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Market leaders are shifting their listening and response mechanisms faster as Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs represent a huge opportunity for growing brand loyalty and increasing sales. More and more businesses are starting to use VoC, and those that aren’t could be missing out because these programs have the potential to drive considerable company ROI by driving product innovation, demand gen, and higher rates of retention. Leaders who truly understand VoC not only have a deep understanding of customer needs and perceptions but they also know how to use VoC to identify innovative opportunities. To execute their vision, they capture these customer insights and use them to make actionable recommendations across entire enterprises.
This blog will provide a deep dive into the Voice of the Customer. It will cover what VoC is and why it's so important for your business. We will also cover how businesses implement Voice of the Customer programs and what sorts of VoC data can be uncovered. Lastly, it covers how organizations can use these valuable insights to best understand their customers and strategically improve their bottom line and overall business functions.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is the process of capturing indispensable information regarding customers' thoughts and feelings about their experience with a business' products or services. It summarizes customer’s expectations, preferences, experiences, needs, and feedback. Instead of just collecting this customer data, VoC also focuses on understanding it.
VoC programs are now more popular than ever; in many organizations, they have become a core business strategy. These Voice of the Customer programs work well for brands because capturing and acting on customer feedback is critical to understanding prospect’s complex decision-making process. VoC allows businesses the opportunity to shape and improve their product or service into something that customers truly want. Something that customers will continue to invest time and money in. The bottom line is that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
As mentioned earlier, listening to the Voice of the Customer and obtaining vital customer insights is a tactic that is widely used among both large enterprises as well as small-medium businesses. Continually improving your brand's CX has become a business imperative.
According to Gartner, more than 66% of marketers responsible for CX say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX. That number is expected to increase to 81% in two years. It has become more difficult for companies to stand out among their competitors, whether that is through the products they sell, services they provide, or pricing they offer. In order to stay on top, businesses must consistently provide great customer experiences. This can be achieved if they choose to understand the experiences they are providing by utilizing VoC. Understanding the Voice of the Customer is important for an organization’s growth and overall success. According to Gartner, “Collecting and actioning feedback can increase upselling and cross-selling success by up to 20 percent. Additionally, decision-making rooted in customer feedback can lead to improved Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and increased top-line revenue from customer retention.”
When businesses use Voice of the Customer correctly, it can have a positive affect in ways such as:
Businesses can use VoC to create an army of customer advocates and develop deep connections with their customers. Now that we know how businesses can benefit from VoC, next is how customer experience management is used with VoC to help design and react to customer interactions. This combination is crucial to meeting or exceeding customer expectations and thus increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.
Customer experience (CX) refers to how a company engages with its customers at every stage of the buying journey, from marketing to sales, customer service, and every touchpoint in between. Nearly 89% of companies are competing primarily based on the level of customer experience they provide. Customer experience management (CXM) is the discipline of understanding customers and deploying strategic plans and processes that enable cross functional efforts and customer-centric culture to improve satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Managing CX means identifying and quantifying friction points in the customer journey, determining the root causes of those friction points, and resolving the problems at their origins. This isn’t a simple task. Those friction points can occur anywhere in the customer lifecycle.
Exceptional customer experience management allows for better business decisions that increase customer loyalty, boost sales, and grow market share. Listening to the Voice of the Customer has become crucial when it comes to delivering a memorable customer experience. Businesses are now able to have real-time visibility of a customer's ever-changing expectations. VoC makes it possible for companies to reduce the gap between what the customers expect and the CX that the company delivers to create an offer that is aligned.
Voice of the Customer has jumped into the mainstream of market research. Voice of the Customer is a type of market research structured around asking questions, collecting feedback, tabulating results, and taking action based on that customer data received. VoC research focuses on continuously gathering feedback about recent experiences from all customers. This can help uncover the wants and needs of customers through qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative market research aims at exploring; quantitative aims at measurement. Voice of Customer research lays the foundation for strategy. When done correctly, VoC research can provide actionable intelligence so organizations can act on findings in a timely manner to help win more business and retain more customers.
