We are all experts on customer experience now. Or are we? At Davies Hickman, we believe that using the right data, the latest digital research techniques and visualisation tools is the best basis for sound decision-making on customer-related issues. We advise our clients on how best to leverage people, processes and technology to become more profitable, while keeping the consumer perspective centre stage. Our independent research points to five trends on the effectiveness of Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes.

#1 New ways to measure effectiveness

VoC programmes can be problematic, for customers and organisations alike. Customers giving feedback might, for instance, say they do one thing but do another in practice, while organisations often do not have any evidence to prove the links between VoC and revenues or retention.

For customers, having a voice really matters, and they want to know you’re listening. Are they frustrated by your customer service and sales processes? How easy do they find your online self-service? Their views on these and other questions should stir even the most reluctant organisations to revisit their VoC programmes to see what needs improving and think about new ways of measuring customer satisfaction.

Relatively new measurements such as social media sentiment analysis should be integral to any VoC programme. A combination of tools can also be valuable to capture smart data (third-party review sites, gamification, neuroscience, behavioural economics, etc). But check that the ‘old science’ still applies to these new tools. Are you using the right channels to capture the right data from target customers? Are you making incorrect assumptions (those who post on social media are typical of those who do not)? Have the probability ranges for the estimates and predictions been ignored? Are there hidden biases of samples?
Review ‘correlation is not causation’ (e.g. pinning on Pinterest leads to purchase). Smart data (data that are integrated and shared cross functionally) can be so much more revealing than big data.

#2 Data visualisation, combination and judgement

Many organisations mistakenly believe that the more data they gather, the less expertise they need to form considered and sound decisions. Moving from data analytics to visualisation requires experienced individuals to make judgements about how best to meet customer needs and maximise business potential. They then need to communicate those judgements to other leaders. Put simply, it’s not about getting more and more customers on your database, it’s about how well you know them and how you tailor your products, services and delivery channels to their needs.

#3 Insights into actions

To turn VoC insights into action, frontline customer service employees need ongoing development and support that enables them to share their observations about customer behaviours and context. To get the best strategy, include the views of those in your organisation who think differently, and choose those who are ready and keen to manage the unknowns of tomorrow. But trust and believe in the value of innovative VoC. Be sure to incentivise those who use VoC insights to make a positive difference.

#4 Towards real-time service

The customer service marketplace is going beyond the convenience of instant solutions through apps and self-service (particularly where the onus of effort is on the customer). There are now sensors available to support real-time service, providing rapid customer feedback to an organisation and getting a response back to the customer just as quickly.

It is likely that sensors will soon be integrated into billions of consumer products (experts predict the sensor market will be worth $29bn by 2020). The driverless car is already here, and you can get a thermostat that works out how warm you want your home to be at different times of the day, and does it for you. In the customer service world, Siemens Healthcare uses dashboards to monitor all the devices sold into hospitals so that any failure of service can be detected in real time.

#5 From feedback to dialogue

Customer feedback can be unfair, pointless or sometimes misguided. It may be that doing nothing is preferable to punishing customers for giving their opinion of your service (Blackpool’s Broadway Hotel included in its contract small print a £100 fine for any guest posting a bad review online.) The challenge for your VoC programme is to shift from one-way feedback to genuine two-way dialogue. Smart organisations are doing just that, finding new ways of negotiating with their customers and responding to their feedback. As with many other spheres of life, improving a two-way relationship means both sides being prepared to change.