How much can you rely on the Voice of the Customer?

VoC Customer Experience Vendors Are Doing Well

A significant component of Customer Experience improvement is getting access to the voice of the customer.  A whole software based industry has sprung up to provide access to that voice; according to The Temkin Group customer experience vendors are doing rather well:  A Good Year for Customer Experience Vendors.

How much can you rely on the Voice of the Customer?

Which brings me to a key question: how much can you rely on what the customer tells you?  My experience suggests that you have to be careful with how you interpret and use the voice of the customer. Allow me to illustrate using personal examples.

During the course of writing this blog I have expressed feelings and then made claims as to what I was going to do in the future.  Did I do what I said I would do?  Lets take a look:

So on this sample of one, you can count on the voice of the customer being an accurate guide to customer behaviour (what the customer will do) only one third of the time.

Why have I continued with Sky?

When I wrote what I wrote, I meant it.  Yet when it came around to terminating the two contracts I had with Sky I found myself doing something bizarre: I terminated the SkyTV contract yet continued with the Sky Broadband.  Why is this bizarre?  Because I had a perfect experience with SkyTV.  My issue, my upset had been with Sky Broadband.  Later I signed up for SkyTV again.

So why have I continued with Sky?  Because I made a poor prediction of the future.  Specifically:

  • I had not taken into account the fact that pleasing my family and keeping them happy is more important than getting back at Sky and so I ended up subscribing to SkyTV;
  • I had not realised that a part of me would not welcome the task and emotional issues (risk of it going wrong) associated with switching my broadband to a new supplier;
  • That Sky would make me an offer that was so financially attractive that it just made good sense to take it up.

Why have I continued with Ascot Chiropractic Clinic?

First, convenience.  I did not switch because it was too inconvenient to visit the Harrsion Clinic: it is out of the way whereas the Ascot Clinic is practically next door.

Second, the hassle involved in switching.  The fact is that my chiropractor had been working with me for over six months and had got to know my body, my condition, really well.  As such I did not want to have to start all over with a new chiropractor.

Why did I terminate the British Gas Homecare Agreement?

Compare to the Clinic and Sky I found it easy to terminate the British Gas Homecare Agreement.  Why?  First, the decision was entirely up to me and so I did not have to convince anyone else.  Second, it was easy to find a new supplier.

What are the lessons to be learned

The voice of the customer will give you access to what specific customer like about you or do not like about you. It will give you insight into which of your touchpoints, processes, products and services are not working for your customers and how they are falling short.  And which are working well and leaving customers delighted.

The voice of the customer is not necessarily a good guide to what specific customers will do in the future.  The fact is that we are really poor at predicting what we will do in the future.  This has been shown time and again through studies.  This is a subject I intend to explore in the future.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

4 thoughts on “How much can you rely on the Voice of the Customer?”

  1. Hi Maz,

    Very interesting post. One comment from my side:

    1. Remember your singly behavior is not ‘statistical significant’. You cannot come to conclusions just based on a single observation.

    2. I totally agree with your first conclusion: “The voice of the customer is not necessarily a good guide to what specific customers will do in the future.”

    3. I partially disagree with your second one: “The voice of the customer is not necessarily a good guide to what specific customers will do in the future.”
    If that voice could be combined with data mining algorithm it can tremendously enhance the accuracy of predictive models.

    Thanks for the post!

    Federico

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  2. Hello Frederico
    I thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    For my part I am in agreement with you that a sample of one is not statistically valid.

    I also get your point on data mining given that I spent two and half years selling the value of predictive modeling using data mining software and techniques. Yes, if you took the VoC data at some point (linked to a unique customer id) and then matched that with renewals and lapses at a later point you could have a go at building a predictive model. I am assuming that you would first append all the demographic, psychographic, transactional and behavioural data to the customer ID.

    Frankly, if you think that way (the data mining / predictive modeling) way then I did not write the post for you. I wrote it for the vast majority of people who working in marketing who do not think analytically. People who actually believe in ‘market research’ that is derived by questionnaire and focus groups.

    For my part I thank you for entering in the conversation. And if I have forgotten anything or misunderstood anything then please continue to point it out!

    Maz

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  3. Maz

    An interesting article, as usual. It’s clear that service is only one of the factors that we consider.

    I have two observations:

    1. If all other things are equal (ie. same product or service, same convenience, same price) but service is consistently better at one company – I always choose the one with better service. In fact usually I’ll suffer a little more inconvenience or a higher price for good service. As you describe, the equation is normally different for distress purchases, but they’re not the norm.

    2. If someone at a company where I experience poor or patchy service offers me a cross-sell or an up-sell, I will refuse. If I begrudge the first purchase there’s no way I will part with more money to someone who has treated me badly.

    How is that relevant? Well large utilities routinely get away with poor service because there are many other factors at work, partly due to the ebb and flow of customers between them (which costs them hugely in marketing spend) but mostly its their customers’ inertia. On the other hand, it seems that the outcome of whether small local companies thrive or die is much more sensitive to their service.

    I read an article related to these topics today here http://customerservicezone.com/customerserviceinterviews/howgoodservice.htm

    My conclusion is that companies can get away with bad service – obviously so, it’s our everyday experience. But they miss the opportunity to thrive. They cannot tap into customers’ goodwill, which limits their growth, and over the long term consistently bad service will erode their customer base and impair or destroy their business (evidenced by the Net Promoter research).

    Coincidentally British Gas Homecare is the one subscription I’ve dropped this year. Didn’t intend to, but they were so hostile on the phone I decided they wouldn’t have another penny of mine, which is a shame because their technicians have been excellent.

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  4. Hello Guy
    I thank you for reading the blog, I thank you for your kind words and I thank you for the contribution that you are making my sharing your perspective!

    What can I say except that you and I are in agreement. And as you know and the article (that you have provided a link to) points out is that there is a vast gulf between what we say in surveys and social media and what we actually do. The bit that I liked the most in the article is:

    “Convenience, habit and price usually trump poor customer service.”

    Where you and I differ in our view of the world is that if I look at things I do notice that there are companies that can and do get away with poor service. As the article points out these tend to be the banks, the telcos, the utilities. In fact any company that has strategic assets including Apple. The fact is that customers are so in love with Apple (the brand) and the products that they do put up with less than great customer service.

    Once again, I thank you for taking the time to share your perspective and contribute to a richer conversation.

    Regards
    Maz

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