Stop Just Listening to Customers

There will be a growing divide between the companies that are good at using customer insights to make changes and those that aren't.
Customer Service

Sometimes you need to look beyond the numbers.

In the recent Temkin Group report, State of Voice of the Customer (VoC) Programs, 2014, we found that more than two-thirds of large companies rated their VoC efforts as being successful, more than nine times the number that rated those programs as being unsuccessful.

Hip, hip, hooray! Let's call VoC programs a success and move on to the next topic.

The Growing VoC Divide

Well, not so fast. When we asked companies to rate themselves in different areas of their VoC programs, only 30 percent of large companies rated themselves as being good at "Making changes to the business based on the insights." That's right, less than one out of three companies is effectively using the insights from its VoC program.

What's going on here?!?!?

It turns out that companies can extract value from just about any quality customer insights. You don't have to be particularly good at using VoC to find opportunities for improvement. But many companies that aren't effective at making changes to their organizations based on the insights are going to find it difficult to compete with organizations that take full advantage of their VoC programs.

As companies add richer veins of insight from unstructured sources such as customer verbatim and call center interactions, integrate with CRM and other data sources, and apply predictive models to the combined data, there will be an increasing level of valuable insights. As the opportunity grows, there will be a growing divide between the companies that are good at using these insights to make changes and those that aren't.

Six VoC Competencies

If you want your company to be on the right side of the customer insights divide, then you will need to build capabilities across what Temkin Group calls the Six D's of a Closed-Loop VoC program:

  • Detect: VoC leaders need to be strategic about when, where, and from whom they solicit information.
  • Disseminate: VoC programs need to invest in making sure that the key people get the right information at the right time and in the right form to help them make better decisions.
  • Diagnose: VoC programs need to develop processes for uncovering the insights and testing hypotheses.
  • Discuss: Firms need to put in place cross-functional forums to regularly discuss insights since many issues can cut across organizational silos.
  • Design: Firms need to follow user-centric approaches for identifying changes that will improve the customer experience.
  • Deploy: Since VoC programs only succeed when companies take action on what they learn, it makes sense for them to prepare for those changes by establishing release cycles and allotting resources to make and test ongoing changes.

Five Stages of VoC Maturity

As companies build these VoC competencies, our research shows that they evolve through five stages of maturity:

  • Stage 1: Novices: These organizations are in very early stages of VoC development.
  • Stage 2: Collectors: These organizations are caught up in just getting data. They spend most of their time focused on discussions about identifying the right "listening posts," choosing the questions to ask, and debating the metrics to use.
  • Stage 3: Analyzers: These organizations do a lot of data crunching. They find interesting and novel ways for uncovering insights about what's working and what's not working in the business. They have some cross-functional processes set up, but the effort is not well-integrated with the rest of the company.
  • Stage 4: Collaborators: These organizations have strong relationships between the VoC team and other parts of their business. They've developed processes for tailoring data and insights to meet the specific needs of other organizations and actively support continuous improvement efforts.
  • Stage 5: Transformers: These organizations link customer insight data into most of the processes throughout their company, from operational activities to strategic decision-making.

Obsess About Customer Insightful Decision Making

Only 11 percent of large organizations have reached the top two levels of VoC maturity. To get to the higher levels, VoC leaders need to dramatically restructure their thinking. Rather than obsessing about data collection and analysis, they need to focus on what it takes to help the organization make changes.

The only question that matters is:What insights, in what form, and in what timeframe will help key stakeholders make customer-insightful decisions?