Want To Win A Voice Of The Customer Award? Prove Business Impact

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been part of a group that picked the winners of Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards for 2011. I can’t yet tell you the names of the three winners — those companies will be announced on June 21 at our Customer Experience Forum in New York, along with the other seven entrants that made up our top 10. But I can share some insight into what separated the winners from the contenders.

At one end of the spectrum, the clarity with which entrants described their programs didn’t create much differentiation. With very few exceptions, descriptions ranged from very clear to extremely clear and “please stop with the detail already, my eyes are starting to bleed” clear.

At the other end of the spectrum, the business benefits that companies derived from their voice of the customer (VoC) programs provided diamond-hard clarity as to which companies were great and which were just good.  

To understand why that is, consider the question in the awards submission form that asks about business benefits. It was worded exactly like this:

“How has this activity improved your organization's business results? Please be as specific as possible about business benefits like increased revenue, decreased cost, increased customer satisfaction, or decreased customer complaints. Please specify how you measure those benefits.”

The judges were looking for a response along the lines of:

  1. We heard these specific things from customers through our VoC program.
  2. As a result of what we heard, we made these specific changes.
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Taking VoC Programs To The Next Level

A few weeks ago, I described the sobering fact that most voice of the customer (VoC) programs don’t deliver business results. I recently dug into the responses to Forrester’s Q1 2011 Global Customer Experience Peer Research Panel Survey to find out why. Here’s some of what I found (full results will be available in my new report titled, “Voice Of The Customer Programs Don’t Deliver Enough Value,” due out later this week):  

  • Lack of processes for taking action. Sixty-five percent of respondents admitted that their VoC programs don’t systematically take action based on customer insights. Without clear processes in place, it’s no surprise that VoC programs don’t drive enough value-generating activities.
  • Lack of accessible, relevant insights. Sixty-five percent of respondents also admitted that their VoC programs don’t make customer insights easy to access, and 52% said that they don’t tailor insights for different internal groups. That means many potential participants within companies don’t get the information they need to take action — even if they’re inclined to do so. As a result, VoC leaders are left to personally move actions forward, and that approach doesn’t scale.
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