How To Make “Voice of Customer” Your Game Changer

How To Make “Voice of Customer” Your Game Changer

Who are your favorite companies, and what makes you brand loyal? People typically answer this question based on how well a business understands and meets their needs. Buying decisions go way beyond price as we often pay a higher cost to shop at a particular place.

Consider coffee, for example. Customers, including me, spend triple the price at Starbucks compared to other local coffee shops. Why would we pay more money on purpose? The reason is that the most reputable brands, like Starbucks, proactively LISTEN to the voice of customer (also referred to as VoC) and use feedback to deliver personalized experiences that exceed customer expectations. 

Research  prove the value of doing CX right, such as a study  conducted by PWC. People were asked: “How much would you pay for the following product  or service if the company provides a great customer experience?” As shown in the image below, the answer is a lot, and getting it right is real!

The price premium for great customer experience:

Price Premium for Customer Experiences and Customer ServiceSource: PWC Future of Customer Experience Survey

Best in class companies also care about employee views and empowers their staff to deliver customer excellence. Their competitive edge comes from humanizing business, and you can apply the same principles no matter where you work. 

 

THREE WAYS TO DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BRAND 

 

#1. Leverage Voice of Customer (VoC) In Everything You Do   

VoC is a valuable research method that enables you to understand the difference between customer expectations and how well you deliver what they need. Even if you believe there is no gap, your customer may think differently, and you must know that to adapt your strategies. Customer perception is YOUR reality. 

 Asking customers about their overall satisfaction level helps you gauge the likelihood of them continuing to purchase and recommend your products and services. Getting high-level feedback is good, but the magic happens when you dig deep into the customer journey. I highly recommend you ask customers to rate their experiences and provide comments about EVERY interaction point, commonly referred to as “moments of truth.” 

If you have not launched a business and do not have customers yet, then co-create a journey map with your target audiences (also referred to as personas). There are plenty of resources on the internet to guide you through the process, including my blog, DoingCXRight. My point is that getting Voice of Customer feedback in the right way and at the right time is essential for business success.   

 Most people rely on surveys as their Voice fo Customer source. While valuable, it must not be your only method of getting customer feedback. Additional useful data comes from: 

  • Website contact forms 
  • Interviews (online and in-person)
  • Social media
  • Ratings and Reviews (on your site & external rating pages)
  • Website visitor behavior analytics
  • Customer Care Call Data
  • Website Live Chat

I recommend aggregating and centralizing all VoC insights to understand your customers’ views from a holistic perspective. It’s a critical job function, so either assign the role in your organization to someone who has the right skill sets, or outsource the work. 

 

Step 2: Turn Voice of Customer Data Into Actionable Insights. 

 Obtaining customer feedback and analyzing the data takes time, but it is well worth it. You can’t possibly develop products, services, and market messages without understanding what your customers think and feel. 

 There are tools to help you compile, analyze, and prioritize data so that you know where to focus your improvement efforts. Some reputable time-saving platforms include Qualtrics. Medallia. Hubspot. Clarabridge, and more. They vary in capabilities and costs. If you have minimal or no budget, then start with manual methods of collecting customer feedback and using the data to inform your business decisions and changes.   

#3: Close The Loop With Customers 

If you ask customers what they think, then inform them what actions you took because of their feedback. For example, if you lead a focus group to design a new product, follow up with participants to show what you created because of their input. Even better, offer a discount that is not available to the public to express appreciation. If you have a centralized survey team, who calls customers share recordings and notes with your sales teams so they can contact customers, rectify issues, and thank them, too. 

 

THE GAME CHANGER 

Top performing companies combine Voice of Employee (VoE) and Voice of Customer (VoC) as part of their decision-making process. Asking employees for feedback makes them feel heard and valued. And, when that happens, their commitment and engagement to deliver customer satisfaction increases. Happy employees fuel happy customers. That is the formula for Customer Experience (CX) success. 

