How can you ensure your VoC programmes delivers genuine insights and value for your business?
One way is not to fall into the trap of following the standard, but flawed approach. I covered my concerns about VoC surveys being a poor guide to customer service and motivations in a previous post. Below I outline some strategies to ensure your VoC programme delivers real and valuable insights.
1. Give stakeholder management the highest priority:
- The single biggest mistake companies often make when establishing VoC programmes is that senior management assume they can agree the objectives and then leave the research team to go away and deliver insights that will drive improvements in the targeted KPIs. To gain real benefits from VoC programmes requires a shift in the business culture towards a more customer-centric way of running a business. This requires a high level of commitment and involvement from senior managers.
- Without a change in business culture VoC initiatives risk becoming sterile and primarily a PR tool rather than a force for driving customer centric change. If the customer is not at the heart of all decision making within a business then a VoC programme will always be at the periphery of attention and influence.
- Actions are more important than words. Management need to get their hands dirty by getting involved in co-creation and collaborative techniques to begin a two-way conversation with customers and influencers. Management can’t expect staff to be passionate about improving the customer experience if they cannot spare the time to have conversations with real people.
2. Agree a process for action planning and implementation of recommendations.
- When you first agree your objectives of the VoC programme you also need to outline a process for action planning that is signed off by the senior stakeholders. I summarised in a previous post a process for action planning. But whatever your approach,if it is not agreed up front with your stakeholders you risk losing commitment and momentum at a crucial stage in the process.
- Evidence suggests that the process is probably more important than the analysis as data can easily be interpreted in different ways. It is essential that you involve people from a range of different areas in your organisation and have a diverse mix of skills and expertise. This is the best way to avoid the dangers of group think that can lead to small groups being too narrowly focused. It’s a good idea to invite people who have no managerial responsibility or influence over the areas of investigation as they have no axe to grind and can contribute a fresh perspective to the discussion.
3. Engage with front-line customer facing staff.
- Although people are very poor at recognising their underlying motivations and recalling behaviour at a given moment, we are much better at observing and understanding what drives other people. This is why sales people and customer facing staff are such a good source of insights into what problems customers experience and what they respond well to.
- Don’t rely on what Customer Services management tell you as all too often organizational culture prevents front-line staff from being totally honest about problem areas. For numerous reasons people don’t want to be perceived as negative about their organisation in front of management, especially if they want to progress in their career.
4. Analyse real customer interactions with your organization or product.
- The true VoC is when a customer is interacting with your employees or other customers. This may not be through traditional channels such as face-to-face or telephone, but could be through your website or social media. However, real people are still behind most of these interactions. Even a website robot chat greeter was originally designed by a human.
- Video mystery shopping is a powerful tool for face-to-face interactions. It is great for showing examples of good practice for training purposes and identifying training needs of poor performing staff. Many organizations now routinely record customer telephone conversations with staff. Take a random sample of calls and analyse the experience to better understand both the level of service and how well the customer’s task or need was fully satisfied. Develop a framework to ensure consistency of analysis or bring in customer experience consultants to help you evaluate calls.
- Observational techniques, such as ethnography, also helps bring the real customer experiences to life. Combined with good listening skills, observing how customers interact with your product can provide new insights to assist you in improving customer acquisition and retention. Stop asking too many questions, and instead observe product usage in a natural environment. Don’t assume customers use your product in the same way that you would.
- Experiment with customer feedback tools for online services to identify the tasks people are trying to complete on your website. Find out what barriers they experience which may hinder task completion. Visual behaviour tools, such as heatmaps and browser recordings (see my Website Optimization Toolbox
for a list of suppliers), allow you to see how customers interact with your site. By combining the insights with web analytics you can generate ideas to develop hypothesis for improving the customer experience which you can validate through A/B and multivariate testing.
- Humans are a “super-social”* animal, and our decisions and behaviour is heavily influenced by the opinions and actions of others. For this reason it can be extremely valuable to identify key influencers and networks that are important to your customers. Research suggests these are not the traditionally targeted early-adopters who are often too engrossed in a
gadget to talk with other people.
- No, social influencers are people that others trust and turn to for advice. They usually have a natural ability to persuade but they are trusted due to their authenticity and independence. The degree to which these people are connected across social and interest groups is crucial and is probably the result of their personality and a source of their influence. These are the type of people you should be listening to as they are often a driver of your customer behaviour.
- Co-create with key influencers and you stand more of a chance of engaging and motivating the mass of your customer base. Consulting with these people can help you better understand perceptions of your brand and allow you to tap into the real driver of customer behaviour.
Thank you for reading my post and I hope it has generated some ideas that you can use in your VoC programme.
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- About the author: Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.com and Bgo.com.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.