads and has very little influence over the product or service offering. A strategic CMO incorporates VoC into everything a business does to create a product or service for that customer — from product design to market feedback.

"The internet is the best thing and worst thing to happen to marketing," Withers said. "On one hand, the measurable nature of digital media forced marketing to move away from impressions and gut feelings and instead focus on data and metrics. On the other hand, it also has been a contributing factor in transforming the role of the CMO into one that’s primarily focused on campaigns and marketing communications."

Withers encouraged CMOs to think about the classic 4P’s of marketing: product, price, promotion and place. "Marketing has largely become separated from everything except promotion. VoC is bringing marketing back to its roots, and that’s good for both the customer and the business."