 

15 Customer Experience Best Practices:

  1. Ask employees for feedback as it serves as a valuable data source, but VoE must never replace VoC. 
  2. Respect customer intelligence. People know when companies are claiming to be customer-centric but are actually “checking a box.” 
  3. Make the feedback process easy and convenient. Provide options such as calling, texting, or emailing. 
  4. Improve your customer journey based on both qualitative and quantitative data. A smile or frown by itself does not reveal much. Learn the “WHY” and “WHO” factors. 
  5. Thank people for their time in giving feedback. Inform what you’ll do with their input. Communication and gratitude go a long way. 
  6. Actively listen. Do not sound like a robot or reading from a survey script.  
  7. Personalize your customer communications. You will gain better response rates. 
  8. Choose your questions wisely. If you don’t ask correctly, you won’t get actionable answers.     
  9. Capture feedback often. Customer and employee needs are changing rapidly.  
  10. Listen to what customers say across different channels. Improve experiences based on a 360 view. 
  11. Share feedback results with internal stakeholders. It helps drive a culture where everyone owns CX.
  12. Knowledge is power. Do not let the fear of responses be a reason you do not ask for feedback.  
  13. Assess satisfaction & establish benchmarks for year over year comparisons. You cannot fix what you do not measure. 
  14. Recruit and hire customer-centric individuals to achieve your CX mission. It’s all about people! 
  15. Create a culture where EVERYONE owns CX and is accountable for customer excellence, not just leaders at the top.

REMEMBER: 

Proactively ask for feedback and use the insights to improve customer and employee experiences. Let them know of what changes occurred because of their input, as that is how you gain loyal brand advocates. On the contrary, if you do not follow CX best practices, people will switch to a competitor. According to PWC,

1 in 3 will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.”

It costs a lot of time and resources to make up for one unhappy experience.  

It Takes 12 positive great experiences to make up for one bad. Are you DoingCXRight?

I can’t say it enough….

Customer Experience must be intentional and never an afterthought.  Make sure you are NOT just TALKING about it but actually DOING CX RIGHT! 

Why COVID-19 Can Be The Catalyst For Enhancing Your VoC Program

Why COVID-19 Can Be The Catalyst For Enhancing Your VoC Program

Voice of the Customer, commonly referred to as VOC, can be YOUR company game-changer WHEN DONE RIGHT! I speak a lot on podcasts about VOC and the art and science of getting feedback from customers to inform business decisions, and employees (VOE) too. This is the theme of my recent Customer Experience book.

Getting customer feedback and applying VOC best practices is essential especially during a pandemic because people’s expectations are constantly changing. MyCustomer asked a variety of experts, including me, about how to enhance customer experiences through a VOC program during tough times. Below is a summary of our conversations and tips about making VOC surveys more compelling.

Research Tells Us:

In 2016, in what was possibly the most meta consumer survey of all time, a 2016 OpinionLabs study revealed that 72% of consumers didn’t like being surveyed by brands.

More explicitly – respondents felt surveys interfered with their experience with a brand, while the same study found that 80% of customers had abandoned a survey halfway through because it was soporific.

It’s long been a catch-22 situation for businesses seeking to gauge the opinion of their customers – how to survey in a manner that’s not intrusive or damaging to the relationship they’ve fostered whilst also gleaning enough information to make the process worthwhile.

“To know how satisfied your customers are, you need them to tell you. The trouble is, customers aren’t playing ball with surveys anymore,” explains Sophie Leaver, marketing operations for Customer Thermometer.


Voice of the Customer (VOC) 

In recent years Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have helped apply science to the art of surveying customers.

By asking for feedback at different points in a customer journey, and then applying some real-time thinking and a closed-loop system, VoC is aimed at removing some of the more painful or unnecessary elements of other longer-form surveys, which are often pushed to customers at the point of transaction.

“A VoC program enables leaders to understand customers and target audience perceptions and expectations,” explains Stacy Sherman, Head of Customer Experience for Schindler Elevator Corp. in North America, and the founder of DoingCXRight.

“It’s essential when building new products and developing market messaging or service processes.

“Developing the right questions to validate peoples’ needs are what I call ‘heart and science’. For example, if customers say that ‘communication’ is important and it turns out to be a key factor for dissatisfaction, then surveys need to incorporate reasons WHY communication is a pain point. You may start with high-level themes but then need to revise surveys to dig deeper so that feedback is actionable.”

