GDS International - Are You Listening?


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Customer Experience Management has become established as a method of improving
customer retention, reducing costs and creating a customer-centric culture. Research
suggests that businesses who offer the best customer experiences have low customer churn
and higher levels of business from referrals. But customer experiences cannot be managed in
a vacuum. The Voice of the Customer must be tightly integrated to ensure that your customer
experience program is effective and that vital insight is not lost in silos. This white paper
looks at why customer experience programs need to include the Voice of the Customer and
discusses key requirements to ensure that voice speaks clearly.

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GDS International - Are You Listening?

  1. 1. Are You Listening? W H I T E PA P E RWhy your Customer Experience Program will Fail without the Voice of the Customer
  2. 2. 2Executive SummaryCustomer Experience Management has become established as a method of improvingcustomer retention, reducing costs and creating a customer-centric culture. Researchsuggests that businesses who offer the best customer experiences have low customer churnand higher levels of business from referrals. But customer experiences cannot be managed ina vacuum. The Voice of the Customer must be tightly integrated to ensure that your customerexperience program is effective and that vital insight is not lost in silos. This white paperlooks at why customer experience programs need to include the Voice of the Customer anddiscusses key requirements to ensure that voice speaks clearly.IntroductionCustomer Experience Management is making the transition from niche to necessity. As moreestablished methodologies and technologies are developed and adopted, companies arebeginning to understand that simply having a Chief Customer Officer is not enough. CEM needsto deliver actionable insight that will drive change across the business and create competitiveadvantage. If it doesn’t deliver Return on Investment, there’s simply no point.Your business will have its own definition of the customer experience, but it is useful for thepurposes of this paper to have a guideline of our own. Gartner defines the customer experienceas “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulativeeffect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels, or products.”1 With this definition in mind, let’s consider “Gartner research shows that 86% of what is needed to successfully create a consumers would pay more for a better program of managing and improving the customer experience and 73% say they would customer experience. expand their purchases with a vendor by 10% or more if the experiences were superior” To begin, we must remember that improving the customer experience isnot an end result in itself. It brings about a number of benefits, all of which ultimately affectthe bottom line. When you improve your customer experiences, you can increase customerretention, drive more customer referrals, and reduce costs. As these benefits are recognizedat a senior level, significant budgets are being allocated to CEM. Such budgets are entirelyjustified when Gartner research shows that 86% of consumers would pay more for a bettercustomer experience and 73% say they would expand their purchases with a vendor by 10% ormore if the experiences were superior.2This paper addresses the vital role played by the Voice of the Customer in creating a customerexperience program that will generate ROI. Gartner’s definition shows that it is the customers’perceptions of your business that matter, and there’s only one way to understand thoseperceptions—ask.Market Drivers: Experience the DifferenceThe trend towards focusing on the customer experience has not come out of nowhere. In mostindustries customer churn rates are rising, and in this delicate economic climate customersare keen to ensure they’re getting the best deal available to them. More worrisome for1 Ed Thompson, (November 2011), The Gartner Customer Experience Management Maturity Model. Gartner.2 Scott D. Nelson, (March 2012), Agenda for Customer Strategy and Experience Management, 2012. Gartner.
  3. 3. 3particular industries is that the advent of online comparison and switching web sites havemade it incredibly easy for customers to change suppliers without even leaving the house.Price only takes you so far. Once you’ve established your optimum pricing policies, probablymuch in line with your competitors, you need to look elsewhere. Options are limited. You can’treduce your prices further and you can’t develop an innovative product overnight, so this iswhere the customer experience comes into play.Customer experiences drive word of mouth, and bad news travels fast. According to Gartner,“After a poor customer experience, 26% of consumers posted a negative comment on a socialnetworking site like Facebook or Twitter.” 3 This means that, not only do poor customerexperiences drive customers away, they also hamper your ability to gain new ones.There’s no escaping it, customer experiences matter. Furthermore, as an increasing number ofcompanies realize this, the challenge is on to not only improve your existing experiences, butto make them better than those offered by your competitors. To do that, you need a systematicapproach, including all your key customer touch points and incorporating a range of feedbackchannels.Customer Experience: Managing in a VacuumBefore you can improve customer experiences you need to understand what you’re offeringnow and where you’re failing to meet expectations. This may not be as simple as it sounds.Multiple sales and service channels, different regional offices, and varying touchpoints in thecustomer relationship all provide different experiences.You can’t create a meaningful CEM program without incorporating the Voice of the Customer.Decisions made in a vacuum are destined to fail, leaving you with disillusioned employees anda lot of explaining to do to the board. Without the Voice of the Customer, you’ll hit some or all of these problems:1- You can’t improve experiences you don’t understandYou know which business processes support your customer interactions. But those processestranslate into real-life customer experiences, and they may not translate as well as you expectthem to. Business processes are designed to support your company internally, but you needto understand if they’re putting up barriers to purchase, confusing customers, or simplymaking life more difficult for somebody who’s trying to do business with you. Large companies,particularly those which have grown through acquisition, have myriad processes which impactcustomers and without asking customers about their experiences, you may be irritating oralienating your customer base.2- Not all experiences are created equalThe customer experience is not a distinct entity. There are Moments of Truth throughout thecustomer lifecycle, and different customers will use different channels at different times. Withmost businesses operating online, by telephone, in retail stores, and increasingly throughmobile devices, getting a view of the customer experience is not as simple as analyzing asingle channel. For example, your contact center agents may offer the best experiences in the3 Scott D. Nelson, (March 2012), Agenda for Customer Strategy and Experience Management, 2012. Gartner.
