A new survey of 115 companies by CCMC and Call Center Pipeline found four important aspects are critical to Voice of the Customer program success. These factors were:
- Explicit inclusion of the quality function as a key part of the team;
- Creation of a specific revenue-based business case in the content of the Voice of the Customer program presentation;
- Expansion of the range of data included in the voice of the customer to go beyond touchpoint data;
- Use of specific measures of voice of the customer impact, such as percentage of issues raised that are resolved.
The study used two key outcome variables to measure Voice of the Customer program success: percentage of issues identified by the customer experience research that were fixed and the rate of increase in year-over-year customer experience satisfaction. Thirty-five companies had two four percent year-over-year increases in customer satisfaction and eight companies greater than four percent year-over-year.
The most successful programs on the above metrics are differentiated by the following factors:
- A Voice of the Customer process led by a cross-functional committee that included quality;
- Coordinated data collection, across the entire customer journey, including operational data, employee input and touchpoint data to describe the customer experience;
- The production of a unified analysis of the data sources vs. analyzing them separately;
- The creation of a compelling business case which quantifies the revenue, customers at risk, word-of-mouth (WOM) cost of issues as well as the cost of not taking action; and
- Measurement of the impact of the Voice of the Customer process by tracking the resolution of issues identified. Companies that have a high rate of fixing issues identified by the Voice of the Customer also exhibit a much higher year-over-year increase in customer satisfaction. If the impact is not measured, it can’t be improved.
The study confirmed the importance of the eight factors for an effective Voice of the Customer program that are described in the second edition of Strategic Customer Service.
- One executive in charge of the Voice of the Customer program;
- Unified data collection plan;
- Data integrated into a unified picture of the customer experience;
- Issues must be granular and actionable;
- Create an economic imperative for action;
- Define targets for improvement and suggest potential action plans;
- Track results of efforts to fix issues; and
- Establish incentives tied directly to the Voice of the Customer issues;
Who is on the team is important
The study of CCMC found that Voice of the Customer processes led by a cross functional team were generally the most effective. A critical participant is the quality function. The study revealed that eighty-four percent of companies achieving the highest rate of year-over-year satisfaction improvement were led by the Quality function.
A second important factor is the creation of an executive position that is formally or informally responsible for customer experience management across the entire customer journey.
Call to action – Corporate Quality, Customer Insights (CI) and/or Market Research functions provide analytical and project management expertise, which enhances the Service and Marketing executives’ ability to leverage the data. An executive champion for the customer experience should be designated as part of any business’s customer experience strategy.
Both the data collection plan and the data collected are important
The data collection plan should collect data describing the end-to-end customer journey with a special focus on marketing, sales and customer onboarding, activities which are often underreported. Eighty-six percent of companies using a single unified data collection plan across all data sources to ensure data compatibility are high performing, meaning that they have high satisfaction rates and high issue resolution.
Data compatibility requires the same level of granularity and similar classifications for all customer issues. Only 45 percent of companies without a unified strategy were high performing.
Data on marketing and sales processes (including customer onboarding) often is not collected by companies or included in the Voice of the Customer. In fact, customer education and warning about potential limitations builds trust and transparency, but customer onboarding and education are the most poorly performed functions in most companies.
Our study collected and inventoried eleven types of data and compared them to the Voice of the Customer program effectiveness to identify if a certain data type contributed to success (as measured by issues fixed and increased satisfaction rate). Surveys, complaints and contacts and operational exception and failure data were primary data sources.
CCMC was also surprised to learn that every Voice of the Customer program that was using speech analytics was also high performing on getting issues fixed. It may be that. besides being able to draw on more data sources, such as call recordings and email texts, the actual statements of customers and sentiment analysis better engages the internal executive with the emotional impact of the information.
Call to action – An overall data collection plan should ensure that operational exception, contact and survey data are captured and analyzed using speech analytics.
Analysis must be centralized and include a business case acceptable to the CFO
Analysis is best conducted by a committee that meets periodically. Seventy percent of companies using a committee model are high performing versus thirty-seven percent that are not high performing because their analysis is fragmented or performed by only one function. CCMC suspects that joint analysis leads to joint buy-in by all the functions.
A business case at the customer problem or issue level compels action. The most powerful dimensions reported are the number of customers at risk due to the issue, revenue-at-risk, and WOM impact. WOM and margin (sensitivity to price), are especially compelling to marketing executives because customers acquired by WOM are less price sensitive and 26 percent more valuable in long term revenue. Further, the cost of customer acquisition via WOM is much lower than other marketing mechanisms.
The survey found that companies presenting a business case based on revenue, customer at risk and WOM were significantly more likely to have a high rate of satisfaction increase.
Part of problem analysis is identifying the root cause of the problem so that preventive strategies can be developed. CCMC has found that problems caused by customer error or incorrect expectations usually contribute to twenty to thirty percent of the total universe of problems. The weighted average of the respondents’ estimate of customer caused issues was 28.6%, confirming CCMC’s other findings.
Call to action – A centralized analysis team must be created to assure buy-in and impact. The analysis should estimate customers at risk by individual issue along with conservative estimates of associated revenue and WOM. A key part of the analysis should identify issues due to customer error and incorrect expectations which can be addressed by more transparent marketing and customer onboarding.
Measuring Voice of the Customer Program Impact
Of the one hundred and fifteen companies that responded to the survey, only 61 (53 percent) were able to report the percentage of issues identified by their Voice of the Customer program that were addressed and resolved within a year. Seventy-seven percent were able to report their year-over-year trend in satisfaction.
Companies that did not measure the impact of their Voice of the Customer program were much more likely to not have improvements in satisfaction year-over-year and several actually reported significant declines. One best practice was monitoring download of Voice of the Customer data from the data warehouse and reporting those operating units that were not making use of the data.
Call to action – Track the impact of the Voice of the Customer program on major issues identified and report quarterly.
Implications and Recommendations
The survey revealed that only about half of companies are effectively managing and measuring their Voice of the Customer program. Customer experience and Voice of the Customer managers should ask five questions.
- What data sources exist that will reliably describe the customer journey from the first marketing touch to final product use?
- Are we collecting data on each phase of the customer journey in a manner that allows creation of a single, unified picture of the CX?
- Are all the key functions involved in the analysis of the data, including Quality?
- Does the analysis produce a business case including revenue and WOM implications?
- Are we tracking the impact of the Voice of the Customer program in terms of actually getting issues resolved?
 John Goodman, & Scott Broetzmann, Strategic Customer Service, Harper Collins, March 2019
 John A Goodman and Ken Feldman, Ph.D., “Quality’s New Frontier, Applying Continuous Improvement to Marketing and Sales”, Quality Progress, June 2016
A 1970s trailblazer in CX, John turned industry thinking on its head with his groundbreaking research. Author of definitive CX books and more, John is now known worldwide as a leading expert on win-win customer care.