 

Surveying During Coronavirus

This need for making surveys actionable is what drives VoC programs, and has taken on a renewed purpose since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe at the start of 2020.

One organization that has felt the weight of COVID-19 as heavily as most is Stagecoach, which, as a provider of buses, coaches, and trams across the UK and other parts of the world, saw its customer base slashed almost overnight, as the result of the pandemic.

Keith Gait, who heads up the company’s customer service operations, was overseeing a trial of a new VoC program for Stagecoach which was due to be rolled out the week the UK went into lockdown in March. The company decided to hold back on the rollout, and despite an “almost total drop-off in passenger numbers for 2 to 3 months”, discovered something new about their customers that fed back into their VoC program design.

“We were still getting interactions from our previous feedback program at this time and we found that whilst our customer base was diminished, those people that were still traveling really, really valued the service, and our NPS went up a further 13 points during a lockdown,” Gait explains.

It made me realized that we needed to re-evaluate the VoC program we were about to roll out, and so during a lockdown, I spent a lot of time talking to people about how to improve it and make it more actionable.

“The view was we needed to make it more human, so that’s where we have focused. The feedback requests needed to be much more personable, much more about the human characteristics – of the driver, of the cleaners, of the welcome, of the safety – and generally less corporate. But whilst trying to still keep it very short. Our VOC program is all customer-led, it’s proactive on their part, delivered to them while they are actually on a bus, so we need to be mindful of the short attention frame we have with them.”

“The feedback requests needed to be much more personable, much more about the human characteristics.”

Stacy Sherman’s team at Schindler also took a similar approach to their VoC program during the COVID-19 lockdown, acknowledging that a much more ‘human’ approach was necessary to stay in contact with customers during a period of unprecedented uncertainty, and gauge their thoughts and feelings in a more direct manner:  

“My survey team pivoted to “peace of mind” phone calls. Instead of asking traditional questions that don’t apply right now, we contacted customers to express empathy and inform them that we’re here for them. We authentically asked customers how we can be of help, which has fuelled loyalty. As Maya Angelou says, ‘people will forget what you did and said, but never forget how you made them feel’.”

In a recent post for MyCustomer, Claire Sporton, customer experience innovation lead at VoC specialists Confirmit, believes the pandemic should reset the way every business thinks about surveying customers, and their Voice of the Customer program:

“People have changed. The research and insight you gathered six months ago is out of date; it relates to a whole different world. What is important to us has changed. The things that mattered before have been replaced by new concerns and this impacts our perceptions, expectations, and priorities. We need to ensure our insights reflect this new reality. 

“This surely means it’s time for a raft of new surveys! Hurrah! Or does it? What insight do you hope to gather and what exactly do you think you will be measuring? Have a well-defined plan before you open up your feedback tool and start hammering out a new survey.”

 

Boring Questions

Whilst the pandemic may be an opportunity to reset and refine VoC programs, it also offers an opportunity to ask yourself what makes for an interesting survey that can glean insight above and beyond the data being fed into your VoC program before COVID-19.

As an author of The Grid and founder of experience design agency Methodical, Matt Watkinson quipped in a post on LinkedIn in late-July: “I recently received a customer/brand survey that included these questions:

– You’re invited to take the first manned flight to mars but there is no guarantee of return. Do you take the flight?
– You can take a pill that guarantees you’ll live for a hundred years. Do you take it?
– Do you think you’d be better equipped to survive if you travelled 50,000 years into the past, or 50,000 years into the future?

“It was totally engrossing. I completed the entire thing — sixty questions or so. And it really got me thinking…why are surveys in general so f***ing boring? Is there an unwritten rule I’m not aware of? Don’t we want customers to engage with us and share interesting stuff?

“Why can’t we ask questions like, ‘If you were CEO for a day what one thing would you change?’ Or ‘If our brand was a band, who would we be and why?’

Why Your Customer Surveys Suck and What To Do About It

Watkinson makes a valid point, and one which taps into Keith Gait’s ascertain that customer surveys need to be more human, and tap directly into how a customer might be able to elicit actual change as a result of completing a VoC survey.

