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Frontline feedback: How to capture the Voice of the Customer through your staff

25th Jan 2019
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Staff hold many valuable insights into the customer experience. So here are some tips on how to gather Voice of the Customer through your employees. For more insights on this topic download our Voice of the Employee research report

The case for capturing, understanding and acting on the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is well documented. It’s a powerful driver for change, and helps to create differentiation in competitive markets. You’ve mapped your customer journey, defined key touchpoints, identified the channels through which to gather feedback and you are taking action based on the insights rolling in. Fantastic.

But are you still missing something?

When we look at VoC programmes, one source of information is often missing and in many cases, it’s the easiest of them all to achieve. The source in question is the Voice of the Customer through your employees (VoCE). Frontline team members have an incredible depth of knowledge about what frustrates – or delights – customers, and they also have an unrivalled opportunity to gather feedback from customers directly. So why are employees still such an untapped resource when it comes to understanding and improving the customer experience?

There are three examples of how the Voice of the Customer can be best captured via employees.

1. The people who hold the most insight are unknown to you

A well-defined VoC programme is challenging to build when you have email addresses, phone numbers and past purchase data of all your customers. For those businesses who don’t know who their customers are, or who need insights from people who didn’t buy from them, gaining clear insight can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. Loyalty schemes and incentives to join mailing lists help, but sometimes, particularly in the retail industry, the people who hold the most insight are virtually unreachable. This is where using your teams on the ground to gather feedback provides a real opportunity.

A great example of this is a leading retailer who runs a “non-buyer” survey in their stores. As people leave the premises without making a purchase, an employee will ask them to complete a very short survey on a tablet device to understand the purpose of their visit and what prevented them from making a purchase on that occasion. By harnessing the mobile channel, rather than the old clipboard and paper approach, customers are more inclined to complete a survey which is slick, speedy and highly engaging. In addition, the feedback is channelled directly into the main VoC programme, avoiding a silo or delay which might prevent trends from being identified.

2. Your employees understand the bigger picture

Customers who provide feedback are only able to talk about their own experience – which is, of course, what you want to understand. However, employees on the front line who speak to many customers every day (particularly those in contact centres) are perfectly placed to recognise patterns in what customers say to them directly. Not only can they identify that the same issues may be arising time and again, but they can help to understand which underlying processes are failing and therefore are causing pain points.

In many cases,  root-cause analysis would identify the problem but by asking your employees to complete short surveys around what they hear from customers, you can act more quickly and resolve issues faster. Enable your employees to provide feedback either on a regular or ad-hoc basis so they always have the opportunity to escalate issues, rather than simply dealing with one customer at a time.

3. Customers might not pass on their experiences

Despite customer journey mapping and the increased range of channels available to provide feedback, sometimes customers just don’t. Either because they don’t think of it, or the appropriate channel isn’t available in the moment. For example, in a retail environment, there might be a messy display that puts customers off, or the shelves might be empty, or the queues too long. Some customers might be inclined to speak to a staff member, or to contact the company about it later, but in the majority of cases, they won’t. But they probably will tell their friends, complain on Facebook, and may well not return to the store.

Employees who see these situations, but who aren’t in a position to immediately resolve them should have a mechanism to provide details which are integrated into the wider VoC programme. Better still, a picture paints a thousand words, so enable your employees to use their mobile devices to upload photos of what’s going on via a feedback app on their phone. One large retailer has gathered thousands of pieces of this rich data, helping to build up a clear picture of the customer experiences taking place on the ground, each day. Escalating this data to a regional or area manager can help to resolve recurring problems and prevent negative word of mouth from spreading.

Tips to gathering the VoC through your employees

As well as delivering insight that enhances a VoC programme, enabling employees to provide feedback about customer experiences engages and empowers those employees. Taking the information they provide, and using it to drive change is an incredibly powerful way of proving to your employees that you’re listening to them, supporting them and helping them to do their jobs better.

Here are five things to consider as you build your VoCE programme:

  1. Close the loop with your employees and tell them exactly what you’ve done with the feedback they’ve provided.
  2. Use the right channels for the job. Mobile opens up retail and hospitality environments, while the web will be highly effective for contact centres. Seek out the technology that will encourage employees to get involved.
  3. Implement the programme across the company. This shouldn’t be a HR initiative silo, but an integral part of your VoC programme that becomes part of your company’s culture.
  4. Measure results through your employee engagement programme so you can monitor how your VoCE programme impacts engagement across the business.
  5. Make sure you report the feedback from employees alongside your direct customer feedback. It’s all different views of the same subject, and bringing all the data together will help to uncover new ways to drive change in your company.

For more information on this topic, download MyCustomer's The role of employee feedback in CX research report

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