Actionable data is information that has gone through analytics and data processing and is presented in a clear, understandable and often visual presentation. It gives companies that use it the ability to recognize mistakes, capitalize on new opportunities, and make faster informed business decisions. Data-driven Voice of Customer analytics programs are proven to increase customer lifecycle value and lower customer churn. With VoC, organizations can better customize products and services to meet the needs and wants of the customers all while maximizing overall profit. Businesses are able to connect and engage with customers at every touchpoint in the customer journey and programmatically improve their experience.
The most important step in a Voice of Customer program is analyzing the data that you’ve gathered. Analytics is the statistical analysis of collected data that reveals patterns, correlations, and cause-and-effect relationships between different factors. The main goal of VoC analysis is to understand how people perceive and interact with brands, products, and services. This analysis collects data from a wide variety of sources and can break down complex topics into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding and insightful overview of the customer. It helps identify desires, intentions and aversions. This analysis allows for decision making across a company that is data-driven. This Voice of the Customer data can inform nearly every aspect of the modern business such as:
The growing emphasis on Voice of the Customer research parallels the transition to customer-centric businesses These VoC analytics are helping businesses increase revenue, retain more customers, and reduce operation costs.
It is not only important to understand the Voice of the Customer; organizations also need to have a similar level of understanding of the voice of the business, employee and process.
Here's a quick overview of each voice:
Voice of the Customer (VoC) - which expresses the needs, wants, and expectations that your customer has for your business.
Voice of the process (VoP) - which details how well your process is doing in meeting specifications, targets, or goals. VoP is what your business is capable of producing or delivering. You can get this feedback from measuring your CTPs (Critical To Process) and CTQs (Critical To Quality).
Voice of the employee (VoE) or Voice of the Associate - which expresses the needs, wants, and expectations of the people who work for your organization.
Voice of the business (VoB) or voice of the investor - which defines the needs, wants, and expectations of the business owners, stockholders, stakeholders, and others who concern themselves with the long-term success and viability of an organization.
The satisfaction of the VOC should be somewhat balanced against the voice of the business, voice of the employee, and voice of the process. However, while an organization should listen and take all these voices into consideration, it is the Voice of the Customer that is usually considered the top driving voice.
Customer loyalty is a key goal that brands strive for, but businesses should also consider things like how employee engagement can impact the customer journey. Voice of the employee can impact the customer and their journey as engaged employees are often more productive, passionate, invested in their work and produce better results. Companies with engaged employees have 98% greater customer satisfaction and 50% higher customer loyalty than ones with disengaged employees. To ensure the well-being of your organization, it is important to look for overlaps and conflicts between voices and eliminate or mitigate them.
VoC methodology is the way businesses collect customer feedback about their products, services and overall brand. Every Voice of the Customer process starts by collecting customer feedback. Interviewing customers, sending surveys, hosting focus groups, customer support call data can all be part of a Voice of Customer methodology. VoC methodology can be used to capture the customer needs including stated needs and unstated needs. A successful methodology will provide businesses with all the insights they need to understand customer preferences, problems, and complaints. This methodology helps businesses not only capture the needs of customers, but also helps translate the ‘customer voices’ into customer needs and requirements for business products and services.
VoC feedback generally falls into three categories:
Inferred feedback: this inferred observation is based on how customers use your business products or services. Some inferred examples may include; the frequency of purchases a customer makes, how often and how long they use your business platform or solution, or the number of times a customer contacts customer service.
Direct feedback: This occurs when a customer knows the organization is listening, such as when they provide feedback through a website, chat survey or customer interview.
Indirect feedback: Indirect feedback can be gathered when a customer talks about a company, but not necessarily to the company directly. This indirect customer feedback can come in the form of blog mentions, social media mentions, or on a third-party review website.
All of these feedback categories should be considered when compiling VoC data. What a customer says directly to you can differ from what they say on social media. Without considering all three types of feedback, businesses won’t get a good view into their customer’s entire experience.
