All Gregg Shupe wanted was to order a pizza. Instead of his usual restaurant, he decided to try a new, local place he’d heard of that allowed him to order online. But once he navigated through selecting the size and toppings, he hit a dead-end.

“I couldn’t for the life of me get to the checkout. I looked everywhere — no button, no link, nothing. It just wasn’t there,” Shupe, digital experience thought leader for Progress, said. Finally, he gave up and ordered from his usual restaurant, but the impression stuck with him.

“I kept thinking about that, and I also noticed there wasn’t any way for customers — or potential customers — to even let them know about the problem. So how could they even go about fixing it?”

What was missing was voice of customer (VoC). While it wouldn't have gotten Shupe his pizza that night, it could have prevented the pizzeria from losing other would-be customers.  

“Customer feedback is fuel. You need to understand their experience in order to manage and improve it, because customers today have a choice — and if you’re not catering to their needs, your competitors will be more than happy to take your place,” said Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at SurveyMonkey.

8 Best Practices for Monitoring VoC

A 2018 Bain research survey on Customer Experience Tools and Trends found that companies that excel at customer experience (CX) are those that understand and monitor VoC and then integrate that feedback. Those companies grow anywhere from 4% to 8% more than their competition.

“When customers feel like you understand them, that you listen to them, that you’re engaged, that they’re being treated like important people whose opinion matters, their perceived value of your company increases,” said Shupe. “And that good CX will mean better sales and customer retention, as well as referrals to new customers.” In fact, the Bain survey results showed that VoC programs lead to 55% higher customer retention rates.

But those insights can only deliver value if they’re actively monitored, examined and then acted upon. Here are some best practices to follow to make the most of your VoC program.

1. Get Your Timing (and Touchpoint) Right

Monitoring VoC starts with knowing where to solicit feedback and preferences from your customers along their journey, said Srinivasan. It doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy — just a few clicks or a couple of quick questions. But the “when” is also important, she said, so you can make sure you’re not interrupting their buying journey or distracting them and degrading their experience.

“There are many places to monitor the voice of your customer along the customer journey. The data you collect will drive your understanding of their entire experience with your company and any pain points along the way,” she said. “How you collect the data is also important; you want to offer opportunities for feedback so that you can catch customer (dis)satisfaction outright, and make the necessary adjustments. This looks like everything from a feedback button and embedded feedback icons to targeted, in-the-moment surveys."

Related Article: When it Comes to Customer Feedback, Less Is More 

2. Explore Every Opportunity to Gather Feedback

There are a number of data points you can look at when monitoring VoC. If you want a high-level view, Shupe said, one of the most common measures is net promoter score, or NPS.

“Everything’s based on trends — so you can send a survey, get responses, take data and see how satisfied customers are or aren’t. It shows you the deltas; the trends downward or upward. A lot of companies also use that internally, to gauge employee experience, and it works the exact same way,” he said.

There are also tools and processes that gather social processing mentions, Shupe said, which track any mention of your brand online so you can monitor your brand’s reputation.

“Tools that do this use indexing bots to scan social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, for instance, to monitor what your customer base is saying,” Shupe said. “You put in keywords, brands, announcements, any specific information you’re looking for and it’ll bring you back chatter so you can evaluate your reputation. Now, depending on the platform, it can be easier or harder. Twitter is very open about allowing you to access that data, while other platforms hold that data close to the vest."

When it comes to the ‘what,’ Srinivasan said, you can collect data on website bugs and reasons for cart abandonment, as well as for tracking product satisfaction or the mobile in-app experience.

“Every interaction with your support team provides a further opportunity to gather VoC data down to the call center rep level. Analyzing all of this data is what leads to improvements to UX, and your overall product, service, and company. The bottom line is that not collecting feedback is what’s stopping you from lower development and support costs and higher revenue,” she said.

3. Measure the Right Metrics

We see our customers focus on a few commonly used metrics. Relational NPS (rNPS) is the classic 0-10 scale that asks the "How likely are you to recommend this product/service/company to a friend or peer?” question in the context of the overall experience, said Srinivasan.

“Its long been seen as an important indicator of overall customer loyalty that can help you zero in on customers youll need to work harder on to retain. We host regular CX roundtables with leaders from over 60 companies and 80% of them measure rNPS, while 65% say their rNPS program has become more important in the COVID era,” she said. 

In addition, she continued, it’s common for companies to measure Transactional NPS (tNPS), which is the same question applied to a specific interaction, such as a call to customer support. “The key with this metric is to ensure that the feedback gathered from these interactions flows directly back into your CRM and triggers a follow-up task, so that your team can promptly address any negative experiences your customers report," she said.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is a third general-purpose loyalty metric to measure your users’ satisfaction with a product or service, Srinivasan said. Again, you don’t have to get too complex about gathering this kind of data, Srinivasan said. Keep it simple, easy and within the flow of the customer journey, and you’ll ensure a steady flow of important information, she says.

