Two pieces of cloth, by themselves, are nothing more than squares of material. Stitch them together and these two parts become one entity-one shirt, one coat, one dress. For companies, customer data exists in multiple forms, yet many lack the ability to intertwine the information into one single 360-degree view of each individual at hand. Voice of the Customer (VOC) data flows through the many channels of an organization, yet insights rarely intersect.
Organizations across industries recognize that, as communication channels evolve, VOC data will continue to pour in despite the disparate collection processes in place. But, with the impending Big Data explosion, companies are also starting to realize that they must make strides to blur the lines between each channel in order to ensure all departments throughout the enterprise have access to every piece of customer data and insight.
Yet, while most companies know they must break down the silos that restrain channel-specific data in order to link the customer journey, streamline processes, and increase revenue, they must also know what they specifically are trying to achieve as they move forward. Their ultimate goals must drive action, leverage customer insights to pinpoint areas of improvement, and curb negative sentiment in real time to uproot the underlying causes of customer dissatisfaction.
Connecting the Dots
"The first [priority] is for an organization to recognize it needs to become a customer-driven enterprise," says John Maraganis, president, founder, and CEO of Omega Management Group Corp. With customer data at the center of all business decisions, companies must look to each individual as an invaluable source for insight. "Increasingly, organizations have realized that customers-not products and services-are the source of all revenue and profits. With this insight, they begin to see customers as partners, not distractions."
But, while companies generally know in which direction they must move to remain relevant, the non-linear nature of today's consumer lifecycle makes collecting and understanding data infinitely more complex. Michael Whitehouse, senior marketing analyst at OpinionLab, highlights that companies like Wal-Mart have initiated programs that assign credit for online conversions that result in brick-and-mortar store purchases, but such technology only scratches the surface of the matter. As David Flammia, head of LP insights at LivePerson, notes, many businesses lack the technology and know-how necessary to access, process, and analyze disparate sets of data to extract valuable, actionable insights.
"When data sources are heterogeneous to one another, it makes it extremely hard to combine to produce valuable insights," Flammia says. "With the right technology, companies can begin to collect raw data from sources across the organization all in one place, including unstructured data, such as chat transcripts that contain rich conversational data that can reveal important information on products, policies, agent effectiveness, and contact root cause."
According to Heidi Chapnick, CEO of Channalysis, executive engagement holds the key to goal-setting, as C-level buy-in must incorporate a holistic view of the enterprise before the organization can begin to realign its VOC initiatives with the holistic view of the customer. When CEOs speak about objectives for the company, the focus lies primarily with retail. But, for an omnichannel approach to evolve and succeed, C-level executives must come to realize that changes must be made to the company's entire infrastructure so internal resources can comprehend customer feedback and integrate VOC data that reflects the consumer's tendency to bounce between channels, as well.
From "Shiny Objects" to Bright Prospects
When new technologies arise, companies latch on, hoping that these new channels may be the solution to all their troubles. However, these channels typically do nothing more than aggravate their current VOC issues. As Nancy Porte, vice president of customer experience at Verint, says, companies tend to go for the shiny object. Whether it's creating a Facebook page or building a mobile application, they jump on the bandwagon before determining where their customers are and what their customers want.
Matthew Standish, CEO and chief architect of IDInteract notes that customer context is becoming more important than ever. But understanding those who interact with your brand, companies gain the power to feed predictive analytics and develop a more holistic view of a customer's persona. For instance, by analyzing and sourcing a consumer's intent from unstructured data sources, such as Instagram, merged with structured data sources, companies can create a better understanding of a consumer's digital body language in an accurate, timely fashion that may also lead brands to understand a user's propensity to purchase a product at a given time within a given geography.
"By eliminating silos, it will be possible to identify digital body language in real time that can be leveraged across multiple segments of the enterprise. At its core, this sharing of data enables a shift from a supply focused model to a demand-focused model."
Products are normally developed with limited input from customers, leaving marketing and sales teams expected to push these products and services out to an audience that didn't necessarily want or need them in the first place, With virtually unlimited access to data about what their customers need and want in real time, product development teams can then tailor their products and solutions to the specific needs and demands of their customers, encouraging greater customer engagement, boosting loyalty, and making each product or service "shiny" in the eyes of the consumers.
VOC Into the Future
Moving forward, gathering, analyzing, and acting on VOC data will continue to be critical to customer acquisition, retention, growth, and win-back, says Maraganis. "There will always be competition when it comes to product and price. But when those attributes aren't conclusive to a customer or prospect, the deals will go to those organizations that can demonstrate that they are customer-driven, and committed to continuously exceeding customer expectations for service and support." Understanding customers' needs and desires will become the strongest competitive differentiator.
Karine Del Moro, senior director at Confirmit, predicts that we will also see an increase in the number of businesses using mobile to enhance their VOC programs. Mobile channels deliver instant, engaging, and effective insight-information different from any other feedback channel. Companies that neglect to embrace all this channel has to offer risk alienating customers who expect an engaging and enjoyable mobile experience.
"Mobile is more than a data collection channel," Del Moro highlights. "It is a dynamic and evolving way of engaging with customers in the moment on their terms. Capturing customers' opinions in this way, close to the point of purchase or experience, will provide information with less bias, recall issues, or influence from the brand. This leads to more accurate data, more truthful opinions, and more engaged customers."
Del Moro also expects companies to integrate their programs with their employee engagement activities so they may begin to correlate employee engagement with customer engagement. Such strategies will provide a range of benefits by allowing employees to see how their activities have a direct impact on customer satisfaction, thereby driving their own engagement, reducing staff turnover, and building stronger teams. Employee engagement, in turn provides more positive customer experience bringing the entire VOC experience full circle.