Build VoC Support From The Top Down . . . And From The Bottom Up

There’s no question that executive support can make or break a voice of the customer (VoC) program. With an executive (or several) onboard, VoC teams can get the funding and tools that they need to succeed. And VoC leaders from Forrester’s 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards almost unanimously gave others the advice to build executive support.

If you’re struggling to get your program off the ground, heed their wise advice. Appeal to executives with evidence (metrics, business results) and with compelling stories about what might be going wrong for customers and how they’ve been delighted by the experience. Ask for execs to support you in collecting feedback from customers, analyzing that feedback, taking on projects to improve the experience, and monitoring to make sure that those projects are working.

But executives aren’t the only key to a successful program. Top-down support is important, but it has to be balanced with bottom-up support, too. What happens when execs mandate that everyone cares about customer feedback? People don’t really care. It feels like a fad. Employees have to feel some ownership and control — or they just won’t buy in.

There are a few important components for gaining grassroots support for your VoC program. Start by collecting frontline employees' feedback about the customer experience. They interact with customers regularly and hear everything directly from the source. I’ll let you in on a secret: They want to be asked! A close friend works for a local nonprofit giving advice on the phone, and she is repeatedly frustrated when she makes suggestions to upper management for ways to improve things like materials mailed out to constituents, only to be completely ignored. She feels undervalued, sure, but she also thinks that the leadership is missing out on opportunities to improve content quality.

One large financial services firm began soliciting feedback from frontline reps about opportunities to improve the experience. The result: An outpouring of appreciation for having a system in place to capture this kind of data. The VoC team was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the reaction from the reps themselves. The firm also took the critical step of making every effort to close the loop with the reps — to let them know what changes were being made as a result of the feedback they passed along. Closing the loop isn’t limited to your end customers.

In addition to asking employees about the customer experience, it’s important to involve employees in the solutions to the CX problems you uncover. That could mean asking them to submit ideas for improvements, like Vanguard’s program that generated more than 900 ideas from more than 500 participants in just nine months. It also could mean getting employees' feedback on proposed solutions. Given their familiarity with customers, they’ll have a realistic sense of whether a proposed improvement will actually work. After all, frontline employees will be the ones who communicate with customers after the solution is in place. If they feel more ownership of the solution, they’ll communicate about it more effectively.

The role of employees in supporting the VoC program isn’t limited to those on the frontlines. For noncustomer-facing folks, it’s critical to bring insights to life through the verbatims on surveys, emails, and phone calls. Barclaycard US’s Daily Listening Program delivers randomly selected real customer calls and emails to noncustomer-facing employees first thing every morning. Imagine the power of starting your day with the actual VoC! Here’s a real example: On one daily call, a frontline agent, adhering to Barclaycard's cross-sell policy, attempted to upsell before resolving the customer's initial problem. As a result of hearing the call, service and marketing teams immediately tweaked the cross-sell policy and refocused training on meeting customers’ needs before introducing additional products and services.

This kind of change can only come from a two-pronged approach. If you’re working on building executive support, keep at it! But don’t forget about the bottom-up support of your employees, too.