There are many ways companies can approach conducting Voice of the Customer research and they often draw on multiple VoC techniques to ensure a holistic picture of their customers. Here are some common data sources for Voice of Customer analytics programs:
Online customer surveys
Dedicated feedback forms
Customer support call data/call center transcripts
Collecting data from a wide variety of sources creates an overview of the customer. These techniques help identify intentions, desires, and pain points to better optimize the customer journey. VoC methods of discovery help enable data-driven decision making across a company, which can help multiple teams in the organization be more successful. Businesses must build an effective VoC program using both passive and traditional techniques, but proving effectiveness of the VoC program relies on a single view of those customer insights to make data actionable. Of course, no human can analyze a high volume of data from multiple sources. Drawing connections between VoC is difficult, but this is where Voice of the Customer platforms can empower businesses to get more value from more data sources. Voice of the Customer analytics tools are the foundation for building influential VoC analytics programs.
VoC programs are a strategic asset for most customer-centric business minds, forward thinking CMOs, CEOs and customer experience leaders. These programs are designed to learn more from customers including their profile, needs, wants, and drivers to loyalty. Businesses are able to exceed expectations by having an established Voice of the Customer program in place.
With a structured VoC process a business can listen to customers throughout their lifecycle to help create a consistently improved customer experience. These programs help plan for customer feedback to flow into and through a company in ways that inform and drive action. They provide a lens through which a company can see progress against business goals or improvements in customer experience. A VoC program must be linked to an organization’s key business priorities. Businesses often rush into building a VoC program without aligning all the necessary factors to move forward with creating a customer-centric organization. To generate real value, businesses must be confident that their Voice of Customer analytics program produces accurate and reliable insights. To ensure accurate, reliable insights, businesses must follow the VoC data analytics process.
Organizations first need executive-level buy-in of this customer-centric initiative. A business’s vision for VoC needs to be specific so that everyone within the organization can easily understand the common goal. As mentioned earlier, an engaged workforce is vital for the long-term success of a VoC program and customer-centric company.
Before choosing a VoC collection method, a business should outline a question and an objective for their program. An effective VoC analytics program focuses on answering questions. The question can be related to previous metrics, trends, and new customer behaviors. Businesses should think about business goals, and what insights would lead to better decisions. A couple of example questions that a customer experience professional might ask:
Why have customer retention rates dropped for a particular product in the last quarter?
How do customers feel about the recent changes to a specific offering?
How many customers feel loyal to the brand? What can be done better?
These questions businesses ask will inform the type of data that is gathered, the type of VoC analytics tools to use and the type of analyses that is performed.
Established program objectives can either gauge current customer experience performance or improve a specific business function, service or product. After identifying a question and an objective, a business needs a systematic VoC method for monitoring and collecting customer feedback.
Above all, the data a business collects should be appropriate for your outlined question. For example, a product-oriented question may need customer survey feedback, whereas a brand-focused question might need social listening feedback. This is key to improving the overall experience. Customer feedback can be gathered via multiple channels.Customer listening posts can be installed at all business touchpoints and departments. Businesses can move their VoC program beyond just surveys with multi-channel feedback including websites, apps, SMS, voice assistants, chatbots and more. It is important to tell a story and bring the customer to life across the business. It's vital to build any listening program on a robust platform that can pivot with customers as their feedback preferences change and as VoC data analytics questions change. A properly designed method for analysis will help a business identify what areas to take action on. Over time, collection practices may need to be refined and analyses may increase in complexity.
If a business needs to compare complex trends over time, a simple survey analysis tool won't be enough to produce actionable insights. Voice of the Customer tools are applications, programs, or processes that gather opinions, views, and feedback from a customer base. VoC data analytics software is best used as a foundation to build more extensive processes. Businesses need a flexible Voice of Customer platform that offers rich reporting and customizability. VoC tools should help a business solve their toughest questions.
In data analytics for Voice of Customer, produced reports should focus on answering a businesses initial questions. These reports should help businesses understand what’s happening with their customers in real time and surface actionable insights from the data. Operational and experience data should help with understanding the emotions and sentiments that drive customers’ actions. Different questions will merit different reports, such as categorization or intention extraction. If a business has chosen the right tool for their VoC analytics program, it should be somewhat easy to identify the correct reports to run.
After businesses have analyzed their data, the last step is to draw conclusions. Some insights will be self-evident and other insights may surprise an organization. Oftentimes a business will find answers to questions they hadn’t thought to ask. Unexpected insights like this are a great demonstration of how a data-driven Voice of the Customer analytics program is essential for identifying innovative opportunities.