“We see customers lean into star/emotional ratings, which are easy to gather and extremely popular in the era of social media and reviews. Our customers use emojis to track emotional ratings, measured on scale of 1 to 5, which can feed into product, service and redesign efforts — and provide a fun, consumer-oriented experience in the process,” she said. 

There’s also the Customer Effort Score (CES), in which you ask how easy was it for customers to do X, Y or Z. This, Srinivasan said, is a great way to zero in on opportunities to improve the ease-of-use of your website or app or reduce effort in customer service or routine interactions.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Empathy Fuels Today's VoC Programs  

4. Analyze and Weight the Data

Not all of the data you monitor, gather and measure will be created equal, said Shupe. It’s important to understand the caveats, the circumstances and any mitigating factors that could impact the information you get, he continued.

“You’re going to have all different kinds of data — verbatims, normalized data, objective data on how customers felt, what their experience was like, what hit home, what didn’t, their pain points, what they thought about the messaging, etc.” Shupe said. “But sometimes, let’s be honest, some customers’ feedback will be more important to you than others. Some data you can tell is not valuable. Sometimes, say you’re a restaurant, and someone gives you negative review because it was raining that day — that’s not going to accurately reflect the things you do care about, so you can discard that. You have to weight the value and the importance of some VoC information versus others, and that’s OK." Do so according to the metrics that are most important to your organization’s circumstances.

5. Prepare to Pivot

Now that you have monitored, gathered and analyzed the data, you can determine how you’re going to act on it. “Marketing is a living, breathing entity — and how you keep it alive is by receiving and integrating this information,” said Shupe. At its core, marketing — especially digital marketing — should adopt an Agile methodology with a minimum viable product (MVP), data, analysis, tweak and iterate.

“You can say, ‘Our brand took a hit for X reason, and we can do Y that will allow us to fix that and get back out there,’” he said. “Then, do that all over again. And again. You have to prepare to pivot repeatedly based on the VoC data, because it can alert you towhat is and is not being effective, so you can identify issues before they become bigger problems."

Related Article: Closing the Customer Feedback Loop: A Practitioner's Guide

6. Prove the ROI

Proving ROI is the key piece of the puzzle, without which the wins get accounted for elsewhere and these types of programs fall flat, Srinivasan said. “When running a program, we’d recommend you start by defining your goals, measuring the benchmark, and then tracking continuously, with ongoing communication with stakeholders to highlight gaps, opportunities and progress in closing them."

You can also point out less tangible positive results by sharing positive reviews, or by showing metrics on repeat customers, multiple sales, referrals and the like, Shupe said.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Look and Listen

Sometimes companies get scared to pick their heads up and look at what their customers are saying about them, lest it be negative, Shupe said. This is exactly the wrong approach. It’s not inevitably the end of the world if a company messes up. Instead, it’s about how the company handles those screw-ups after the fact.

“I’ve seen interactions and transactions go horribly wrong, but because they were monitoring VoC, companies were able to remediate and rectify situations in ways that made the customer very, very happy,” he said. “It’s not about never having a negative experience, it’s about how you handle those that really counts. You should always be trying new things and pushing the boundaries — if you’re not on pins and needles wondering if something is going to work, then I would say you’re not innovating and pushing the limits!”

As long as you’re trying, customers are going to see that. As long as you’re soliciting feedback and then acting accordingly, your efforts will be rewarded.

“Consumers want responsive companies and you won’t have that option unless you have a strong VoC program in place,” Srinivasan said. 

Related Article: Want to Hear the Voice of Customers? Listen to Your Employees

8. Get the Whole Company Involved

To that end, VoC monitoring should be everyone’s responsibility, even if you have a dedicated team handling customer experience measurement and management, Srinivasan said. If there’s a CX leader at the company, the buck stops with them, but many forward-thinking, innovative companies understand that it’s everyone’s role, to some extent.

“Incorporating customer feedback into your business strategy is really everyone’s job,” she said. That mandate should trickle down from executives all the way to each contributor, but the reverse is also true.

“Strong individual contributors in sales and support are often closer to the ‘problem’ and can be most capable of identifying pressing customer needs. A robust VoC program requires cross-functional effort, but the right tools also pull their own weight. They integrate well with existing tech stacks so your teams have a system of record and holistic view of the customer journey. Regardless, when feedback is a part of the company lifeblood, a happy and growing customer base is not a hard target to hit,” she said.