360 Degrees of a Successful VoC Program: Responding to Customer Feedback

Voice-of-the-customer (VoC) programs are exploding in popularity. Many leading organizations are creating initiatives that include a collection of insights, data, and feedback from a variety of sources to account for the customer's voice--and then feeding this information into broader customer experience strategies. It's important for organizations to demonstrate in some way that they actually take action on customer feedback or respond to us directly so we know they are listening.

Customers generally like to provide feedback, as long as it doesn't require hours of filling out surveys. This begs the question: What are customers getting in return for sharing opinions on a variety of products and services? Some companies, for example, offer to put customer names into a drawing for a prize or a gift certificate.

This may not be enough, however. Try providing feedback in return, so the customer knows his/her voice has been heard. For example, wouldn't you find value in knowing how many other customers have provided similar feedback and what action the organization plans to take? This is likely to provide incentive for customers to continue suggesting input in the future, knowing that someone is listening to and hearing their comments.

Providing Feedback on Feedback

Organizations that fail to mine and take action on collected feedback could potentially alienate customers. This not only reduces a customer's willingness to offer contributions in the future, but can also create a negative impact on overall customer satisfaction.

The following are different avenues for taking the collection of customer feedback to the next level:

Provide relevant feedback on the input you collected to reinforce that the customer's voice was heard, and the company plans to take action. This can also apply with collecting voice-of-the-employee (VoE) data. A leading retailer frequently asks employees to provide free-form feedback following an in-store interaction with a customer. This data is aggregated and mined with a VoC analytics platform that includes text analytics combined with sentiment analysis. The results and specific recommendations are then pushed out to the actual stores and relevant departments. This program has led to various process changes within the store, increasing sales in some departments by 10 percent. Once employees realized that actions were actually being taken based on feedback they submitted, employee participation in this program increased by roughly 400 percent.

Avoid overcollecting repeat data. Customers already provide rich feedback through the initial contact with an organization via email, chat, voice conversation, or other channels. If these interactions are being recorded, leverage the data to learn more about issues, challenges, and opportunities. This allows you to ask only very specific questions that may not already appear in the original interaction, such as, "How likely would you recommend us to a friend?"

Respond to customers in a reasonable timeframe. I recently offered feedback to an airline after a business trip. After much searching on its Web site, I finally found the link. What it revealed was a very long and tedious form. Many customers may have just walked away, but given that this is an area of interest for me, I filled out the form in great detail. After all that time and effort, what I received in return was even more alarming. An auto-reply indicated that my inquiry will be reviewed and responded to within four weeks. Four weeks--wow! Clearly listening and responding to my feedback was not a high priority for the person in charge of the VoC program.

The explosive growth and development of VoC programs has great potential for both organizations and consumers alike, but there is an inherent responsibility on both sides. From the customer perspective, it's important to provide constructive feedback so a company understands what it can do better to improve the customer experience, versus posting abrasive comments on social media sites. Global organizations also have a responsibility to make sure they are collecting relevant feedback--without being overly invasive and requesting more information than necessary.

The most important step is to provide feedback or a response to the information a customer shares, reinforcing a focus on the customer experience. Indicate that you plan to act on customer feedback. Without this cycle of mutual responsibility and respect, VoC programs may not achieve their full potential and mutual benefits to customers and organizations alike.

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Posted May 22, 2015