“It’s been so striking how much has changed about the feedback we’ve received since [the start of the coronavirus pandemic].

“It has been much more personal from customers, valuing the drivers and the key role they have played in keeping them moving. They have also been generally more understanding about delays and factors outside the company’s control. But we need to keep asking them relevant questions and making sure we resolve issues that arise as we move out of lockdown and customers’ tolerance levels change.”

And this is where the true challenge lies – can you start asking more interesting questions of your customers, and can you facilitate action? Stacy Sherman says this is where the benefits of VoC will become most apparent for businesses.

“I believe customers are actually starting to expect surveys more than ever, because the focus on customer experience has exponentially increased across industries.

“Boredom is not the issue but rather knowing what companies do with their information is what drives their actions to share feedback. The magic happens when companies “close the loop” and tell customers about improvements made because of their responses. People are then more motivated to spend their precious time to help your brand in those instances.” 

Let’s Talk CX – Interview Series

Let’s Talk CX – Interview Series

My passionate customer success friend, Cary Munk, asked to interview me for a special CX project he’s working on. Of course, when there’s an opportunity to talk about customer experience, employee engagement, and building a best-in-class company culture, I’m all in.

While this interview video is not available yet to view, I’m sharing some of our conversations as a preview of several CX talks to come. I am confident you’ll learn something from the series. If there’s a specific CX topic you want to hear more about, please let me know as the “voice of my readers” matters a lot.

Customer Experience (CX) Interview:

 

CARY: Today, I’m delighted to interview Stacy Sherman, who is the head of CX, Employee Engagement, and Culture Transformation at Schindler Elevator Corporation, USA division. (Formerly at Verizon.) Stacy’s is dedicated to HUMANIZING business and challenging the status quo to maximize satisfaction globally. Stacy is a featured guest on CX podcasts, contributing writer to Forbes and other publications, and also a writer of a popular blog, DoingCXRight®‬. Glad to have Stacy, who humanizes the workplace and believes that brands who create a memorable experience for customers are the ones that win in the long run. On a personal note, Stacy continues to amaze me with her thoughtfulness and knowledge and is someone who I continuously learn from. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

STACY:  Thank you for the great introduction. I’m glad to be here.

CARY:  Stacy, so who are you when you’re not at your day job?  What are your personal interests?

STACY:  My most favorite role in life is being a Mom of two kids. Other than that, I have a full-time job, and when I’m not at work, I’m still CX focused. It may sound cliché, but I really walk the talk as I’m Doing CX Right at night and weekends. In general, I am fascinated about the heart and science of CX and continue my studies to deliver great experiences in impactful ways. When I’m not at work, I love to travel the world, notice it, write about it, speak about it. It’s just part of me. You can read a great example of this from my vacation in Anguilla. I interviewed staff members who created Wow Moments for me and other customers. I was intrigued by how much they owned the customer experience even if it wasn’t their direct department. From the interviews, I noticed they all had one thing in common, which is a love of their job. It proves an important point that happy employees fuel happy customers all around the globe. Anyway, to the original question, I’m reading about CX, listening to podcasts, and Ted talks in my spare time. What I’m trying to say is that my hobbies all tie back to CX since it’s my passion.

CARY: That’s amazing. So, you’re the same person at work and at home.

STACY: Yes. You have to be because if you’re going to do what I call humanize business, you have to be human and real all the time. It’s not scripted.

CARY:  That’s true. Not everyone can say that. It makes you unique.  Let’s start from the beginning. What was your background and how did you pivot into CX?

STACY: It’s an interesting story and I imagine everybody you talk to will have some fascinating background.  My career began in sales and marketing at AT&T after college. In a way you can say that is a CX job as it’s customer focused. Back then, the word CX didn’t exist but the basic principles of delighting customers did. I had to meet customer needs and expectations in those roles or I would never have made my sales objectives. The true practice of CX and methodologies came when I was at Verizon. I remember the day my boss threw me a ball. He said that my responsibilities are expanding and I’ll be leading Customer Experience (CX) and Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives. I had no idea what that meant and later learned that he didn’t either. We both intuitively knew that customer experience would grow in importance and that my career depended on my figuring it out. That’s exactly what I did by learning all about getting customer feedback, measuring customer satisfaction, using insight to drive improvements and so much more. The long answer to your question, Cary, is I literally fell into the CX field, and never stopped since I “caught the ball.”

