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Inspirational insight: Four techniques to bring the Voice of the Customer to life

11th Feb 2015
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Insight can be a tricky matter to get right. It requires a balance of individual and aggregated details, direct and indirect feedback, structured and unstructured data, and must provide both a big-picture and in-depth view. While you can of course learn a great deal about your customers through transactional surveys, being truly customer centric requires that balance to be just right. You need to get much closer to your customers, when they are directly – and indirectly - interacting with your business, and when they’re not.

While there are many layers to customer-centricity, what really makes a difference in a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme is context. Direct feedback is wonderful, but understanding the situations around which that feedback was provided, and finding ways to report on it and share it across the business can turn what are already interesting and useful facts into really compelling insight.

What was the sequence of events that led to a customer complaint? What trends on Twitter might represent a genuine product or PR issue that you need to address? What’s really happening in your stores on a daily basis? What prevents potential customers from making a purchase?

For Voice of the Customer professionals – particularly those running more mature programmes, there are a number of avenues to look at when seeking new ways to add context and depth to the insight that your programme delivers. Here are four techniques that will help take your programme to the next level.

1. Mapping survey data against information from other systems, such as CRM
If context is critical to truly understanding our customers, then linking feedback to wider CRM and customer service data is the first step. Silos that separate customer feedback from past purchase information, customer service history and renewal data simply cannot be allowed. A two-way link between CRM and Voice of the Customer data is vital to ensure that account and customer service managers have the information they need on-hand, and that VoC surveys target the right customers for feedback. Without this link, you’re effectively separating the “what?” from the “why?”.

2. Sentiment analysis of social media. 
Indirect feedback has been a contentious beast for VoC programmes for some time. While in theory it’s a brilliant way to listen to customers and the market without having to ask for feedback, the idea of monitoring such a vast quantity of data has always been daunting – and until fairly recently, technologically challenging. However, sentiment analysis of unstructured data gathered through sources like Twitter is now very possible, and can provide what effectively amounts to a focus group of millions of people. Many companies are now able to find out about issues like product defects long before the first complaints hit the call centre, giving them a head start on resolving issues and protecting their brand. It can also provide a guide on ways to develop your VoC programme – for example, identifying touchpoints you weren’t monitoring or ways in which customers would like to be able to interact with you.

3. Mobile feedback for in-the-moment sentiment. 
Capturing real customer sentiment needs to happen quickly. The very nature of sentiment is that it’s about what a customer feels at the point of engaging with your business. Leave it a few days – or even a few hours – and the moment has often passed. Unless you really delighted or disappointed a customer, chances are the experience has already begun to fade away. Mobile provides a solution here – enabling customers to share their experience using apps, SMS or web-enabled surveys to provide insight while it is fresh in their minds.

4. Video and multimedia evidence. 
As well as structured surveys, mobile also offers a huge opportunity to deliver richer insights through multimedia. Photos, videos and audio clips that capture the experience on the ground will help your teams to really 'see' your touchpoints through the eyes of your customer. True, it’s not something you can analyse easily as standalone feedback, but when incorporated with more structured feedback, and with unstructured feedback that’s been tamed through text analytics, it can be an extremely powerful tool to illustrate key lessons.

Not all of these techniques will suit every organisation, but bringing one or more of them into your wider Voice of the Customer programme not only adds richness to your insight, but provides new ways to engage further with your customers. Surveys are a critical part of any customer experience management process, but to get every last drop of insight out of the input that customer provide, you need to develop a richer, more contextual approach.  

Karine Del Moro, vice president of marketing at Confirmit

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