This is what the Voice of the Customer is all about. Sometimes a business's best course of action will be clear. Some conclusions will be more complicated. Businesses may need to drill down into specific data points or run more analyses. Some big wins take time and may be harder to come by because they’re often more long-term, strategic changes. By collecting, combining, and comparing reports into some kind of dashboards, businesses can uncover the insights they need to start moving down the path to better customer experiences.
VoC analytics programs should be used to drive decisions across departments. Businesses should monitor performance over time and track progress against key metrics. As the VoC program evolves and matures, businesses not only need to deliver projections, but continue to seek out new ways to deliver value across the company. This is an area where more focus is required in order to ensure continued investment and support from leadership teams. VoC programs take time and entire organizations must demonstrate patience and commitment to the VoC process and vision.
Here is a VoC example showing how a real business has benefited from the VoC and how the business used an omni-channel CX analytics platform to harness the unique value of each channel for synergistic results.
Since its founding in 1856, outdoor apparel and equipment retailer Orvis has excelled in two areas: superior outdoor equipment, and superior customer satisfaction. However, at scale, Orvis has found that maintaining the “customer is always right” level of service the company is famous for is a true challenge, especially in today’s rapidly changing consumer environment. Orvis needed a way to understand the behavior of their millions of customers, both at scale, where trends and emerging issues become apparent, and in individual interactions, where the deep qualitative context about specific issues lies.
Like most retailers, Orvis received many customer service inquiries about product returns. Returns most often indicate that something has gone wrong, and provide an opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. Returns also present a high cost to retail companies due to lost revenue and logistical expenses. For these reasons, Orvis was determined to limit avoidable returns, and prioritized reducing return-related calls through business process optimization. This was the objective of Orvis’ VoC program, and next they knew they needed to start gathering insight to improve their business. To do this, they needed to qualify and quantify what their customers were telling them.
With the implementation of a Voice of the Customer program, Orvis began to aggregate data from every customer touchpoint, from phone calls to chat sessions, emails, SMS, surveys, social media, and online reviews. To enable actionable, relevant insights, Orvis implemented a customer classification model based specifically on Orvis’s business processes and products. With the model classifying interactions, and a CX insights platform analyzing contextual details, Orvis was able to reveal common patterns, anomalies, and emerging trends. Orvis also completed text or call recordings of every interaction that persisted in their system, so the Orvis CX team could drill down to the actual conversation level.
Orvis used VoC to help identify conversations about returns, track customer interactions, and uncover issues and insights. Analyzing this Voice of the Customer data helped Orvis discover that its exchange process was cumbersome for both the customer and agent, leading customers to return products far more often than exchanging them. Even more importantly, this cumbersome process was occasionally frustrating customers — an experience that was not up to Orvis’s high standards.
After the VoC analysis, the company modified the process to make exchanges easier, resulting in far greater revenue preservation, happier customers, and a 2-minute reduction in call time. Most importantly, Orvis quickly implemented training that enabled its agents to convert 58% of Orvis’ return calls into exchanges. Orvis took these insights beyond the contact center, as well, revising their website and re-engineering their email cadence to add clarity. As a result, the company saw a 43% reduction in customers calling for return instructions, a 20% reduction in calls from customers asking for receipt confirmation, and a 37% reduction in calls alerting the company that a customer had sent a return.
With VoC insights, Orvis was able to reduce handle time, convert more returns to exchanges, improve customer experience, and deflect inquiries away from their contact center. Their ability to quickly categorize and analyze support inquiries helped them identify areas for improvement in their contact center, website, and email cadence. Orvis has proven that making VOC a central function of business operations can in turn increase ROI.
Orvis was able to see great results from their VoC program, this success was also due to the fact that they had a great VoC solution that helped them identify areas or customer pain at every touchpoint.
The best Voice of Customer programs create an ongoing conversation and gather information in a timely, efficient way. Businesses meet customers where they are across all the touchpoints that occur – from sales to support and beyond. WIth today’s technology, businesses can collect and analyze data from multiple sources and in various formats in one place. This is the most comprehensive solution for a unified, actionable view of the customer to create world-class customer experiences. It helps correlate direct, indirect and inferred VoC data from different sources. This business solution provides a single view of all customer conversations and comments, normalizing and classifying the data for a comprehensive CX analysis.
