At the end of the day, customer experience programmes should provide decision makers at all levels of the organisation with the information they need to build and deliver a successful customer-centric business strategy. To do this effectively, a programme requires integration of a broad range of inputs from customers.

So how does your voice-of-the-customer (VoC) programme measure up? Does it succeed in bringing together critical insights for each area of the business, including feedback on the performance of the digital touchpoints that most companies are currently incorporating as part of their digital transformation?

VoC programmes are a cornerstone of customer experience management. They provide vital market information, helping to prioritise improvements and demonstrate the business case for investing in them. Performance measurement tools and customer metrics in turn provide evidence of whether these improvements are making a difference to customers, both on a transactional level and as part of a long-term relationship.

Most brands currently use brand health trackers and VoC programmes to incorporate customer feedback into decision making. If we want to see commercial insights driving changes that improve customer satisfaction, what needs to be done differently? It is helpful to reflect on the elements of a successful VoC programme:

  • Customer feedback on the quality of the relationship. A strategic viewpoint of performance helps brands to stay on course. Key to this is an overview of the overall customer experience and the customer-brand relationship. Competitive benchmarking should ideally be used to ensure market dynamics inform this perspective. Relationship dynamics change during the customer lifecycle, so these need to be closely monitored and every effort taken to understand how customer experience and the brand interact to form an attachment.
  • Continuous measurement and operational metrics matter. Given the emphasis on easy, intuitive decision making during the customer journey, the operational basics have to be continually fine-tuned to avoid problems or delays and ensure a positive experience. Continuous measurement of customer interactions at each touchpoint is therefore key to rooting out pain points, checking for engagement and ensuring successful delivery of exceptional experiences.
  • Customer KPI targets for front line staff. From the on-boarding process to every visit to the website or call with customer service, customer feedback is an invaluable barometer of whether performance standards are being met consistently, and whether they are leaving the desired impression. Customer KPI’s and line-of-sight targets against these are used to manage and reward frontline staff. High frequency event-driven feedback from customers provides employees at all levels with prompt indications of how they are performing, and what they must change to excel.
  • Customer communication not research. Short surveys that focus on timely and relevant communication with customers can help to build engagement and trust if well executed. Customers do not want to be bombarded with surveys, but will appreciate the opportunity to feedback in ways that suit them.
  • Customer analytics. With the rise of digital activity across the customer journey, data analytics are becoming an increasingly important way of making sense of the deluge of customer data that’s available. They can be used to automatically flag issues and speed up reaction times, empowering employees to become more proactive in addressing customer requirements and to deliver a more personalised service. It is worth noting, however, that analytics that allow for personalisation, if taken too far, can seem ‘creepy’ to customers who value their privacy.
  • User experience (UX) feedback is now recognised as increasingly important to the design of effective experiences in the digital domain. Not only for retail outlets, websites and social media, but also for the customer journey across devices, even workstations for agents in contact centres serving customers. UX expertise brings ergonomics, product and service design into focus to ensure that experiences are intuitive, responsive and appealing. UX can elegantly orchestrate engaging experiences that are compelling to customers across touchpoints.

So how can decision makers use and combine the elements of successful VoC programmes in new ways to drive business improvements and performance? How can VoC programmes serve performance management objectives, particularly when rapid innovation and a cultural shift are needed to positively disrupt business-as-usual activities?

The management processes behind decision making and the implementation of improvements are changing. Leading brands are demonstrating a shift in thinking from a focus on incremental performance improvement to more flexible and dynamic approaches that emphasise speed, breakthrough innovation and experimental design. VoC programmes should be feeding through the information they need as they adapt to stay ahead of their customers.

Stuart Crawford-BrowneSTUART CRAWFORD-BROWNE, DIRECTOR, BRAND AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, GfK
Stuart is an international researcher and marketing professional, with expertise in brand and customer experience management across a broad range of industries including telecommunications, energy and financial services.
With a strong interest in voice-of-the-customer programmes, innovation and business strategy, Stuart is passionate about technology, agile marketing and sustainability, and how they impact brands, customers and organisations.
Stuart has been involved in GfK’s work exploring the implications of big data and personal data on our understanding of consumer behaviour in the digital economy.

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