Why the future of Voice of the Customer is about action and insight - not feedback

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Companies aren't close to reaching the potential of their Voice of the Customer programmes and it's time for these projects, and the technology vendors, to grow up. So what is likely to change?

The vendor market for Voice of the Customer (VoC) products and services has been heating up, with numerous acquisitions and mergers.

All of this is happening as companies are trying to figure out how to run successful VoC programmes. It appears that we on the verge of the next stage in evolution for VoC.

So I decided to step back and look at the overall market.

It's time for Voice of the Customer programmes to mature

Our research shows that nearly three-quarters of large companies rate their voice of the customer (VoC) programmes as being successful (only 8% say that they’ve been unsuccessful). That’s great - infusing almost any type of customer insights into a business can add value. 

Stages of VoC maturity

However, companies aren’t close to reaching their full potential. Only 14% of companies have reached the the two highest levels of Temkin Group’s VoC Maturity Model.

One of the reasons for this immaturity is a simple fact: creating and managing great VoC programmes isn’t easy. They take significant leadership commitment and a  variety of expertise. In many cases, however, companies don’t redesign their approach to customer insights, they simply end up updating and automating many of their historical practices.

The big change for VoC programmes is that they must focus more on enabling action across their organisation. We found that only 24% of large firms think they are good at making changes to the business based on the insights. For VoC programmes to fully mature, they need to become hyper-focused on generating insights in the right form at the right time to help people across their organisations make better, more informed decisions.

As if that’s not enough to work on, companies will need to address Six Customer Insight Trends that will reshape VoC programmes:

  1. Deep Empathy, Not Stacks of Metrics;
  2. Continuous Insights, Not Periodic Studies;
  3. Customer Journeys, Not Isolated Interactions;
  4. Useful Prescriptions, Not Past Descriptions;
  5. Enterprise Intelligence, Not Customer Feedback; and
  6. Mobile First, Not Mobile Responsive.

Voice of the Customer vendors need to grow up

In 2010, I rejected the label “enterprise feedback management (EFM)” that was being used to describe vendors that provided technology and services for VoC programmes. Instead of EFM, I labeled them as Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms and here’s why:

To some degree, surveying functionality is becoming a commodity. Organisations are recognising that feedback is not valuable on its own; it only becomes valuable when it’s used as an input to insights which drive some type of action. So the focus is no longer on feedback, but on insight and action. Hence, Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms.

Fast forward to 2018 and I think that CIA Platforms is still the correct name for these offerings (from vendors such as ConfimitInMomentMaritzCXMedallia, and Qualtrics). They continue to evolve towards this description I used in 2010:

CIA Platforms need to support closed-loop Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes that are going beyond structured, solicited feedback (traditional surveys). With the maturing of text analytics and the rise of social media, companies are increasingly mining insights from unstructured, unsolicited feedback like customer comments on surveys, notes and verbatims from contact centre conversations, inbound emails, online chats, social media sites, customer feedback comments, etc.

But new channels of feedback (also called “listening posts”) are not the only element that distinguishes CIA Platforms from their predecessors. These applications also provide actionable insights by:

  • Incorporating non-feedback data like customer profiles and transactional history.
  • Distributing tailored, contextual insights across an organisation.
  • Providing alerts based on specific criteria.
  • Supporting workflow associated with taking action based on the insights.
  • Integrating with other applications like CRM and workforce management.

Next generation CIA platforms

Okay, so we got that right eight years ago. What’s next? Here’s where I think the market is heading for enterprise CIA platforms:

  • Advanced analytics. We’ll see a considerable increase in the use of predictive analytics and the use of speech analytics to unlock insights from invaluable contact center conversations.
  • and way smarter analytics. The current set of analytics are mostly designed for analysts to uncover insights, but we’ll see more “packaged” analytics that mask complexity to provide tailored recommendations that improve high-impact decisions across the enterprise.
  • More focus on casual users.The days of generic metrics and dashboards will hopefully be a thing of the past. The information provided to people will be specific to their roles, and will proactively highlight the information that they need to know. It may take the form of highly customised dashboards, but it could also be a monthly infographic that can be posted in the lunchroom for hourly workers.
  • Less surveys, but more data. We already see in our research that organisations are becoming less reliant on surveys. This feedback will become less about understanding what’s being said by individual customers, and more about using the insights in predictive models to extrapolate what it might mean across entire segments of customers. This will require companies to integrate feedback with lots of customer data from other systems.
  • More selective, targeted feedback. Companies will get better at strategic sampling. What is this? Being smarter about who they get feedback from and when they get that feedback. The current approach of trying to hear from as many customers a possible in as many places as possible is conceptually attractive, but it’s an inefficient use of internal resources, and it puts a strain on an even more important commodity - customers’ time and attention.
  • Easier to use, but less “self-service.” In many cases, large enterprises lack the internal skills and know how to create and sustain a strong VoC programme. While the technology platforms will continue to become easier for companies to administer and use without vendor support, strong VoC programmes will increasingly recognise the need to tap into externally provided support across a number of areas, including:
    • Programme setup.
    • Data management.
    • Sampling strategies.
    • Dashboard design.
    • Analytics.
    • Insight distribution.
    • Operational redesign.

The bottom line: VoC programmes and vendors need a makeover.

About Bruce Temkin

Bruce Temkin

I am a CX transformist; helping large organizations dramatically improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I help organizations improve their culture, strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. 

I'm also a creative experience designer and a fanatical student of business and human behavior, so I continue to research, examine, and share insights about how organizations can improve their performance.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research, consultancy, and training company that helps organizations become more customer-centric. We help many of the world’s largest brands build loyalty by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners.

If you care about any of the topics that I've mentioned, then I urge you to regularly visit my blog, Customer Experience Matters®: https://experiencematters.wordpress.com/

If you're looking for advice on how to build a customer-centric organization, then we can help. If you're looking for an informative, motivating speech, then we can help. f you're looking for training on the skills or mindset to become more customer-centric, then we can help. Take a look at the many ways that we can help: http://temkingroup.com/engage-with-us/

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22nd Mar 2018 10:09

Hello Bruce,

Thank you for this article! Most VoC platforms come from a survey or market research background... and that is one of the reasons they are not upping their games fast enough.

Could I invite you to check out Hello Customer? We focus on ALL of the points that you mention. We are young technology, elevated NLP with AI to become a powerful VoC programme that touches upon everyone in the organisation. Recently we have developed a proven process for rolling in it out, whether you are a 100 person or a 20.000 person organisation.

Let's have a conversation? I'd love some extra feedback on our own product journey from you.

(I am sending this article around to our entire customer base, though - it is really spot on).

Thank you,

Leslie Cottenjé
CEO Hello Customer

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to Leslie Cottenje
22nd Mar 2018 11:07

Hi Leslie.

Thanks for your comments.

You can contact Bruce directly by private message via his user profile (top and bottom of page) if you wish to follow up with him directly.

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28th Mar 2018 11:56

I completely agree Bruce - the key point is that VoC programs have to deliver actionable intelligence that enables businesses to change how they operate, and thus shows ROI. We’ve explained more on how this can be achieved in our blog post https://www.eptica.com/blog/why-it-time-calculate-roi-voc-programs

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