CARY: You really grabbed onto that ball.

STACY: Yes, I did. I had to run forward and sideways, and figure it out with minimal support. While I felt uncertain at the time, I’m grateful that my old boss trusted me to learn and excel as CX as it quickly became a booming field, and experts are in high demand. Every company needs to focus on customer experience to gain a competitive edge. My one advice is if you want to differentiate your brand, start with your employees first. They can make or break a company’s reputation.

CARY: I know that you have worked at companies that provide omnichannel experiences. How does CX apply?

STACY: Most of my jobs included omnichannel (online and offline) experience. It’s an important topic because for brands to succeed, they must make it really easy for customers to learn about products and services, buy without difficulties and get help when they need it. When working at Verizon, the team and I deployed “Buy Online, Pick Up At Store” on the eCommerce website. The launch was a success however, through listening to customer feedback, we learned that there were improvement opportunities. When customers went to their local retail store, they had to wait on a line to pick-up their purchased device and became increasingly frustrated about the wait time. By leveraging “voice of customer” (VOC) data, we were able to identify the challenges and improve the pickup experience. For example, we established separate lines for people visiting the store based on whether they already paid and picking up an order versus people coming to shop and purchase in person. We were also able to provide personalized service to those who already bought since we knew who they were in advance of arrival. My point is that buying online and picking up in-store became its own experience. Companies who operate and serve customers in digital and non-digital ways need to account for the entire customer journey. It must be a holistic approach and seamless to customers as that’s when they will likely purchase again and tell others to buy too.

CARY:  Your story makes a lot of sense. You were listening to customers and getting their feedback to make positive changes to enhance customer experiences.

STACY: Correct. If we had not asked customers about their purchase and pick up experiences, we might not have known about their pain points to improve them. So, I can’t emphasize it enough. Ask customers about their level of satisfaction, sentiments, and level of effort when interacting with your brand. Get feedback and then do something with it. That’s when the magic happens.

CARY: So true. You have worked at a variety of companies and industries; from consumer brands to telecom and mobility, what would be one takeaway that CX practitioners can apply no matter where they work?

STACY:  I have so much to say, but I’ll sum it up. Regardless of industry, start with your greatest assets which are your employees. Actively listen, empathize, and provide great experiences for them because the more employees are happy, the more your customers will be too. CX and EX go hand in hand.

CARY:  Sounds like you are referring to creating a customer-centric culture.

STACY: Yes. The best leaders and brands focus on employee satisfaction AT ALL LEVELS of the organization so that everyone feels empowered and owns CX. Culture starts at the top with an executive champion, yet it also requires a bottoms up approach. I recommend deploying a formal education program within companies. The more that internal teams know about why and how to deliver customer excellence, the greater chance they will be change agents and transform the business. CX trained employees will more often do the right thing for customers, even when their boss isn’t looking. Choosing the right CX program is essential as there are a lot out there, but not all are reputable. Learn about my class experience and recommended universities. I’m happy to share details of the course and what I learned. Likewise, you’ll find valuable resources and articles on my blog to gain practical tips to apply now whereever you work.

CARY: You speak about having buy-in from the top, creating a culture with employee recognition and empathy, and differentiating brands through CX. I’ve been thinking about how CX has been around for many years. Why do you think it’s such a hot topic now more than ever?

STACY:  In the past, companies could compete on price alone, but now, in a hyper-competitive environment, that’s changed. Think about Starbucks for example. There are many places to get a cup of coffee. I shop at Starbucks NOT because I enjoy paying triple the cost versus my local .99 cent coffee place. I am a loyal Starbucks customer because of the experience they provide. From the moment I walk into the store, people greet me by name. Employees intentionally make an effort to know their reoccurring customers. I also appreciate how they handle mistakes when they happen. Employees fix issues with no questions asked. They’ll even go up and beyond to ensure I like something I’m ordering for the first time by providing me a taste before purchasing it. I’m noticing more local cafes are doing this, and I love it. Brands are also getting more sophisticated with their apps and saving customers time before entering the store. That’s where user experience (UX) becomes an essential factor in choosing which brands to buy from. I can go on and on about this. I’ll sum up by saying experiences matter especially when competitive companies are relatively the same price. Read my Forbes article about what coffee shops can teach brands about customer experience.

