CX Decoded Guest: Stephanie Thum, CCXP, founding principal of Practical CX
CX Decoded Podcast
February 9, 2021

CX Decoded Podcast Episode 2: Elevating Your Voice of the Customer Program

Every company in the history of the business world likely would benefit from listening to their customers. The challenge today? Customers talk. A lot. And in many different ways and in many different media platforms.

It’s on their brands to listen — and act. If it were only that easy.

Voice of the Customer (VoC) technology has become a billion-dollar business for vendors. And it seems like a billion-dollar challenge for customer experience practitioners: how do I manage my VoC data, programs and, most importantly, make it actionable for better customer experiences? How do I create strong feedback loops? What impact did COVID-19 have on VoC in 2020 and what will be the priority for CX professionals in this arena in 2021?

Co-hosts Rich Hein and Dom Nicastro of CMSWire and special guest Stephanie Thum, CCXP, founding principal of Practical CX, discuss the latest strategies to boost VoC programs and thrive in a rapidly changing world economy.

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.

Rich Hein: Hello, and welcome to CX Decoded by CMSWire, where we explore the technologies, people and practices defining the next generation of digital customer experiences. I am Rich Hein, head of content for CMSWire and Simpler Media Group. With me today I have my co-host, Dom Nicastro, senior reporter for CMSWire and Simpler Media Group, and Stephanie Thum, CCXP, founding principal of Practical CX.

We are here to talk about what is really a key ingredient to great CX, which of course is an organization's Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. There are still questions that are hanging out there like what does the future look like? What habits are we going to stick with when we are all beyond the COVID-19 pandemic? And these are all questions that a good VoC program can help you better answer.

Stephanie Thum: Those are some great opening remarks because so much of what we grew up with in customer experience is now quickly becoming the old way of doing things. As you said, we know that ecommerce exploded, we know that brick-and-mortar retail took a huge hit. And customers made it very clear, particularly at the onset of COVID, that they expect clean, contactless, privacy-centric experiences.

We also know that things like influencer marketing took its place in the whole customer experience arena and order delivery got a lot of airtime. So the entire business discipline of customer experience really grew in importance. The one thing that did not change is the importance of listening to the voice of your customers.

Dom Nicastro: We consider our audience VPs of customer experience and pretty high-level CX folks like C-Suite wannabees. But for someonejust getting into customer experience, just starting a CX program, a Voice of the Customer program, can you give us that real basic, high level definition of what is Voice of the Customer?

Stephanie Thum: This is where I got started in my CX career, where I was really bitten by the CX bug — with VoC. VoC means Voice of the Customer. And essentially it is listening to your customer. And today, there are a lot of ways that you can do that. Depending on what makes the most sense for your business, there are online customer reviews, you have social media listening and of course surveys. Who hasn't taken a survey a customer satisfaction survey?

From a business perspective, you've also got incoming customer complaints. You've got people giving you feedback in person, maybe over the phone, feedback forms, competitor analysis. And secret shopping is also a way to sort of get in the shoes of your customer and acquire some feedback.

Rich Hein: I know that there are a lot of methods out there for gathering data from your customers. But when we talked previously, you thought there was a lot to be gained specifically from reviews. And I'd also love to hear more about how social listening has evolved.

Stephanie Thum: I am a huge advocate for all kinds of customer feedback. And using the mechanisms that make the most sense for your business, I actually came up through client interviews, and I absolutely love that form of feedback.

But what's really fascinating right now is the explosion of online customers. And what makes them so exciting and so interesting is the fact that online customer reviews exploded with the explosion of ecommerce last year. And with this explosion in ecommerce, we've learned a few things about the psychology of online reviews.

Empirically, we have more than just conjecture to go on with respect to the significance of online reviews.Online reviews can do a couple of different things: they can make customers aware, or they can influence them to buy. And there's some debate about the overall effectiveness of online reviews.

The second thing that's really fascinating is a study that I just read about mobile online reviews. What we know from the study was for reviews that were left on a travel website, customers were more apt to be influenced to buy, and marketers and business development folks will love this, when an online review was written from a mobile device. So customers perceive those reviews online reviews to be more credible, and more persuasive for buying because there's a perception that it took the reviewer a longer time. So they're more committed to actually leaving that review.

And the third thing that I think is really important to pass along about online reviews is we also know empirically, customers hate it when companies poke shameless plugs for their next sale, in response to negative feedback. You don't want to respond to a not-so-great online review by saying, oh, we're so sorry, you had this experience; here's 20% off our next sale for next month. That damages the relationship with a customer because that shameless promotion of yourself comes across as self-promotion, rather than really being open to listening to that feedback.

Dom Nicastro: They always say, Stephanie, that happy employees means happy customers. But how do you really collect that data together and make them work for ultimately good customer experiences?

Stephanie Thum: I think it's all still a work in progress. I know that there are some consultants out there that would like to offer you that silver bullet, and we still don't have a silver bullet on this. But what we do know are the anecdotes that we have that when customer experience starts to see a correlation with improved employee experiences you have to stay on the pulse of employee feedback.

And it's so much more important now than it ever has been in remote and virtual team environments. We're living in this digitally mediated working world where it's never been more important. What I find in my consulting work, and what I saw as a practitioner for over 15 years, was that it is not sexy, it is not easy. It requires work and continuing to put things together in ways that makes sense for your business and in ways that resonates with executives.