One opinion is not an effective focus group. Yet all too many executives assume they know what their customers want. These business leaders then make decisions on incomplete data. Savvy executives, however, listen to and act on the voice of the customer to gain a competitive advantage.
According to 1to1 Media's 2009 Voice of the Customer survey, although less than half of respondent's organizations have a formal, enterprisewide voice of the customer program, more than 80 percent have a person or team responsible and accountable for ensuring that action is taken on customer feedback. In fact, nearly three quarters of respondents' companies made changes-that delivered a business impact-to customer service polices or procedures as a direct result of customer, and more than half improved an existing product. Additionally, 48 percent changed back-office policies or procedures, 44 percent upgraded their website, 28 percent launched a new product and 23 percent changed pricing-all of which delivered bottom-line results.
Not surprisingly, respondents top three goals in collecting customer insight are uncovering customer concerns or problems, monitoring changes in satisfaction, and building customer engagement. In addition, about 20 percent of respondents cited gathering ideas for product, service, or process improvements as their number one goal.
Companies take various paths to accessing customer feedback. Most uses several voice of the customer channels. By far, the number one source of input is customer satisfaction surveys, used by 86 percent of respondents. This is followed by focus groups (48 percent), call recordings from the contact center (34 percent), customer advisory boards (27 percent), Net Promoter Scores (26 percent), and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (24 percent). Many respondents also cited face-to-face customer meetings, input from sales calls, and complaints as primary sources of customer feedback. Nearly half of respondents also said that satisfaction surveys are the best source of information that they can act on to make a business impact. A distance second, at 14 percent, is focus groups. This is followed closely by customer advisory boards and call recording from the contact center. Again, many respondents also specifically noted face-to-face customer meetings and input from sales calls as high-value sources of actionable customer feedback.
Responding to changes in customers' interaction preferences, companies are planning to adjust their mix of feedback channels. The biggest change is that two thirds of respondents plan to boost their use of social media sites as a source of customer feedback. About half plan to increase their use of customer advisory boards and branded online communities, nearly 40 percent plan to increase their use of satisfaction surveys, and about a third plan to increase their use of focus groups and call recordings from the contact center, while about one quarter will do more with NPS. These increases translate to an overall growth in gathering feedback, as only focus groups will see a significant decrease in use as compare to other touchpoints.
The reason companies want to hear more from their customers? Taking action on that feedback delivers business impact. "We have learned that there is an indisputable link between improvements in customer experience and bottom-line results," said one respondent.
"It's great to stop and hear what [customers] are saying," said another. "It improves our products, which translates to higher prices and revenue."