CARY:  I’ve had a similar Starbucks experience. From the moment I walk in and smell the aroma to when I walk out with a cup of cappuccino.

STACY:  The physical experience is a part of the customer journey.  People immediately judge brands from their first moment when walking into a Doctor’s office, restaurant, etc. We could talk for hours about first impressions and onboarding experiences. Perhaps in the future.

CARY:  So true. Let’s end on inspiring our audience with something positive that we we’ll look back upon as we are going through an uncertain and unprecedented time. One of my takeaways is humorous. Yesterday, I opened the door to my bedroom and there’s a woman on the floor doing yoga… with a video screen of twenty other people doing yoga.  It looked like a yoga studio with a mat, blocks, candles and it took me a few seconds to realize… oh, that’s my girlfriend. And on a personal note, we had planned on moving in together later this year when my daughter starts college. This experience has brought us closer and enhanced our relationship. Stacy, what’s your rainbow?  What are you going to remember when you look back?

STACY: I love this question. I did something that I may never have done if it hadn’t been for Covid19. When the pandemic first started, I contacted about thirty people around the world to learn how they are staying content and productive while socially distancing. Every story I heard was better than the next. One guy in Italy was learning how to bake all kinds of homemade bread. Another guy was creating YouTube lessons with his son to teach children how to play basketball. I captured all the different stories and created an article from the lessons shared. It quickly went viral globally. It’s one of my most favorites because it inspired others at a time when people feel like they’re going against gravity. So to your question about “what’s my rainbow,” my answer is it is all the amazing connections and conversations from my article interviews. Their collective answers are what I’ll remember most.

CARY: That’s inspiring and a good place to wrap-up. Thank you for finding time to chat. For anyone reading this, where can they find you?

Stacy:  My website is DOINGCXRIGHT. You’ll see my contact information, articles, podcasts, and customer experience best practices. Thank you for the time together today, Cary. Bottom line: I’m on a mission to help connect people and inspire great authentic experiences to increase satisfaction. I hope people will join me on the journey. Together, we can make a difference!

CARY: Thank you Stacy. Have a great day.

STACY: You too.

If you want to know more about Cary Munk, connect with him on LinkedIn. And, if you want more information or CX coaching from me, Stacy Sherman, please email me at Stacy@DoingCXRight.com. I’m happy to help the community because together, we can create better experiences for all.

Wishing you much success in the world of CX.

How To Leverage “Smiles & Frowns” To Improve Customer Experiences

How To Leverage “Smiles & Frowns” To Improve Customer Experiences

You’ve probably seen signs in restaurants, hotels, and other locations requesting customers for feedback about their experiences. It is common practice more than ever before, even in unusual places like public bathrooms. Focusing on customer experience (CX) and capturing the Voice of Customers (VOC) feedback is smart business. Yet if the execution is not done right, it is wasted effort.

Continue Reading →

5 Ways To Use Social Media To Improve Customer Experiences

5 Ways To Use Social Media To Improve Customer Experiences

Social Media is a proven, valuable tactic to increase brand awareness, product interest, and website traffic. Having managed social media campaigns for top brands over the years as well as leveraging social platforms for my blog, I can unequivocally say that social media marketing works. While the benefits of social media marketing may be common knowledge, some business leaders don’t realize and capitalize on social media as a useful source of “voice of customer” (VOC) data. Continue Reading →

NPS Survey Question – Should It Be First Or Last?

NPS Survey Question – Should It Be First Or Last?

I recently discussed the importance of getting Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback and common methods, such as surveys, used to understand customer perceptions and expectations across touch points. To be effective and acquire actionable insights, survey questions must be designed following best practices. I also recommend a “test & learn” approach. Continue Reading →