Voice of the customer (VoC) data is alluring. Once you start to collect customer feedback, there's always something more you could be gathering. You think: What else can I learn? What else are customers saying and thinking? Where else are they saying it? You want to know more.
But collecting the data — listening — isn't enough.
At Forrester, we describe the continuous cycle of activities that make up VoC programs as: listen, interpret, react, and monitor. "Listen" is all the customer feedback you're collecting via listening posts like surveys, emails, calls, and comment cards. "Interpret" is the analysis you do on that feedback (and other related data) to understand what it all means. "React" is what you do to fix the experience based on the analysis you've done, and "monitor" is how you make sure that whatever you did to react is actually working.
It's critical to go through the full cycle with whatever data you're already collecting. Because here's the hard truth: You get no ROI from listening or interpreting. None. Zero. Zip. You only get business results from actually improving the experience.
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.
I was flipping through the 2012 Forrester Voice of the Customer Award nomination forms the other day, and I realized that I’ve been unwittingly holding on to an valuable resource — all the advice that we asked nominees to impart on other voice of the customer programs. The very last of the six questions on our nomination form is, “What advice would you give to other organizations to make their programs successful?” We got some great answers from the 40 or so nominated companies, so I pulled together the top 10 pieces of advice. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own VoC program, look no further than the advice of your peers.
1. Build executive support. The majority of nominees offered this advice, and it’s consistent with Forrester’s own research showing that executive support builds a foundation for VoC success. Executive support helps CX pros put key building blocks in place, such as adequate tools to collect and analyze data and processes to systematically act on it. How do you build support? Prove the value of the program by demonstrating tangible business value. Track the results of service recovery efforts to save unhappy customers and aggregate the results of improvement projects initiated by VoC-collected data.
Allow us to paint a vision of the future for you: After interactions with your favorite companies, no one asks you how you liked those interactions. Your email inbox contains no requests for a few minutes of your time. No one asks you to wait on the phone line to answer a few questions. The word "survey" has vanished from your vocabulary.
You just bought something at your favorite store. You walk out with a skip in your step thinking about when you might wear this new purchase. You give into your compulsion to check your email on your smartphone, and there, waiting for you, is a survey from that very company asking about your experience. You groan, but you click on the link. The survey isn't formatted for your phone, so you have to pinch to zoom in and out. You don't understand the first question. Or the second one. Frankly, you don't really care. You close your browser window, curse the company and every other company that has ever asked you to complete a survey, and vow never to shop anywhere ever again.
I'm no doctor, but I'm confident in my diagnosis: You are suffering from survey fatigue.
You're not alone. Survey fatigue has even made it into pop-culture as a known malady, thanks to articles like this one in USA Today. It's no surprise that consumers are irked; most companies' customer experience measurement programs and voice of the customer programs rely on surveys for the necessary data. As a result, consumers are getting barraged with requests for feedback, and, really, it's just because companies have good intentions. They want to know how they're doing and how they can improve the experience.
If you're one of these survey-reliant companies, what can you do? I'm working on some research right now on that very topic with our new analyst, Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian. We're exploring indicators of survey fatigue to help you spot the problem as well as best practices for reducing any fatigue that does exist.
Many of the conversations I have with clients about voice of the customer (VoC) programs center on ways the programs can improve and best practices they can adopt. What I think is really underlying these discussions, though, is the question, "How does my program compare with all the others that are out there?" Or, more succinctly, "How am I doing?"
My anecdotal conversations, though frequent, do not make for a quantitative study. So I did just that: I surveyed our Global Customer Experience Peer Research Panel about their VoC programs. The results will be published shortly in a Forrester report called, "The State Of VoC Programs, 2012," but in the meantime, I'd like to give you a sneak peak.
Our most important finding was that customer experience professionals aren't getting the value they could be from their programs. Specifically, we asked how valuable their programs were in improving customers' experiences and how valuable they were in delivering financial results. It turns out that VoC programs help companies improve the customer experience; we saw more respondents getting that kind of value. But firms struggle to connect the dots to financial value.
So why the gap? It turns out that customer experience value is pretty easy to recognize. Respondents told us that the feedback data they collect helps them identify problems with the experience that need to be fixed. It also helps them prioritize what to fix because they can take the input from their customers into account when looking at all the various improvement project opportunities. The resulting projects make the experience better.
Where will you be at 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26th? I know where I’ll be: announcing the winners of Forrester’s annual Voice Of The Customer Awards at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in NYC!
We’ve read through the incredible submissions, graded them, picked our finalists, and picked our winners. And I’ve been busy for the past few weeks organizing everything for the big announcement on June 26th and the Forum track session panel featuring the three winners that’s happening on Wednesday, June 27th, at 1:20 p.m.
Yes, you heard right. This year I’m not just announcing the winners on Day 1; I’m also moderating a track session where you can hear more about the winning programs. First, the companies’ representatives are going to describe the types of improvements they’ve made and the business results associated with those improvements, and then I’m going to open up the floor to Q&A. This is your chance to ask the burning questions about what makes these programs so successful.
It’s that time of year again. We’re already in the midst of planning our annual Customer Experience Forum, and now we’re gearing up to collect and evaluate nominations for our Voice Of The Customer Awards — which we’ll present at the Forum.
If you’re new to the awards, here’s some background: Forrester's annual Voice Of The Customer Awards recognize organizations that excel in collecting, analyzing, and acting on feedback from their customers, incorporating customer insights into everyday decisions. We conduct the awards for three basic reasons: 1) to emphasize the importance of voice of the customer (VoC) programs; 2) to celebrate organizations that are leading the way; and 3) to highlight best practices.
If you (or, if you’re a vendor, your clients) have a strong VoC program, we encourage you to participate. It's free and it offers a great opportunity to earn some solid PR while sharing your wisdom with other customer experience pros. Also, we only reveal the names of the finalists and winners, so the potential downside is limited.
You can find all of the information you need on our VoC Award home page. The 2012 nomination form will become available there on March 5th. In the meantime, you can review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past winners.
What are the key trends that CRM trends that business and IT professionals need to pay attention to in setting their plans during 2012? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report that spotlights our latest research and recommendations for how to compete in The Age of the Customer will be published in late January.
1. Customer experience management will move beyond aspiration to strategy. More organizations will move beyond empty goals like becoming “customer-obsessed” to define clear and actionable customer experience strategies. The strategy must meet three tests: 1) It defines the intended experience; 2) it directs employee activities and decision-making; and 3) it guides funding decisions and project prioritization.
2. Brands will embrace the experience ecosystem. Firms will move to break free from their organizational silos, invest in understanding customer moments of truth through journey-mapping, and embrace the concept of the “customer experience ecosystem” — one that considers the influence of every single employee and external partner on every single customer interaction.
3. Experience management will emerge as a management discipline. There is increasing acceptance of the idea that customer experience management can be thought of as a discipline — a set of sound, repeatable practices such as those are defined in Forrester’s Customer Experience Maturity Framework.
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:
We heard these specific things from customers through our VoC program.
As a result of what we heard, we made these specific changes.