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Voice of the customer (VoC) metrics can help diagnose underlying issues, give a new perspective on hypothetical programs and model the value of initiatives that might improve customer experience (CX).

“VoC data is an indispensable part of the puzzle of understanding consumer needs and intent,” said Jason Abromaitis, co-founder and CEO of Corus. “Without going into too much depth on NPS challenges, it’s important to give customers a simple way to share why they feel the way they do about your CX with MECE (mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive) sets of options.”

Respect Your Customers' Time

The first step is to collect proper VoC metrics. While numerous CX experts recommend surveys as the best method of collecting this data, not all surveys will provide sufficient or relevant information, according to Abromaitis.

“Respect your customer’s time,” Abromaitis said. “They don’t owe you anything, and their time has value. Don’t ask for too much by sending them to a lengthy questionnaire. Part of being concise is asking only for the data you need. Consider what problem you’re trying to solve and the reality of your organization’s ability to solve more than one problem at a time.

For example, a company seeking to identify the drivers of purchase behavior should keep the survey focused on those drivers and avoid adding additional questions about the checkout process or anything else that isn’t focused on purchase behavior. Customers will appreciate that the company is respecting their time.

“Being brief allows the data analysis to go more quickly, ensuring you get the insights you need,” Abromaitis added.

Collect Sentiment and Behavioral Data 

However, surveys may not be the best solution for all organizations, according to Paul Hagen, senior principal heading the customer experience and innovation strategy for West Monroe Partners.

“The ‘best’ way to collect VoC metrics depends on what metrics your firm defines,” Hagen explained. “If executives are focused on Net Promoter Score (NPS), then the firm needs to field a relationship survey with the NPS question to gather the metric. It may also want to field other transactional surveys and look at behavioral data to understand root causes.”

If, for example, Net Retention, Average Annual Revenue, or some other customized Customer Health Score is the key metric, teams may rely more on behavioral data already captured in existing systems. These teams may also want to field surveys to identify customers that are “at risk,” Hagen said.

“So strong VoC programs collect both sentiment (survey) and behavioral data,” Hagen said. “They also mine unstructured (text-based) data, such as contact center logs, chat transcripts, social media feedback, etc. And, they’ll gather feedback from front line employees to understand how the firm can improve experiences for customers.”

Related Article: Voice of the Customer Strategies: Effectively Turning Feedback Into Action

Follow the Clues in the Customer Journey

“VoC metrics remain very important because it includes a large input of touchpoints across the customer journey,” said Rachel Lane, solutions principal at Medallia. “Signals are an evolution of the survey. When the CX practice started to emerge, it collected periodic customer feedback surveys and this has now progressed into event-driven smart surveys, which are often in the moment and timely so as not to interrupt a customer journey, but rather to collect rich feedback right across the customer lifecycle."

This has been a very effective way of understanding journeys and pain points and will continue to form an important part of experience intelligence. But it doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Lane. It’s not just what the customer says but what the customer does that gives the full context of an experience. What happened prior to that feedback, the other brand interactions on different channels or with different media, will often add vital clues as to root causes and affected outcomes.

“It is important to be able to measure impact of moments across a journey but being able to measure the journey as a whole helps you realize whether or not the customer is achieving a desired outcome," Lane said. "NPS can be a useful measure but I also recommend Customer Effort Scoring (CES) as effort is a vital part of understanding ease to goal which is a key driver for delivering great journeys."  

Related Article: From Discovery to Action: How Do You Operationalize Customer Journey Maps?

A Few VoC Don’ts

When designing a VoC program, there are a few pitfalls to avoid as well, said Michele Booth, head of CX advisory at Ipsos:

  • Don’t set metrics and targets without understanding how they align with customer needs, the impact intended to be delivered, and capability of the organization to deliver upon the metrics targeted.
  • Don’t forget about linking customer feedback and metrics to additional data (employee feedback, operational data) and other loyalty metrics (engagement, renewal rates) to provide a more holistic and targeted set of actionable insights.
  • Don’t focus only on the score metric, without any tie to financial impact, and then “score chase” — blindly chasing score improvement with actions or behaviors that are misaligned to overall customer goals and ROI.

West Monroe’s Hagen said VoC programs get “stuck” for many reasons. It isn't enough to collect data and convert it into insight. To realize value, companies must be able to apply it to make changes that improve customer experience relationships, increase sales and strengthen competitive positioning.

Hagen added that VoC programs face many of the same change management challenges as other large organizational initiatives: lack of executive or other stakeholder support, insufficient resources, overwhelming amounts of analysis that make it hard to prioritize actions and lack of understanding among the masses.