  4. 4. 4industry, but that doesn’t benefit customers who choose to use your web site, which might bebadly designed and unreliable.3- You can’t enter into dialog with mystery customersWhile the long-term aim of a CEM program might be to streamline processes to offer bettercustomer experiences, you can’t ignore the customers who have poor experiences on the wayto that utopia. When customers are unhappy with experiences, only a fraction of them willactually complain, leaving you unaware of the problem, and them complaining about you totheir friends. In many cases, these experiences can be rectified by getting back in touch withthe customer and putting things right quickly. But to do that, you need to know who they areand what you did wrong. Again, without the Voice of the Customer coming into your company,you can’t get back to them to resolve problems. Not only do you slow down the process ofcontinual improvement, but you continue to disappoint people along the way.4- Process-driven improvements don’t change company cultureA successful CEM program must involve employees at all levels of the business, and shouldchange the way in which your employees interact with, and think about your customers.Simply fiddling with processes in an attempt to improve an experience will not engage youremployees. That means it won’t change your organizational culture or create a strongercustomer focus. Employees may adhere to new processes but that’s not about engagingthem with customers, it’s about pressing a different button during the interaction. Employeesbecome far more involved in the customer experience when they hear real feedback attachedto real interactions.5- You might make it worseIdentifying ways in which you can enhance the customer experience is only one step. Theeffects of the changes you make might not be quite what you intended. It may resolve oneproblem, but create three more. It might confuse customers or force them into channelsthey’re not comfortable with. Failing to maintain an ongoing dialog with customers preventsyou from getting insight into what you’re achieving. The Voice of the Customer is not a momentfrozen in time, it must be treated as a conversation that provides value in the long term, andwhich gives you the ability to say, “This hasn’t worked. Let’s try something else.”Capturing the Voice of the Customer: Multi-Channel Feedback PlatformsYou are not capturing the Voice of the Customer for the sake of it; you are seeking out vitalinput to your CEM program. In order to operationalize feedback and drive action you need toconsider how you will gather the information, share it, integrate it with other information (suchas CRM data), and how you can react to it quickly when the situation demands. The Voice ofthe Customer is not the same as an annual survey of all your customers. Regular relationshipsurveys are useful, for example, to help improve your marketing efforts and highlightunderlying trends, but they don’t give you the context that you need to act quickly to improvecustomer experiences. To get that context, you need to engage the customer at the time of aspecific interaction.Enterprise Feedback Management platforms provide the most comprehensive approach tobringing the Voice of the Customer into your CEM program. Forrester Research, Inc. statesthat “EFM is the platform for many organizations’ centralized voice of the customer (VoC) hubthat will handle all of their key activities. As such, this is a go-to technology solution for market
  5. 5. 5insights professionals looking to understand the consumer, monitor and measure customerexperience across multiple touchpoints, and conduct standalone customer research.”4Underpinning your CEM program with Voice of the Customer technology is the standard forefficient, effective insight into your customer experiences.Such platforms give you the ability to capture the Voice of the Customer at the point theexperience takes place. This means that the feedback you receive is specific to a particularsituation and while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind. This “in-the-moment”approach increases response rates and data accuracy, so you know that you are basingdecisions on solid information.VoC platforms enable you to ask customers for feedback over multiple channels. This iscrucial when your customers interact with you through these multiple channels. Whether acustomer used your web site, your store, or called into your contact center, you can gathertimely, accurate information through the appropriate channel. For example, if a customermade a purchase online, it may make sense to direct them to a web survey, either through apop-up on your site, or by email invitation. For people who used your contact center, you candivert them into an IVR survey to immediately gather feedback on that interaction. Again, it’sabout getting the right feedback at the right time, in the way that best suits your customer.VoC platforms also make it easy for you to share data across your business. Gatheringfeedback is only the first step, and if that feedback languishes in silos, then its value issignificantly limited. The customer experience is influenced by processes that encompassmany departments, so you need to share feedback to ensure that the right stakeholderscan identify how their department can improve those experiences. Dynamic reportingdashboards provide clear insight, while being able to drill down enables you to get into thedetail of individual interactions. The ability to share feedback in the way that best suits yourstakeholders is as important as gathering that feedback in the way that suits your customers.To address issues immediately, automated alerting systems can send an email to the personbest placed to take action, ensuring that while insight is analyzed, businesses can resolveindividual issues.What to Look ForWhen you are ready to start bringing the Voice of the Customer into your CEM program,there are some key features to look for that will ensure you’re able to benefit fully from theopportunities above.1- Multi-Channel Feedback CaptureAll feedback platforms will offer web as a channel. This is now the most common form ofdata collection. It enables access to a very broad customer base and enables customers toprovide their feedback in their own time. IVR is also a very powerful way to gather feedbackwhile you have a customer on the telephone, and increasingly mobile is a channel which mustbe seriously considered. Mobile devices can also capture rich media such as photos and videowhich help to truly capture the customer experience, particularly in retail, tourism and leisuresituations. It enables businesses to capture in-the-moment insight and is hugely engagingwhich increases the accuracy of the feedback customers provide.4 Reineke Reitsma, with Jill Chiara, Richard Evensen, Roxana Strohmenger, Gina Sverdlov, Samantha Jaddou(December 2011). Predictions 2012: What Will Happen In Market Research. Forrester.
