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Pitfalls to VOC Success

While it is not unusual for companies to implement programs that provide a method of gathering customer feedback, best practices dictate that these feedback programs should be part of an overall culture of not only listening to customers, but also following up and acting on feedback.

One thing that is certain when you implement a VOC program; you will receive feedback.  People will talk.  Are you ready to receive it?  It is now commonplace for companies to ask for customer feedback by email, phone or via social media, but that is just one factor in VOC success.  Research done by Customer Think has identified what it refers to as the “Five major pitfalls to VOC success”

#1 Lack of Executive Support to Drive Change

Being customer-centric is easy to say but hard to do without executive leadership. For example, despite proclamations of being “customer-driven,” a large software company found itself out of touch with consumers who felt the vendor pushed the technology and didn’t pay enough attention to implementation and ease-of-use issues.

A comprehensive VOC program identified the issues, but what really mattered was CEO driving action. The key to the company’s success, according to the VOC program leader, was that top Executives, “believe with heart and soul in the importance of a VOC program and then drive real cultural change.”  This has been something that I have heard throughout my ten plus years in working with VOC practitioners

#2 Garbage in, Garbage out

With VOC programs, you’re collecting customer feedback (input) so you can get insights you can act on (output). If you ask customers the wrong questions, that’s just garbage “in.” If your VOC program is built on faulty logic about what really impacts customer loyalty, you’ll waste time and money-making changes that don’t matter, or make things worse.

A worldwide restaurant chain found, for instance, that while good food was naturally essential, the key differentiator was in fact the “hospitality” of team members. This insight helped the chain make better hiring decisions and invest in training that would improve brand reputation.

#3 Employees Aren’t Motivated to be Customer-focused

Employees are people and tend to do things in their own self interests. So it shouldn’t come as a shock if rewards to decrease “average handle time”—a measure of efficiency—motivates call center agents to rush to get customers off the phone. Sadly, these tactics usually don’t save any money because the customer calls back or uses other support channels.

Take a tip from Zappos, a popular retailer founded 10 years ago as an online shoe shore. In the Zappos call center, “customer loyalty representatives” are measured on First Call Resolution (FCR) and rewarded for the quality of conversations, not speed.

#4 Listening With Only One Ear

Analyzing quantitative feedback from customers is like listening to customers with only ear. The other ear should be used to understand customers through the unstructured and often unsolicited feedback they provide. To start, text analytics can help listen to customers via their written comments on relationship and transaction surveys. But many other sources can provide unsolicited feedback, such as web site forms, email messages, chat messages and call center agent logs. One U.S airline could tie comments to a specific aircraft or even a seat number to help find and fix problems that have a direct impact on the customer experience.

#5 Ignoring Social Voices

Consumer usage of social media has exploded in recent years, including blogs, review sites, Facebook and Twitter. This provides lots of options to rave about great experiences or vent about bad ones.

Now, it’s true that social media is a chaotic and noisy world where it can be challenging to “separate the wheat from the chaff.” And besides, how do you know if the complainers are really your customers? Despite these challenges, can you really afford to ignore social voices?

And might I add a sixth…

#6 Inadequate Staffing and Training

A few years ago, I implemented a new client who was creating a combined VOE and VOC program.  The program owner was excited and enthusiastic.  She called the program “XXX Cares” (I won’t mention the name).  We spent weeks crafting the program from the surveys to the closed loop processes and everything in between.  Thousands of dollars were spent on marketing and awareness materials.

Along the way I encouraged her to envision what impact this would have on her staff and training.  She dismissed it and claimed that she was “OK.”  It was a Friday when we cut the ribbon and launched the program.  Feedback, both solicited and unsolicited, began to roll in.  As a vendor, I was thrilled to see the level of feedback and the seemingly positive popularity of her program.

Like the many who lack a social life, I checked my email on Saturday to find a very distressing message from the program owner.  She was asking me to call her as soon as possible, which I did.  In a nutshell, she asked me to “shut down the program,” and that “she didn’t have time to wade through all of these messages.”  I told her to calm down and that we would talk on Monday, but it didn’t get any better from there.  She failed to grasp the volume of feedback that would be received, and so it was up to just her and a part-time marketing intern to digest the feedback.  Overwhelmed, she shut the programs down and to my knowledge has never re-instituted them. I can’t imagine what those employees and customers thought upon seeing this highly touted, potentially actionable program die.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Avoiding the common pitfalls along with adequate preparation—seeing the program from the end, is time well invested that will ensure VOC success.