woman with hands over ears  in "hear no evil" pose
PHOTO: Johannes Krupinski

I wasn't planning to write a follow up of my last column detailing the saga of the table that never appeared. But the more I thought about this month’s topic on Voice of the Customer systems — well sometimes opportunities just present themselves.

I'm Just a Customer, Shouting Into the Void

A few days after my last post appeared I received an automated email survey from the company we’d bought the table from asking how much we were enjoying our purchase and asking for a rating from 1 to 5. Unfortunately zero wasn't an option. 

My first reaction was to ignore it. Then I decided to see if they actually read these things. So I gave it a “1” score and added a note that it was impossible to rate a product we had never received. And the response? Nothing. Clearly, the voice of this customer was still going unheard. Was anyone monitoring the response to the VoC satisfaction surveys? I doubt it.

The next step was a quick search on LinkedIn, where I found that “Store H” had someone with the title of “Chief Customer Officer” who was in my network. I sent them a nice message asking if they could help with my missing order. No response. I tracked down their email and sent the same message. No Response. So much for the person supposedly responsible for listening to the voice of their customers.

Onwards and upwards. I found the CEO's email and sent them a nice note too. You guessed it — no response.

After a couple of weeks spent waiting for a response from executives who are meant to care about this sort of stuff, I revisited the customer support line. By now I was well trained in navigating the phone tree and knew how to fast track to get to an actual person. As it turned out, a very helpful person. Once I gave her the order number and she asked how she could help the alarm bells went off. Surely, I asked, my issues were already logged against the order number? Nope, all she had was a list of what I’d ordered. No way to capture the previous conversations? Again it seemed like I was a voice calling out in the wilderness. I asked if she had access to the survey I’d been sent and my response? Nope — different department, different system.

I asked if it would be possible for someone to take ownership of my problem and get it resolved. Off she went to find someone and came back with a promise that I’d get a call from someone who could help. This was a Monday.

Friday afternoon I get a call while I’m in a meeting. The voice mail asked me to call back to discuss the issues with my order. Now we’re getting somewhere. Except that the person who called went on vacation the following week, returning to a back-log of increasingly frustrated voice mails from me. Eventually, we spoke and she told me my table had officially been declared “lost in transit” (three months after it was supposed to have been delivered), and that because it’s now “out of patio season” I can either a) wait till it’s back in stock next year (with no guarantee they’d actually carry it next year), or b) get a refund. Guess which one I chose.

So it seems the saga is over. Except I still have a table-sized gap on my patio.

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

So Much VoC Data Collection and So Little Listening

The patio table saga did get me thinking about the VoC systems angle. Clearly this major national retail chain has VoC systems in place. From surveys, to help desks, to email, social media and more. Yet from my perspective as a customer these channels appear to be ignored and disconnected. The previous article mentioned how the initial purchase experience was a great example of the need for a holistic customer experience, that every interaction with your brand adds to the way your brand is perceived.

Let's call that the front-end perspective. Well, the same thing applies to your back-end systems for capturing the voice of the customer. It’s not only about running surveys, checking the number of likes or how long a help-desk call takes. Capturing the voice of your customer isn’t just about metrics, it’s about the stories behind the metrics.

Everyone in the company should be part of the process of listening, and reacting, to the voice of the customer. The customer’s stories, needs, and communications should flow from system to system and be available at every touch-point you have with that customer. Customers want to know that they are being heard, that their opinions count, and that you care about what they have to say. Yes, finding out about market trends, and delivery performance are important, but actually listening and responding drives the best trend of all — customer loyalty and repeat business.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to buy a new patio cafe table. Guess which store I WON’T be buying it from?

Related Article: Your Customers Are Speaking, Are You Listening?