  6. 6. 6Even if you only need a single channel as you start out, it’s likely that you’ll want to expandyour program, so you should ensure that your provider has the facilities for you to add morechannels as you need them. Setting up a successful Voice of the Customer program is not anovernight task, so avoid the requirement to repeat it in 12 months if you need to add a newchannel.Tip – Create a customer journey map that lists all your customer touchpoints, and consider how you could bestgather feedback for each of them. Ensure your vendor can handle each of these channels effectively so you can rollout feedback collection for each one, in turn. Don’t feel compelled to launch them all at once; there’ll be a lot tolearn in the early stages so roll the program out at a steady pace.2- Clear ReportingCustomer feedback and customer insight are not the same thing. Without reporting that givesyou the information you need to take action, then feedback is nothing more than a seriesof snapshots of how your customers feel about a particular interaction with your business.Consider what information you need, who needs access to it, and how detailed that informationneeds to be. Look for a solution that enables you to view both the big picture and detail in asingle place. This will reduce the time that stakeholders have to spend looking for the crucialpiece of data that they need. Ensure that whatever channel you collect feedback through, it allends up in a single report—silos will only reduce your ability to gain insight.Create Key Performance Indictors around your CEM program and ensure that your reports aregeared around those metrics. KPIs, such as Net Promoter Score5 not only provide focus, butalso give executive management an immediate view into the general direction of the program,helping to cement senior buy-in. Seek out a vendor that offers live reporting. This reduces thelag between what customers are saying and you taking action, and makes it more “real” to youremployees.Finally, remember that the verbatim statements that customers provide, whether in text orverbally via an IVR survey are an incredibly rich source of insight. While rating scales andsimple, closed questions deliver value, seek out a solution that can provide text analytics toensure you’re not missing the real message that your customers are providing. Wading throughthousands, or even millions, of customer comments is not feasible, but using technologyto categorize comments to provide sentiment analysis and identify key drivers of behaviorcertainly is.Tip –Get stakeholders involved in identifying KPIs and designing the reports to ensure that everyone gets the datathey need. By involving staff at multiple levels you engage employees with the program, preventing it from beingseen as an abstract concept that doesn’t relate to their actions.3- AlertingYour CEM program should drive changes that deliver better customer experiences. Whetherthat means smoother business processes, better trained staff, or making more sales channelsavailable, it’s a long term project and won’t be achieved overnight. However, you can improveexperiences before you reach that stage. Your feedback platforms should include an alertingfunction that helps you to immediately respond to situations where your customer has comeaway from their interaction dissatisfied. When a customer receives a survey and states that5 Confirmit Annual Market Research Software Survey 2011, Tim Macer and Sheila Wilson, meaning ltd, March 2012
  7. 7. 7 they were unhappy, pre-defined rules will Case Study: Sharing Data for Cultural forward the details of that customer to Change the relevant person within your business. Farmers Insurance has implemented a Voice You can follow up with the customer and of the Customer program to follow up on rectify the situation, providing an excellent calls into their contact center. They email up customer experience and preventing to 600 surveys every day, receiving over 100 disparaging word of mouth. responses. Tip - Ensure that your alerts contain all the They have created rules within their program information you will need to follow up. Some that automatically create alerts when a feedback platforms can be integrated with CRM systems making is easier to transfer customer response reports a very low satisfaction score. data between the platforms. Following up with At a tactical level, it means they can resolve customers can be made much simpler when the that particular issue, but at a more strategic alert contains the responses that the customer level, it helps them to identify and prioritize all gave, along with their name, contact details, and even past purchase history. To further engage issues to prevent them from being repeated in employees with the follow-up process, find a the future. platform that will enable you to record customer comments provided over the phone which can be To share feedback, all employees have access included as part of an alert. Hearing the true Voice of the Customer is incredibly powerful. to a feedback dashboard where they look at top-line and team scores. The managers with responsibility for processes use deep dives 4- Share and Integrate Your Feedback of the data to guide their decision making. Data Executives and front line employees alike look Along with being able to create reports at the data and discuss how they can use it to that give you