Voice of the Customer: Listen to Learn and Learn to Listen

Companies will always chase customers and find out what makes them tick: what makes them loyal brand champions, why they churn, or why they may be ambivalent about products and services.

Enter Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions. Daniel Ziv, vice president of voice of the customer analytics at Verint, says that his company sees more adoption of VoC.

"Now we're seeing that VoC is becoming a lot more strategic and centralized," Ziv says. "By creating a more personalized experience [with VoC], the customer feels as though a company is listening to their concerns, which creates a closed loop approach versus 'let's monitor and hear what people are saying.'"

These solutions have been around for a long time, usually in the form of a simple survey, which VoC is not. Or a company may mistake Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for VoC, which some analysts say is incorrect.

"There's a misunderstanding that you can ask one question and that one question can answer if a customer is happy, and it just doesn't work that way," says Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting. "If that answer is that they're not happy, it doesn't tell you why they're not happy."

Kurt Williams, chief product officer at Mindshare, agrees, and says that it's equally important to uncover issues that companies aren't aware of.

"You need discovery," he says. "You can play twenty questions with your customers all day, but what are the things you didn't see coming? What are the unexpected things, the unknowns? Those are things that need to be watched."

To unearth what could be a virtual gold mine, VoC means deploying a slew of analytics: speech, text, IVR, Web and desktop.

But it's not enough to deploy VoC programs and not follow up on findings. Actionable steps need to be taken, Williams says.

"It's easy to turn on [a VoC] program and then forget about it and let it run in the background, especially when customers rely on just alerts," Williams says. "It's easy to fall into that habit and be passive. You need to find creative ways to use and leverage that data."

One incentive to deploy VoC is ROI, says Ziv. There are associated hard dollar costs with VoC, and companies can become more efficient and effective ."If you understand what drives people to call you five times about what gets them frustrated, that can save the company money," he says.

As far as the future of VoC, the analysts agree that solutions will gain in popularity and even expand beyond their capabilities today.

"We've been talking about other concepts [beyond VoC], like customer experience, analytics, engagement, optimization, and monitoring," Ziv says. "It's not just about monitoring about what customers say but how we translate that, personalize the experience, cross channel. These things go beyond the traditional VoC and will probably get new names."

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