Voice of the Customer: Integration with other data systems in five steps

9th Nov 2012

To operationalise insight, businesses must integrate their VoC programme with data from other business systems. Claire Sporton outlines five areas to consider when you begin your integration journey.

The success of a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme depends on its ability to deliver actionable insight, not merely information. While asking questions of customers, even as part of a fairly comprehensive feedback campaign, goes a long way towards this goal, this data alone does not provide the insight necessary to take action quickly and effectively when required.
To operationalise insight, businesses must integrate their VoC programme with data from other business systems. Not only does this bring companies closer to the elusive ‘single view of the customer’ but doing so will provide a range of other benefits that help to make the Voice of the Customer a true driver for change across the business.
Where to begin?
Businesses run so many systems, many of them completely unconnected, that it’s crucial to identify those that hold information which will enhance and provide context to the Voice of the Customer. Before you start integrating key data systems, it’s important to look at what you’re trying to achieve. Here are five areas to consider when you begin your integration journey.

Put a value on the customer voice

A Voice of the Customer programme will generate a huge amount of content, both quantitative and qualitative. The key is how to make these insights come to life for the people in your organisation and drive an understanding of the impact that poor experiences or unhappy customers can have on your business results. One approach is to understand the value of each customer and tie it to your VoC programme, enabling you to prioritise the customers you respond to.
Placing a value on the customer voice will ensure you manage your team’s time effectively, and to focus investments based on feedback from customers who matter most to your business.
Ensure that the alerts created from your VoC platform when customers require follow-up are linked to your financial or CRM systems (depending on where customer value data is held). This will enable you to use an alerts management interface to quickly sort and prioritise those customers on whom you need to focus. Ideally all customers should receive an individual response to their feedback, but in the real world this isn’t always possible, so prioritise and manage everyone’s expectations.

Create a more effective workforce by driving customer-centricity

Use customer feedback to help you identify how to best manage and motivate your workforce. A key opportunity is to ensure that you link customer feedback to the individual and/or team who was part of delivering to that customer, across all touchpoints, whether through a contact centre, retail environment or complaint process. This data can help you to identify training requirements so you can pinpoint needs effectively. It also means you can share positive feedback with the whole team who were involved in delivering to an individual client, helping to foster a positive environment across the team and a true understanding of how every member of the team impacts customer experience.
In a contact centre environment, link your VoC data back to metrics and systems, so you can track which agent dealt with each customer and correlate satisfaction figures by team or individual. As a next step, enabling colleagues to comment on the customer experience and tracking employee engagement alongside customer experience, in whichever industry you’re in, will demonstrate your commitment to involving the whole team and help nurture the right culture.

Improve customer retention

If you take the example of renewals-based businesses, like insurance or telecoms, timing is critical when talking to customers. Tying your renewals systems into your VoC programme is vital. There’s no point talking to your customer and finding out they’re unhappy with you at the point of renewal. Speaking to customers at key points in the customer journey (after purchase, following a claim or complaint, and at a sensible point before renewal) can ensure that your Sales and VoC processes complement each other rather than operating in parallel.
Use your CRM platform to drive the launch of timely customer surveys through your VoC solution. Use two-way integration to ensure that any feedback is pushed back to the CRM system, or creates alerts so that your retention team can take speedy action if a client indicates he might consider switching to the competition.

Empower your teams

This is probably the most obvious point, but it’s still worth emphasising. Voice of the Customer data sits naturally alongside your CRM data, but it’s still a rare organisation that actually links the two. If your business uses a satisfaction or recommend score to measure customer experience, this information should be available to complement standard CRM data. VoC provides the ‘why’to CRM’s ‘what’ so failing to create this 2-way integration is a wasted opportunity.
Pure CRM data will only provide your agent with data about a customer’s past purchases and demographic information. This is insufficient if that customer recently provided feedback as part of your VoC programme or contacted you proactively, for example to make a complaint. Agents need access to up to date, comprehensive and accurate information if they’re able to work effectively with customers and make the right decisions. The more advanced VoC platforms are able to integrate with CRM databases so this is one of the ‘quick wins’ available through integration.

Validate key customer issues

Link your customer and employee feedback. In general, front line employees have a clear understanding of the issues that face customers, and their causes. While your customers know that they’re unhappy with a situation, your employees are well placed to identify the processes that created that situation. Use employee feedback to validate what your customers are telling you, and to establish the quickest and most effective fixes.
Use your Voice of the Employee programme to get your employees’ opinions about the customer comments they hear most often. In addition, provide employees with access to tailored VoC reports and build a mechanism for them to validate and comment on solutions.
And finally
Every business will have different opportunities to link VoC data with other information, whether it’s financial, operational or purely qualitative. The trick to success is to understand how the Voice of the Customer impacts every area of the business and identify key systems which hold most value and insights. Linking VoC to those key systems is a really powerful way to drive change, foster a customer-centric culture, and demonstrate true ROI for your customer programme.
Claire Sporton is VP of customer experience management at Confirmit.

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