the information you need, improve services further. It has driven cultural sharing data is vital to get real value out change across the company, with the Voice of customer feedback. It doesn’t really of the Customer forming a crucial role in matter how you share the data, as long redesigning customer experiences. as it is in a format that people in your company will understand, embrace, and use. Live reporting dashboards, ashighlighted above, are the most interactive, up-to-date way to do this. Look for a solution thatoffers personalized reporting functionality. This will allow, for example, a customer servicesmanager to see data only relating to his team, while a CEO would see the top-level view thatshows general trends. This will help to maintain that crucial executive-level buy-in to theprogram.Portals like these might not be suitable for all your users; ensure that you are able to easilyexport the data in a format that suits your company. MS PowerPoint is one of the most popularoptions, so if this would suit your business better (e.g. to share amongst contact center staff),then ensure that you can regularly and quickly export live data because sharing out-of-dateinformation will quickly cause employees to lose interest.Finally, consider whether you should integrate your feedback with other customer data. YourCRM database, among other such tools, holds a wealth of information which may be enhancedby the addition of feedback. Rather than requiring stakeholders to log into multiple systemsto find all the information they need, channeling it all into a single place may be a moreappropriate option.
  8. 8. 8Tip – Think about who your stakeholders are. Different groups of people will want to see their data in different ways,so find out what they require and make sure that your vendor can accommodate all these needs, including the abilityto integrate with other platforms. Forcing users to look at data in a way that doesn’t suit them won’t work. Thetechnology must suit your needs, not the other way round.Next Steps: The road to Great Customer ExperiencesA successful Voice of the Customer program must deliver actionable insight that enablesyou to drive change throughout your organization. By helping you to identify failing businessprocesses, pinpoint training requirements and find new marketing opportunities, you cangenerate real ROI simply by listening to your customers, and acting on what they tell you.Launching into a VoC program without a clear plan of what success looks like is a recipe forfailure. It’s important that you define key areas, such as the customer journey and clarify whatoutcomes you are looking for from the program. Only then can you design a program that iscapable of delivering the wins you’ve identified.The role of technology in a Voice of the Customer program is vital in ensuring that you canbuild the multi-channel program that you’ve designed. If a key part of your interaction withcustomers is through a contact center, you must select a platform that can deliver feedbackthrough IVR. Similarly, if you have a significant youth audience, or need access to situationalfeedback, then mobile must form part of your feedback channel. Like all customer touchpoints, your Voice of the Customer program must offer engaging experiences to yourcustomers, regardless of the channel with which they choose to interact with you.Your technology must also engage your employees and enable them to take action where theyneed to. Whether it’s alerts that drive immediate activity with individuals or tailored, interactivereports that give your board members the insight they need to make longer-term decisions,you need to establish what information each team needs and embrace a technology platformthat can provide it.Finally, you have to go back to the start and do it all again. A Voice of the Customer programmust be a constantly evolving process to ensure you continue to reap the rewards of customerfeedback. You need to consider how a range of factors, both internal and external, haveimpacted the targets you set and re-evaluate and re-set them to ensure you’re focusing on theright areas. The job of listening to the Voice of the Customer is never over – you just get betterat listening.
  9. 9. About Confirmit Confirmit is the world’s leading SaaS vendor for multi-channel Voice of the Customer, Employee Feedback, and Market Research applications. The company has offices in Oslo (headquarters), Cologne, Guildford, London, Moscow, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Yaroslavl. Confirmit’s software is also distributed through partner resellers in Barcelona, Kuwait City, Madrid, Milan, Pattaya, Sydney, and Tokyo. Confirmit targets Global 5000 companies and Market Research agencies worldwide with a wide range of software products for feedback / data collection, panel management, data processing, analysis, and reporting. Customers include A&N Media, British v Airways, Dow Chemical, Farmers Insurance, GlaxoSmithKline, Halifax Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Ipsos, Nielsen, The NPD Group, and Symantec. Visit for more information.New York +1 212 660 1800 San Francisco +1 510 653 8527 London +44 (0) 20 7648 8560 Guildford +44 (0) 1483 300100 Oslo +47 21 502 500 Moscow +7 495 785 5185 Yaroslavl +7 4852 586 924 Cologne +49 221 92042 197Vancouver +1 604 435 6007 e w www © Copyright Confirmit. All rights reserved.