Consumers have many channels available to interact with organizations — chat platforms, social media, website forms, etc. — making it increasingly difficult for companies to understand changing customer needs and capture relevant data.

Traditional surveys can no longer serve as the main source of feedback. As a result, customer experience (CX) programs around the globe are going through a transformation.

Building a best-in-class voice of the customer (VoC) program requires capturing customer feedback in real-time about their digital and physical transactions, as well as overall relationships and competitive assessments.

Evolving Existing VoC Programs

Eric Head, vice president, go-to-market strategy, experience management for Verint, said organizations can evolve and modernize their VoC programs in several ways.

Text analytics solutions can uncover themes, recurring topics, emotion and sentiment from open-ended written customer input, while speech analytics can organize and uncover key insights through call recordings from contact centers.

In addition, brands can incorporate application programming interfaces (APIs) and technology integrations into the CX environment to pull in insightful customer relationship management (CRM), transactional and financial data.

“The most important step is to work with a CX partner to ensure all the disparate data sources are integrated into one platform where it can be organized and normalized to provide valuable insights to the right stakeholders and decision makers across the enterprise,” Head told CMSWire.

Another important component is employee feedback on how to improve the employee and customer experience.

This data must then be analyzed, stored and structured to derive the highest level of insights. However, breaking down existing data silos is proving to be a significant challenge for many organizations.

Customer profile data sits in a CRM system, survey data sits with the market research or VoC team, website and app data sits with the digital team, call center data sits in the call center (usually remote from headquarters) and social media data sits with the marketing team.

Related Article: 4 Steps to Start Connecting Customer Experience and Employee Experience Insights

Breaking Down Silos, Integrating Customer Intelligence

“Very few companies can integrate all this to get a complete view of customer feedback and behaviors,” explained Eric Smuda, principal of CX strategy and enablement at InMoment.

He said the next evolution in VoC can boil down to three essential elements. The first concerns how companies will break down data silos and integrate various customer intelligence insights to develop a 360-degree view of their customers.

“Technical debt and lack of system integration are currently making real-time VoC efforts difficult,” he said.

He noted that many companies cannot combine transactional and operational data with customer profile data to send customer feedback requests in real-time.

“They also can’t analyze what happened, when it happened and why it happened with the customer’s response about how they felt about their interaction,” he added.

AI, ML and NLP to Play a Role

Smuda said the second part of the VoC 3.0 evolution will be using artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to make better sense of all of the unstructured data that already exists and continues to grow exponentially.

The third part will be incorporating customer, operational and financial data to make better business decisions and deliver a more personalized experience for individual customers.

“Organizations need predictive analytics to predict a customer’s next behavior,” said Smuda. “Identifying what an appropriate response or intervention would be is also critical. Better text analytics tools are the immediate need.”

He added that making the business case comes down to delivering ROI that exceeds the cost of these technologies.

That ROI comes from acquiring more customers based on what you have learned, retaining more customers and for a longer tenure (increased lifetime value), upselling and cross-selling additional products and services to existing customers based on identifying needs and delivering cost savings in what it takes to offer a compelling customer experience.

“Assuming companies are already capturing that feedback, they really don’t need to be soliciting more feedback,” Smuda said. “That is happening organically.”

Learning Opportunities

Head explained that there are a few key ingredients needed to address the next evolution in VoC strategy.

“Moving beyond surveys, some key data analytics tools include speech analytics from agent and consumer interactions, text analytics for unstructured, verbatim customer interactions and digital behavior analytics to bring observational customer input into the environment,” he said.

Other key tools include APIs incorporated into an open-architecture CX environment and AI with large sets of data inputs to provide for continuous improvement of the system.

Related Article: Using AI to Build More Personal Customer Connections

VoC 3.0 Augmented by Wearables, XR Technology

Bill Staikos, senior vice president, evangelist and head of community engagement at Medallia, said that when he hears the term “VoC 3.0,” he thinks about physical experiences that have been fully digitized using wearables and extended reality (XR) technologies — a real-time capture of an experience without the need for a survey.

“I also see a future of VoC 3.0 where feedback is sent back to the customer on their use of the product to coach them on usage,” he said. “VoC can be bi-directional. Think about the connected car as an IoT (Internet of Things), whereby the car manufacturer provides real-time guidance and coaching on how to best drive the car for maximum efficiency, or maximum thrill.”

Staikos explained that the key technologies to build a VoC 3.0 strategy include platforms that can aggregate and analyze multiple signals through the customer journey and deliver prescriptive next-best-action, next-best-conversation or next-best-journey in real time, context and at scale.

Analytics capabilities that are usable by non-analytical team members, delivering a "PhD-in-a-box," will also be crucial, according to Staikos.

He noted that at some point soon, as extended reality wearables become more prevalent, all journeys will be digital, even those in physical spaces.

“AI will be able to finally ‘read’ the room and deliver the context back to your unified experience platform for action — whether machine-to-machine or machine-to-human,” he said. “So, the ability to integrate with other platforms out of the box is also a critical need for VoC 3.0.”

He pointed out that while this is also a need today, it will be even more so in the near future as companies rationalize platforms to reduce their costs, reduce IT risk and drive scale.

“Having a unified view of your customer will also be key,” he added.

Final Thoughts

As the digital experience shifts, so too will voice of the customer priorities.

Today's consumers use a variety of channels to interact with brands, with new avenues seemingly popping up each day. Companies need to act fast to accommodate changing behaviors and technologies while still offering relevant, personalized and satisfying experiences.