Robust, relevant, prioritised: How to design a Voice of the Customer programme effectively

14th Aug 2015

Vision and long-term strategy are critical to the success of a Voice of the Customer programme – maximising the ability to drive business change, better engage employees and impact the bottom line. Without these goals, we can’t secure the budget or generate the credibility needed to create and run these programmes, and certainly won’t be able to measure our success. It’s all critical stuff, but how do you go about actually building VoC surveys that people will respond to? And how do we ensure they deliver the insight that the business needs to achieve all those lofty goals?

What, in short, do we actually need to DO?

For the business, data needs to be easy to understand, robust and prioritised so that you don’t spend time on areas that are of less importance. The business can then take action on the data, the customer sees change happening as a result of feedback and is happy to provide more feedback. It becomes a virtuous circle. Sounds easy but, as we all know, it is not.

Your business needs and customers’ needs are rather different, but fortunately they’re not mutually exclusive. Both require three key elements from your VoC programme – it needs to be robust, relevant and prioritised.  

For the business

From a business viewpoint, it’s about ensuring data hits those elements. Robust so that you can make decisions confidently, relevant so that you make the right decisions and prioritised so that you don’t spend time on areas that won’t have a significant impact.


Bad design can be terminal. The insight delivered by your VoC programme is intended to help people across your business make decisions and drive priorities, so it must be robust and valid. Three key considerations to incorporate into your planning are:

  1. What do you really need to know? What action are you planning to take and what do you already know about your customers and therefore should not be asking.
  2. How do you encourage the right people to respond?
  3. Are you asking questions at the right time? In-the-moment insights are vital but you need to cover multiple stages of the customer lifecycle to get the immediate view of specific touchpoints, as well as a longer term relationship view.

Robustness isn’t just about capturing feedback. It’s also about how you deliver insight to your key stakeholders – delivering the right insight to the right people at the right time. Put in place a structure that delivers specific questions for each touchpoint which can be subsequently rolled up into themes to provide consistent metrics across all touchpoints and the business as a whole.


Customer experience impacts every function across the business which means that the insights we deliver must meet a lot of disparate needs. It’s tempting for CX professionals to try to deliver everything themselves in the search for brilliant and dramatic revelations that will leave colleagues across the company agog with wonder at the insights that appear on their screen. However, there is no value in this approach if those same colleagues are not really sure what they should do with those insights or even if they are relevant to them.

To make sure that the data and insights that a VoC programme delivers are relevant to each user, there’s a simple rule. Talk to people. Understand not only each stakeholder’s role and requirements, but understand what is keeping them awake at night. Align your programme to stakeholder priorities - engage and excite them to use the programme that is designed to meet their needs.


Your VoC programme should deliver value by driving informed decision making but, more than that, it needs to be easy to understand and to prioritise which actions you should take first to drive impact, both tactically and strategically.

The key here is good analysis of the data from all your surveys and the addition of multiple data sources to provide context. To bring all of this together into a manageable format which provides insight rather than bewilderment, you need to automate as much as you can. For example, use a solution that will help you to look forwards rather than backwards, and use things like predictive analytics, correlation and regression analysis.

You won’t be able to make sense of absolutely everything but you can use the right systems to interrogate the data and find the right actions that you need to take to improve the customer experience. Most importantly, you can also avoid that most heinous of VoC crimes – asking questions and doing nothing with the answers!

For the customer

What about the customer? Customers are increasingly demanding of the companies they do business with. While they often now expect to be asked for their feedback on the experience, they’re inundated with survey requests.

To encourage people to engage with your survey you need to ask the relevant questions and you need to prioritise and take action as a result of that robust data you have collected.


As part of your internal planning, you should have identified who you want to ask in order to deliver that robust data. But now you need to look at it from your customers’ perspective.

  1. What is the best channel to reach them? You’ll almost certainly need to provide multiple channels to meet the needs of different customer groups and to align with your various touchpoints?
  2. When will your customers be completing the survey? Does the timing make sense to them?
  3. Is your survey really focused? Is it clear to customers why you are asking these questions and can they answer them easily?

Fundamentally, this is all about the methodology of our surveys. Taken individually, they should be short, simple and straightforward. The deep insights come as we bring together the data from multiple sources however for the customer each survey is an interaction that must stand alone.


This goes hand-in-hand with ensuring your survey is focused. Make sure that customers completely understand why you are specifically asking these questions and why you’re asking now.

For customers, relevance boils down to a few key elements:

  1. Make it easy. Use those ‘cracks in the day’ – the five minute spaces when people are on a train or waiting for the kids to come out of school. That means ensuring your surveys work perfectly on a mobile device or can complete your survey within your existing app. It also means short focused surveys as it needs to gain and keep attention now and for the next invitation.
  2. Make it engaging. This doesn’t necessarily mean the much talked about ‘gamification’ – though if that fits your brand, go for it. This is really about making sure that your survey is a clear reflection of your business, properly aligned with the brand. It shouldn’t feel like an add-on because that won’t engender confidence that responses are going back to the people who can take action.


It’s critical that we’re asking the right questions. Just as the business needs to be able to prioritise actions, based on feedback, in order to make a real impact, your customers need to have their needs prioritised. Don’t ask 100 questions that you’re not going to do anything with. Make it clear that you’re asking about areas where feedback will really make a difference to the customer experience in the future.

Then you need to tell people that you’ve taken action based on their feedback. By proving that you’re really listening, and making customers a priority, you greatly increase the likelihood that they’ll complete another survey when they interact with another touchpoint – and your insights will grow deeper and richer with every response.

Claire Sporton is VP customer experience management at Confirmit.

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