Two tools in the customer experience professional’s arsenal include Voice of the Customer (VoC) functions and customer data platforms (CDP), which according to the CDP Institute is an industry that will be worth $3.3 billion by 2023.

The intersection of actionable data between CDPs and VoC programs is crucial because you can “marry VoC data with other profile data in your CDP to give respondents immediate satisfaction and relevant experiences,” according to Karl Wirth, CEO of Evergage, a personalization and CDP provider. Wirth was citing the example of customer surveys. 

But the real question is, can you easily marry VoC data within CDPs? 

Structured, Unstructured Data Challenges Remain

While the outcome is desirable to integrate VoC data within CDPs, it’s not always an easy practice to put into action. VoC data is tricky because it’s a mix of structured (e.g. NPS scores) and unstructured (e.g. text comments), according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute. That makes it tough to integrate with other systems, not impossible, he said.

CDPs are good at processing such data and turning it into actionable outputs. “CDPs are good at that sort of thing since they handle both types of data and are designed to transform it into useful formats,” Raab said. “They can also connect the VoC inputs to the rest of the customer profile, so other systems can use it when generating scores, selecting treatments, and so on.”

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Trying to Close the Feedback Loop

The ability to combine data from different formats, including speech and text, and data captured using different methods including direct, indirect and inferred is critical to getting the complete picture, according to Tim Whiting, vice president of marketing at Verint, which provides tools for customer engagement management. Whiting said multiple sources, including personal and demographic, engagement, behavioral, transactional and VoC data, can result in a holistic view of the customer. 

However, he added, it’s complex and can be challenging to pull off. “One of the key challenges many organizations face is being able to tie together all the customer information they have at their disposal and then closing the feedback loop by following up with customers,” Whiting said.  

Do VoC and CDP 'Rarely Work Together'?

The trick is getting VoC data to CDPs, much like other martech systems do. Mark Smith, CEO of Kitewheel, a provider of personalized journey management for marketing and advertising technology, said the reality today is CDPs and VoC programs rarely work together. “VoC programs tend to focus on a sample of customers, usually based on surveying the most active or loyal — the most valuable — among the entire base," he added.

The new CDP promise lies in boosting every customer's lifetime value by offering contextual recognition at the customer's next interaction. The traditional VoC approach does not allow for or factor in such personalized interaction approach, according to Smith. VoC data rarely lines up with individual customer journeys or interactions, so it doesn't get stored in the CDP. The data can be so sparse it renders itself irrelevant, Smith added. “Conceptually CDPs and VoC data should come together,” Smith said. “Ideally every customer's voice: their desires, intents and plans, is known by every line of business so the data can be used to drive the right interactions with customers at all times across all channels.”

Related Article: 8 CMOs Discuss What Voice of the Customer Means to Them

Learning Opportunities

Feeding the Unified Individual Profile

Wirth admitted it’s not always easy to marry VoC data with other information amassed about an individual. For starters, an organization’s VoC data often lives in an isolated place. “It’s also rarely — if ever — examined at the individual level,” Wirth said. “Much more often, VoC data gets aggregated to help improve services, products, support, etc., across the board.”

The real power of combining VoC data within CDPs is feeding per-person response data from VoC programs into each individual’s unified profile for additional use. CDPs, Wirth added, can integrate with a variety of data sources, and can take a feed from a VoC system. Some CDPs also incorporate native surveying capabilities, making response gathering, storage, analysis and action a more seamless experience.

“Regardless of the method, it’s important to get individual response data out of VoC silos and into each customer’s unified profile within a CDP,” Wirth said. “Then, VoC data can be combined with other information about an individual, including behavioral data, transaction history, call center interactions, etc., to form a more complete picture, enable interesting analysis and insight, inform future campaigns and even trigger immediate and relevant interactions with the individual customer.”

Examples of CDP and VoC Working Together

Wirth cited some examples of how CDP and VoC can work together: 

  • A software company deploys an in-app survey, and bringing that data into each user’s profile in the CDP enables immediate action such as the app guiding users through an onboarding track best suited to them based on their answers. Future tailored email content can match their experience levels. 
  • A retailer asks shoppers about their recent purchases when they return on the website. For good experiences, ask them to leave a review, offer free shipping for their next purchase. For bad experiences, direct them to customer service or offer a discount off their next purchase. The response data can also be analyzed going forward to understand how shoppers’ experiences impact future company interactions, Wirth said. 
  • A retailer could also make VoC email requests based on deep profile data from the CDP. In the email, perhaps include, “Thank you for purchasing this clock” (with a picture of the clock), while also asking for feedback on the item and buying process. 

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

Final Thoughts

If organizations are able to embed VoC data in a CDP, the following information can be gathered into one place: profile data, transactional/order data, behavioral, web/mobile data, product data and VoC data. It can help organizations “accurately size each issue to effectively prioritize the action they take,” Whiting said.

However, one final caution, VoC technology providers often speak in a language about understanding customers that implies they’re gathering many kinds of data, like a CDP. “But I don’t think any of them seriously claim to do what a CDP does,” Raab said.