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The majority of companies are ineffective at working customer feedback into corporate decisions, according to a recent Forrester report on the effectiveness of CX and VoC programs. Only 24% of respondents to the survey said customer feedback is effectively addressed.

Why is there such a disconnect? And what can brands do to address it?

VoC Fix #1: Shift Focus to Outcomes

“VoC and CX programs are broken because they’re not well designed to respond to the customer feedback they collect,” said David Roberts, CEO of Alchemer, which sponsored the Forrester report. “They are focused too heavily on data collection, dashboards and aggregated insights, and not on outcomes. It’s difficult to drive results from aggregated data, especially if it’s centrally managed. These programs need to be designed to close the insights-to-action gap, so that every customer sees the result of their input.”

Companies can use technology to push specific customer input to the employees and into the systems that drive the business forward, Roberts added. “VoC practitioners can fix their programs by making them more action-oriented. The feedback that customers and employees provide should drive a response from the organization, not in aggregate, but specifically in response to that customer. Properly collected and responded to, customer feedback can improve customer support, change shipping schedules, shape customer meetings, improve workplace safety and drive more effective candidate recruiting processes.”

Too many companies build VoC programs with “survey and score” in mind, added Rick Denton, president of EX4CX LLC. “They send out a survey and review the results in their mahogany-table monthly meeting. The group applauds when the score goes up and sheds a small tear when the score goes down. Then the group moves to ‘more pressing’ business.”

With no action, there’s no value to a VoC program, Denton explained. Without value, the program eventually fades away or is actively cut.

“Companies that want to fix this need to move from survey and score to a listen and act approach,” Denton added. “Listen across all dimensions of a customer’s voice ... that’s not just a survey ... that’s social media, that’s listening to customer calls and chats coming into your company, that’s actual conversations ‘in the wild’ with your customers, that’s talking with your front-line which interacts with your customer.”

Related Article: Empathy Fuels Today's VoC Programs

VoC Fix #2: Inform Customers of Actions

“It’s no surprise most customers believe their feedback isn’t addressed effectively. For starters, many companies fail to act on feedback,” said Ali Cudby, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. “Even when companies take that next step and actually effect change based on feedback, they don’t always let customers know changes were made. From the customer’s perspective, there’s no way to know they’ve been heard. That’s annoying”

The baseline for response should be a personalized email thanking the customer for their specific feedback, said Cudby. She recommends marketers clearly communicate what their companies will do to address customer feedback.

“Companies have good intentions,” Cudby added. “Where they generally fall short is in having specific, actionable game plans for addressing feedback effectively. To remedy this shortcoming, create playbooks that guide every employee, step-by-step, through what’s expected of them when they receive customer feedback. Design separate playbooks for formal feedback (i.e., survey responses) and the informal feedback employees receive in the course of normal customer interaction.”

Related Article: Is Your VoC Program All Talk and No Action?

VoC Fix #3: Having a Corporate-Wide Focus on Customer Feedback

In a report conducted in conjunction with MIT CISR (pdf), CustomerGauge found:

  • Companies can't close the loop with customers at scale and lack the operational processes to deeply integrate feedback into their roadmaps.
  • Often, the Voc/CX program is limited to a single department.
  • Lack of buy-in from the C-Suite.

"We recommend all companies that have an experience program start with ROI," said Ian Luck, CustomerGauge vice president of marketing. "The goal should be to generate an ROI for your program first so you're speaking the C-suite's language. A surprising amount of programs stall because the CEO or COO cannot tie their NPS or experience program to revenue growth as promised. By connecting the program to referrals, you're generating net new revenue, which will ensure proper alignment at the top levels all the way to sales reps.”

Some global enterprises have thousands or millions of customers. Without a proper system or plan to help them scale the program, companies and experience champions can start to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, Luck added. "You need a plan and a solid set of goals and outputs (we recommend revenue once again) that everyone can get behind or else the program will flounder.”

Failed VoC programs are disconnected to the organizational decision-making process, agreed Shellie Vornhagen, Astute CXO. To be truly customer focused, leaders must gather customer feedback, synthesize into an executive summary or dashboard and use the insights to drive strategic decisions within the company.

“Gathering feedback is often the easy part,” Vornhagen added. “Analyzing customer responses is harder and more time-consuming. Many organizations miss or underdeliver on the synthesis and analysis which could drive better business decisions. Even when quality customer feedback and strong analysis do exist, it can be challenging to contextualize the responses and know what to do next.”