VoC tool’s popularity is owed to the fact that Voice of the Customer programs and therefore Voice of the Customer tools have recently become a critical element in customer experience initiatives. For organizations, the Voice of the Customer is vast. There are many questions to ask, many requirements to identify and many strategies to curate all the data. Once all this data has been collected, it requires a time-consuming process of both collating and analyzing the data to actually see what your customer is trying to say. It can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are solutions for consolidating all VoC tools into an omnichannel platform. The focus has shifted to the Voice of the Customer and the intelligent solutions that facilitate the transmission of qualitative and quantitative insights in real-time. By unifying all Voice of Customer platforms this empowers businesses to get more value from more data sources. Gaining VoC insights across a business's CX can be a game changer for businesses in any industry.
Having a single source for CX Analytics, where all your customer interaction data is in one place is essential. This allows organizations to harness the collective power of every customer communication channel using “agnostic aggregation” of disparate data from different point solutions such as call recordings, chat transcripts, emails, social media, surveys, reviews, in-app communications, web feedback and more.
Data enrichment refers to the process of appending or otherwise enhancing collected data with relevant context obtained from additional sources. With contextual classification the insights provided are in the context specific to the business. The business context encompasses an understanding of the factors impacting the business from various perspectives, including how decisions are made and what the business is ultimately trying to achieve. CX analytics can go beyond classification by industry vertical. The unifying solutions can now customize the classification for a particular business and include product names, regional differences, customer slang, and abbreviations for products and services. This makes these models more specific, relevant, and actionable. When paired with a proprietary omnichannel sentiment algorithm, companies are fully aware of how customers feel, and more importantly, why they feel that way. These are actionable insights.
It doesn’t matter which suppliers provide a business’s call recordings, your chat hosting, your email management, or your surveys. All of them can be integrated and analyzed as a unified whole, just like the customer experience they represent. A true omni-channel customer experience analytics platform is not encumbered by restrictions around your communication platform providers. The magic in these platforms is the ability to aggregate customer interactions regardless of channel, normalize the disparate sets of data (different communication platforms, CRM tools, etc.), and apply a classification model across the normalized data. By doing this, a user can look across the entire customer communication ecosystem for themes, trends and patterns of customer friction points in the data. A user of an omni-channel CX analytics platform can harness the unique value of each channel for synergistic results.
AI-Enhanced analytics lets businesses see what they’re missing. A unifying tool for customer insights can use AI to dive deeper into customer interactions to identify changes in preferences and discover trends to help your brand improve every day. With AI working alongside a classification model, AI can leverage cutting edge machine learning to continuously refine identification. AI features can also add value to any analysis by flagging words and phrases that are not already in a business’s classification model — even those that the teams don’t know their customers are talking about.
Listening to the needs of your customers isn’t an optional exercise for businesses that want to succeed. The value of listening to customers is real, measurable, and immediate. VoC best practices stress that an organization is asking probing questions and not just setting themselves up to receive positive remarks. While the responses may not be all smiles, they can help reveal insights that drive positive change. Improving customer experience isn’t a project that is launched once and then forgotten about. Rather, businesses should think about it as a new way of doing business in which they put the customer voice first. Customer values do change and companies must adjust accordingly.
Khoros understands that the goal for a customer-centric company is the ability to access and analyze all of its customer interactions in one place. Today’s customers use every channel and companies simply cannot afford to selectively listen. Khoros Voice of the Customer platform, CX Insights, sits on top of all your customer communication platforms to provide a single view of all customer conversations and comments, normalizing and classifying the data for comprehensive VoC analysis. Khoros CX Insights is not a VoC tool, but rather a unified view of the VoC to help businesses make better informed decisions. Khoros is a platform for managing all digital customer experiences. With Khoros, you will also get the knowledge you need to understand your market, your competitors and a combination of experience and operational data that lets you predict individual customer behavior to take the right action at the right time. If you want to dig deeper into the CX and VoC world, Khoros is the perfect solution for you! Khoros is an all-in-one platform that uses automation to listen, analyze, and convert feedback into actionable insights that drive satisfaction, retention and quantifiable business results.