Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are a cornerstone of successful customer experience programs. Yet the way this data is collected and used varies dramatically from one organization to another. 

Voice of the Customer strategies are designed to help organizations see a full view of their customers. The needs, wants, behaviors and challenges of customers can be identified by collecting and analyzing data from various sources.

This collective data leads to insights. Then, action can be taken to improve the customer experience. The Holy Grail is a 360-view of the customer to better meet and exceed their expectations.

Why Don't Companies Have 360-Degree Customer View?

However, according to a report from Gartner, only 14% of companies felt they had a 360-degree view of the customer. Customer feedback is typically collected in both direct and indirect ways. Customers share feedback via surveys, polls, interviews and more. But they also share feedback indirectly through social media and user reviews. 

There’s structured feedback, like Net Promoter Score (NPS) results, as well as unstructured feedback, like customer emails and calls. The best VoC programs also include operational and behavioral data, like how customers travel through the digital experience and how often they purchase or renew.

All of this data is valuable and provides the most value when combined to see how the customer is thinking, feeling and behaving in regard to their relationship with your brand. Data is often summarized and distilled into a dashboard with graphs, highlighted scores and more. 

The challenge is when the dashboard is not given context or seen as representing the humans it's supposed to represent. Customer experience leaders are reduced to reporting numbers only. They share what numbers went up and down. They stand behind the colorful dashboard as a sign of progress. I call this role “number narrator.” This is not the ideal role for a customer experience leader. 

And if we agree that the point of any feedback collection is to use it to gain insights that lead to action, we need to move other leaders to feel the urgency of that action. Too many VoC insights are not presented with enough “voice” to prompt real actions. If your Voice of the Customer program is falling flat, it’s time to include the actual, human, real-life voice of your customers.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Voice of the Customer Initiatives 

Use Real Words for Customer Support

It’s one thing to say customers are reporting a lower level of satisfaction with the ordering process. It’s another to use a few quotes: 

  • “I used to love this brand, but now I feel forgotten. I’m looking for options.” 
  • “I’ve tried. I ordered two products from this company and both arrived broken.”
  • “I called customer service to solve my problem, but instead I got attitude and incompetence.”

The power of real words can move even a skeptical executive beyond a numbers-only dashboard. Spreadsheets and graphs are easy to consider as “data” that is removed from the people they represent. The real words of customers are emotional reminders of the individuals and what they’re feeling. Look for quotes from verbatims on surveys, social media reviews or recorded calls to make your case. Quotes that use feeling words are powerful. Ideally, the regular reports and dashboards can include quotes from customers to add color commentary to the Voice of the Customer program.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? 

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Graphs

That might be overstating it. But there is a place for photographs or illustrations to tell the customer story. This can be especially useful if the ideal experience has been envisioned but not yet executed. 

For example, one airline had a goal of creating a better experience for customers who were picking up pets. The customer feedback was full of complaints about the dirty, noisy and impersonal experiences customers had with this specific interaction. They felt the airline hadn’t met its promise and were concerned about the experience of their pets. 

Learning Opportunities

To inspire the right experience, the airline staged what the pet pickup would look like ideally. The family was happily greeting their beloved dog, who was eagerly exiting the pet carrier. The space was well-lit and clean, and the airline employee was smiling at the happy situation. 

Photos of the actual experiences were included as a way to track progress. The photos that exemplified either the most progress or the least were sometimes included in the Voice of the Customer reporting. 

Photos of dark, dirty spaces with anxious-looking customers awaiting their pets became wake-up calls for leaders to invest in this part of the journey, even if it was less visible than other experiences.

Many organizations are sitting on large collections of contact center audio recordings. Now, with chat and in-app communications, there are logs that also tell a story. Pick a few recordings to share the actual, real-life voice of the customer. Technology makes it easy now to edit out unnecessary parts of the discussion. A 30-second clip can help leaders understand that those shipping delays are creating real-life problems for customers. The tone of voice allows the listener to not only understand the logic of the situation, but to connect directly to the emotions of stress, frustration, anxiety or disappointment.

Recordings include not just the words but the actual emotion of the customer and the contact center representative. This is also a good way to share what these employees are dealing with daily. 

Related Article: 4 Ways to Receive Better Voice of the Customer Input

Context Is Key for Voice of Customer

The hard truth here is that Voice of the Customer dashboards and reports run the risk of becoming irrelevant if CX leaders don’t provide context around how feedback provides insights and how insights lead to action. These leaders must discuss and share the data and do so in a way that provides context for the other leaders.

So before you report on your VoC program, ask what context you can provide. What does a higher net promoter score result do for the organization? What caused the increase or decrease in metrics? Are there ways to tell the story with more humanity and emotion? 

Voice of the Customer is all about listening. CX leaders need to ensure the data collected really gets heard, understood and acted upon. Otherwise, what’s the point of listening?

Don’t be shy about bringing in the actual voice of your customers. They shared their thoughts because they wanted you to hear them.

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