Why Your VoC Programs Should Extend Beyond the Contact Center

When you're focused on day-to-day operations and working toward specific revenue-driven goals, it can be easy to lose track of what customers are experiencing and how best to keep them engaged and satisfied. Yet at the end of the day, it's the customer experience that matters most as it can make or break businesses.

How customers feel and think about their experience isn't something that should ever be assumed. It requires regular feedback with a focus on ongoing improvement. When thinking about customer feedback, the first thing that comes to mind is typically surveys, often delivered following a contact center voice interaction. And, the opinions after a call certainly can be valuable. But, it's only one component of an effective voice of the customer (VoC) program, which should include solicited, unsolicited, and inferred omnichannel feedback to obtain the fullest picture and a clear, single view of the truth.

Customer feedback is at the heart of any VoC program. This is the information that comes from customers, whether it's conveyed in thoughts, satisfaction levels, feelings, or opinions about products, services, the experience, or the brand.

With the advancement of technology, customer feedback can be generated and procured in an increasing number of ways. And today's customers are engaging on a growing number of communication channels, often simultaneously. With this reality, feedback can be obtained across all channels, including, but not limited to, the contact center. Social media comments, third-party review sites, blog comments, forums, and more can provide rich sources of data to reveal greater insights. As well, there are still the more traditional forms of obtaining feedback, like comment cards, focus group discussions, customer roundtables, email surveys, and usability tests. All these sources can provide a better understanding of customers and the ability to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Solicited vs. Unsolicited Customer Feedback

When it comes to customer feedback, there are two primary ways to classify it. Solicited customer feedback includes the ways that businesses actively try to obtain customer feedback, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, customer interviews, and focus groups. Unsolicited customer feedback is shared without prompting, such as comments on social media channels or online review sites.

Increasingly, customers are choosing to offer unsolicited feedback on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and other platforms. Because of this, these channels have become an increasingly important aspect of VoC programs.

Structured vs. Unstructured Data

Along with categorizing the data between solicited and unsolicited, it's beneficial to assess the type of data provided. For example, customer data can include identifying information, like customer name, location, income bracket, and NPS score. These data points are the easiest to collect, analyze, and organize using a feedback management tool, spreadsheet, or other statistical tools and methodologies.

In contrast, unstructured data, which accounts for up to 80 percent of feedback that businesses receive today, is found in more free-form text via social media posts, blog posts, call data, live chats, and video reviews. Like with other forms of conversation, unstructured customer feedback can be, at times, difficult to analyze or draw definitive conclusions from. However, it often holds a treasure trove of customer insights.

Innovations like natural language processing and analytical methods, such as text and sentiment analytics, can help sort through unstructured data to make it easier to understand. These technologies also can be leveraged to delve deeper into the customer experience; to obtain insights into customer motivation, sentiment or tone; and to uncover patterns and trends. This data can ultimately be used to understand customers better and improve their experiences.

Today's industry leaders are more focused on customer experience than ever. They have developed successful strategies for listening and acting on feedback to understand their customers and improve their experiences across every channel. If you're just getting started with a VoC program, here are some basics to help guide your success:

  • Get Everyone on the Same Page: When launching or improving an existing VoC program, the first goal should always be to commit to embracing customer feedback across the entire organization. This begins at the C-level and flows down from there through empowered and equipped employees who are all committed to listening to the voice of the customer.
  • Obtain Actionable Insights: Data is meaningless unless it is used constructively. This means gathering data to gain actionable insights from feedback that can be used to address challenges and make positive change.
  • Encourage Customers to Provide Their Opinions: Even if you're receiving lots of unsolicited feedback, there's still value in reaching out to customers to obtain solicited feedback. Consider incorporating customer feedback surveys or review requests into your VoC program to capture thorough, well-rounded views of the customer experience.
  • Integrate Unstructured Data: Although there are insights to be gained by monitoring average star ratings, NPS, and other forms of structured feedback, you will obtain a deeper understanding when you can combine these data points with unstructured data from customers delivered in their own words.
  • Choose the Right Technology Partners: When you're busy with daily operations, it can be downright overwhelming to also be focused on collecting and analyzing customer feedback. To maximize the benefits of your VoC program, you'll want to work with providers who can enable you to obtain the data you need, extract beneficial insights from it, and achieve specific business goals.
  • Drive Meaningful, Long-Term Improvements: VoC programs are never one-time-only projects. Many businesses are tempted to make improvements to their customer experience once and then move on to other tasks. Rather, prioritizing VoC is an ongoing focus that requires the right set of tools, dedication to respond to reviews, and the speed to successfully resolve issues quickly. With this optimal mix, VoC can be woven into strategic business decisions when it comes to systemic processes, front-line staff training, marketing, and more.

Rebecca Burdick is a senior account executive at Plum Voice. She brings more than 13 years of experience in the IVR industry.