Posted on 2017-11-13 15:11 by Annette Franz, CCXP


As we wrap up 2017 and think about how we're going to do things better or differently in 2018, I thought I'd summarize some of the challenges those listening to the voice of the customer continue to face. You're listening to the whole Customer- and Employee Journey, right?

Only 14% of companies have reached the two highest levels of VoC maturity (out of six levels), while 46% remain in the bottom two levels. While most companies think that their VoC efforts are successful, less than one-quarter of companies consider themselves good at making changes to the business based on the insights, according to the Temkin Group’s State of Voice of Customer Programs 2017 report.

Compare to the 2016 results, the single most significant improvement lies in "VoC Collectors" and "VoC Collaborators," and there are moderate changes in "VoC Analyzers" and "VoC Transformers" in the outcomes for 2017.

  • 1% (4 %) are VoC Transformers — linking customer insights to operational data and processes and strategic planning throughout the company.
  • 13% (39%) are VoC Collaborators — tailoring customer feedback to stakeholders who are diligently engaged in continuous improvement.
  • 40% (41%) are VoC Analyzers — spending the majority of their time finding insights from VoC data.
  • 37% (14%) are VoC Collectors — just getting started in selecting listening posts, questions to ask and metrics to use.
  • 9% (2%) are VoC Novices — in the early stages of developing their VoC approach.




Key take-aways from the research and Themkin Group

While most companies think that their VoC efforts are successful, less than one-quarter of companies consider themselves good at making changes to the business based on the insights.

Companies find their VoC programs to be most valuable for “identifying and fixing quick-hit operational issues” and least valuable for “identifying innovative product and service ideas.”

Companies expect technology will continue to heavily impact their VoC programs in the future, especially for integrating survey data with CRM and operational data.

In the future, companies expect the most important source of insights to be customer interaction history and the least significant source to be multiple-choice questions.

The most common activity for VoC teams is defining customer experience metrics for their companies, and this action became even more popular over the past year.

Only 14% of companies have reached the two highest levels of VoC maturity (out of six levels), while 46% remain in the bottom two levels.

When Temkin Group compared higher-scoring VoC programs with lower-scoring programs, they found that companies with mature programs are more successful, technology-focused, and mobile-oriented and have more full-time staff and more involved senior executives.

Companies with more mature VoC programs identified “integration across systems” as the most common obstacle they face, while less mature VoC programs struggle the most with “cooperation across the organization.”

As technology and the flow (flood? influx?) of data evolve, so must your VOC efforts. These and other aspects of a changing business world create challenges that have to be addressed and adaptations that must be made, to stay on the cutting edge. Pay attention to these items to ensure that you're getting the most out of your customer feedback.


Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction…you must improve. -Horst Schulz


VoC Listening and dialogue

Humanize the dialogue: Yes, you have to shape the dialogue for a human being. And therefore there has to be a relevant, personal and direct dialogue with the customer. Best practice is around 3-4 questions in the dialogue. The dialogue has to be "smart". For example, if the customers is very dissatisfied, stop asking more questions and instead offer the customer to instantly provide open text feedback while you also provide instant and quick callback from a frontline employee or manager who can help the customer directly, thus capturing "at risk customers" in real time.

Timeliness of surveys: In this day and age, it's hard to believe that companies still don't ask for feedback in a timely manner, i.e., sending survey invites days or weeks after a transaction. 

Length of surveys: Gone are the days of the 15-page surveys; today's surveys must be very short and relevant, i.e., asking about the specific topic at hand, not five other things because you have the customer's attention. 

Transaction vs. Relationship: Understand the difference between transaction dialogues, immediately following a transaction that takes place in the customer's journey and where you have a designated listening point, and relationship dialogues that could occur yearly, quarterly or monthly. No customer will remember the experience of a micro-moment taking place 30 days ago.

Preferred listening method: Companies have to offer a way for customers to provide feedback through their preferred channels. Think Mobile First: it's not going away.

Other listening posts: Surveys are no longer the only way to listen to the voice of the customer; consider customer advisory boards, social media, frontline employees, product reviews, etc.

Other voices: Listening to the voice of the customer is critical, but so is listening to and incorporating the voices of your employees, partners, market, and business.

Silos: Do you have too many hands in the surveying pot, i.e., every department wants to survey, but there is no central management of survey campaigns, communication, etc.?

Checking the box: Companies are still conducting feedback to "check the box" rather than for meaningful listening and acting.


VoC Data

Accuracy: A lot of customer contact information is still incorrect or outdated. You can't solicit feedback or follow up with customers if you can't contact them.

Large volumes, social media/unsolicited, and unstructured: I'll lump these three together because they tend to require the same solution, i.e., the right tools in place to handle, manage, synthesize, and analyze.

Disparate sources and silos: These challenges tend to go together, too, as they require not only tools to facilitate breaking down silos, e.g., journey maps, but also tools to facilitate cross-silo compilation, communication, and sharing, in general. Cross-channel data must be funneled and combined in such a way that allows for a cohesive, consistent multichannel customer experience.


VoC Analyzing

Tools: Organizations must have the right tools in place to analyze their mounds of data, but they also need...

Personnel: Software is not the only tool needed here; having the right skill set (person) in-house to know what to do with those tools is equally important. And these analytical minds must also deliver...

Insights: And while tools and people are part of this challenge, understanding their outputs and gleaning insights and stories to tell from those outputs are just as critical.


VoC Sharing/Acting

Silos: Feedback collected and analyzed in a siloed manner is not shared or distributed to those who need to act on it.

Employee recognition or coaching: Feedback about outstanding customer experiences is not being tied to employee recognition; on the flipside, employees also need to hear the negative feedback and then be coached on aspects of their performance that hinder the experience.

Closing the loops: In the most simplistic sense, the inner loop comprises all the individual-level interactions, learnings and changes that occur within the Net Promoter System® while the outer loop deals with all the macro-level changes and learnings. Companies are still not fully closing the loop with customers who provide feedback, whether through surveys or some other format, e.g., social media. If your customers take the time to tell you how you're doing, you need to take the time to respond and to let them know they've been heard.

Communication: Many companies are still failing to communicate before, during, or after they send out surveys (or use other listening posts); let customers know why you're collecting feedback and what the resultant improvements are.

Notice that "silos" is a common theme throughout. I know that breaking down silos is a hard thing to do, especially in large organizations. And some would argue that silos are a good thing. I don't agree. The only common theme throughout the organization should be "a relentless, cohesive focus on the customer." Now that's a good thing.

These are the challenges that I continue to see with VoC initiatives today. Will they be tomorrow's challenges, too? I know. It's a tall order to fix all of these things. It's not too early to start chipping away at them for a better outcome in 2018.


If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting. -Stephen Cove


Topics: Customer Expeience operations, Customer Experience insights, Net Promoter Score®, Voice of The Customer, Voice of the employee

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About the Author

Annette Franz, CCXP
Annette Franz, CCXP
Annette has led Consulting Services departments for several companies that focus on improving both the customer experience and the employee experience by utilizing their software platforms to facilita... read more