Technology’s impact on the voice of the customer

There is pervading evidence of businesses and brands recognising the critical importance of listening to the voice of the customer (or VoC).

As customers and consumers ourselves you have, no doubt like me, noticed the increased presence of calls for our feedback be they pop ups on websites, invitations given to us at the shop till to take part in a “how did we do today” survey, comment cards in hotel rooms, questions flashing up on the chip and pin display, etc.

The need to get feedback from one’s customers is not a new imperative in the quest to improve the customer experience and gain competitive advantage.

What has changed, as illustrated above, is the range of ways to capture customer feedback; some customer feedback tools are traditional but others are increasingly tapping into latest voice of the customer technology to both capture and analyse the data:

  • surveys and requests for feedback on web sites
  • e-mailed requests for feedback
  • SMS
  • smart phone surveys
  • IVR [phone]
  • touch screen surveys.

As well as the broader social media space.

The benefits to customers of electronic data capture

 The benefits to the customer of these emerging customer feedback tools arguably include:

  • timeliness i.e. ability to give feedback when it is fresh in the customers’ minds; when a more prompt and meaningful resolution can be achieved e.g. if the temperature of the store they are shopping in or the coach in which they are travelling in is uncomfortable
  • convenience of giving feedback e.g. in the palm of my hand as in the case of SMS
  • the choice given to customers in how they wish to give their feedback e.g. some brands provide a wide range of feedback routes e.g. comment cards, SMS, phone, web site.

The benefits to retailers of the new customer feedback tools

 The benefits to companies are:

  • more robust sample sizes (greater reliability and representativeness) vs mystery shopping
  • more cost effective means of getting feedback
  • feedback from genuine customers vs. mystery shopping
  • speedier feedback, in some cases almost real time opportunities with which to respond
  • opportunity to recover negative experiences through alerting the operators at a particular location about a specific customer
  • opportunity to identify excellent customer behaviour and recognise and reward accordingly
  • feedback can be linked to the point of experience e.g. the store, the hotel, the restaurant, the coach etc and can also be linked to day and time of day. This level of detail really helps to refine operations e.g. managing staff rotas and work schedules.
  • brings businesses closer to their customers – finger on the pulse.

This potentially leads to more actionable and timely responses to the benefit of both customer and the business.  In turn, it helps to bring the business, its employees and agents closer to its customers.

In some cases, the customer feedback mechanism begins to link into customer relationship management:

  • customer details captured can be used to build customer data bases (pending opt ins/opt outs)
  • advocates can be invited to recommend others via the likes of Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

In such cases not only does the business get a better understanding of its customer base and the experience it offers, the feedback initiative also helps to build incremental business.

Things to consider when deploying electronic data capture

The means by which you obtain customer feedback and the kind of data captured is likely to depend upon the nature of your business and the kind of information and insight you believe you require. There is the danger that one gets engaged with the voice of the customer technologies available but loses sight of the original brief.

Arguably, as ever when listening to the voice of the customer, your chosen supplier needs to:

  • be able to capture the most appropriate data at the most appropriate moments in the customer journey, in the most appropriate way
  • have relevant analysis tools or the ability to assist you in any in-house analysis
  • produce appropriate reports and summaries e.g. dashboard summaries, executive level reports, branch reports etc
  • help you disseminate the feedback to the relevant stakeholders and colleagues in your business
  • help you use the information to assist you in operational and strategic direction.

Other things to consider when deploying data capture are:

  • incentivising responses (or not):  While some people are more than happy to volunteer comments, others will need some kind of incentive e.g. a prize draw.
  • the need to engage the front line staff:
    • From experience, the success or otherwise of the customer feedback initiatives are often a result of strong engagement and support of front line staff. This starts by informing them as to the background and rationale of the feedback and the benefits it will accrue to them both individually and as a team e.g. recognition and specific rewards.
    • This leads to staff encouraging the customers they interact with to give feedback.
    • Allow the customer to provide feedback they feel is relevant to them. Companies will want to include specific measures and metrics e.g. satisfaction, likelihood to revisit/repurchase, likelihood to recommend. There will also be elements of the offer or experience companies will want to follow up specifically. However, it is important to allow the customer the opportunity to feedback what is on their agenda. Arguably this opportunity for open-ended comment should be given towards the beginning of the feedback in this way one gets a clear view of what is emerging as important and relevant to the customer. It should also make the customer feel more inclined to answer the specific questions the company wants answering. The emerging issues can be captured as part of a pilot of the feedback initiative.
  • piloting the scheme:
    • a trial will provide the evidence that the chosen customer feedback technologies being used to obtain the feedback provide reliable data
    • it allows you to understand who is providing the feedback e.g. is it representative of your customer base? This may or may not be a problem but it is important to understand from whom you are getting feedback and if it is necessary to look at alternative ways of filling the gaps
    • it allows you to understand the spread of responses across the points of feedback e.g. by location or type of feedback mechanism. Sometimes it is down to some technical issues or it could be down to the degree of buy-in at the different locations and how the feedback from the customers is communicated back to the relevant teams and actioned upon.

Listen to the voice of the customer in order to understand and action

As indicated above, it is all well and good collecting such data using electronic data capture: the key steps are then in being able to understand what is behind the customers’ feedback.

Some of it can be evident from the ratings and verbatim or from follow-up conversations you may have with particular customers. The reasons behind the issues may be clear and understood e.g. not following a process or procedure, or growing evidence of negative staff attitude.

But sometimes it is not clear at first hand and it requires consultation amongst and across internal teams and functions. For example, the development of multi-channel retailing leads to quite complex processes between store, logistics and supply and the inherent source of the poor customer experience may require some detailed investigation and ultimately ownership of resolving the situation.

As with any feedback, receiving it constructively and as a means to provide continuous improvement is the way ahead and it can really help motivate and provide direction within a company.

By the company communicating to its customers that is has listened to them and is acting upon the feedback it allows customers to feel that it is worth their while to do it all again, and improves their overall perception of the company being customer focused. This appears to be happening increasingly amongst supermarkets, train operators and banks to name but a few.

Ultimately the desire to listen to one’s customers and to create change as a result has to be led from the top. Without the vision and focus from senior leaders the necessary ripple effect needed to touch and influence the rest of the organisation and ultimately its customers is unlikely to happen.

Take the next step

If you would like to find out more how to use technology to hear the voice of the customer more clearly, please get in touch.

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