VoC: what’s wrong with VoC and how do you get it right? (Part II)

In the previous post I shared the first part of my discussion around VoC with Erich Dietz, VP of Business Solutions at Mindshare Technologies (specialists in customer surveys and enterprise feedback).  The key point of that post was captured in Erich’s words: “No-one is really doing VoC surveys with the customer in mind!”   In this post I wish to share/discuss with you the other big issue that came up in my conversation with Eric.  Before that lets just briefly summarise best practice in soliciting customer feedback.

Lets assume your organisation is following best practice in soliciting customer feedback

Lets assume that you:

1. Have come up with the right incentives to encourage feedback – incentives that encourage your customers to give up their time and make an effort to give you feedback on what matters to them and how you are doing in meeting those needs;

2.  Have made giving feedback a natural extension of the already occurring conversation – e.g. using the call coming into the contact centre to engage the customer in a dialogue and invite her to share her experience, to give feedback immediately after the call;

3.  Have purposefully and cleverly designed the survey process so that it is short and easy by only asking a small number of questions that really matter that can help improve the customer experience – questions that you do not have answers to already or those that you cannot get answers to by trawling through your internal systems and/or speaking with your employees who touch the customer;

4.  Are making effective use of VoC technologies to allow customers to provide feedback through their preferred channels/devices e.g. email, phone, IVR…..

5.  Major in soliciting unstructured feedback and minor in structured feedback – that is to say that you primarily set out to get unstructured feedback and reinforce this with some structured questions which enhance the value of the unstructured feedback e.g. “How many contacts did it take for you to get your issue resolved?”

6.  Have in place a team/process/platform for converting this feedback into actionable insight into what matters to your customers –  what is working well and what is not working or your customers: policies, processes, products, services, customer facing employees, technology….. 

The question is this, “Is this enough?”   Erich and I agreed that this is not enough.  For all this work  to generate value it is necessary, critical, that your organisation (Tops, Middles, Bottoms) act – act decisively to make changes that improve the customer experience, engender customer happiness and thus cultivate both customer advocacy and customer loyalty.  Is this happening?

The second major issue: too many companies talk about the Customer Experience and don’t act, don’t deliver!

Acting decisively on VoC generated customer insight to improve the customer experience by making the proper changes – policies, processes, people, technology, retail store environment etc – is the second big failing in the VoC arena.  What do I mean?  If I understood Erich correctly then he said something remarkably similar to this: “Too many companies say that they are committed to improving the customer experience and yet don’t deliver on this commitment, this promise!”

When I probed into this to ask Erich why this is happening, why companies are failing to act on their VoC insight which they are collecting and paying for, Erich said that he had heard just about every excuse there is.  Probing further, Erich stated that the top two reason/excuses offered by clients tend to be:

  1. Other priorities; and
  2. Lack of resources.

I could hear the frustration in Erich’s voice.  Clearly this is a man who cares about the Customer Experience, he exclaimed his frustration “These are companies where revenues are flat, profits are flat, the customer experience is poor and yet ‘other priorities’ are important than improving the customer experience!”

Making VoC insight pay: what’s missing the presence of which makes all the difference?

Here is what I say: can you imagine Steve Jobs saying that anything was more important than designing great products – products that would wow customer through a great end-to-end user experience? 

I was listening to Steve Jobs biography and there is passage that speaks to the situation that Erich is describing here.  The passage, the quote from Jobs, goes something like this: “At too many companies design is simply veneer, at Apple design is the essence of what we do.”  So I would say that my observation is as follows:

Look at Customer Experience masters (e.g. Apple, Starbucks, Amazon) and you will find that the Customer Experience is the essence of what the organisation is designed to do and compete on.  Look at everyone else who is speaking and touting their love of the customer and the customer experience and you will find that for the Tops in these organisation Customer Experience is simply a veneer: lipstick on a pig!

Part III coming next

In the next and last post, I will set out Erich’s recommendations on how to do VoC right so that your organisation generates value – for you and your customers.  Thanks for listening to my speaking!


VoC: what’s wrong with VoC and how do you get it right? (Part I)

I like the folks at Mindshare Technologies – specialists in customer surveys and enterprise feedback.  We share a philosophy, YOLOMAD: you only live once, make a difference.   From what I can tell they are passionate about helping companies to get access to the Voice of the Customer and use that to improve the customer experience and cultivate customer loyalty that delivers revenues and profits.

With that context in mind  reached out to Erich Dietz, VP of Business Solutions to get his view on VoC stands – the reality and not hype or commentary.  Before I do that let me tell you a little about Erich.   Mindshare started up in Nov 2002 and Erich joined in January 2003; Mindshare has over 250 clients and around 105 employees –  Erich was employee no 7.  And he runs on of the key verticals:  the contact centre vertical.  He has a degree in industrial engineering and so has a penchant for finding a better way to do stuff.  When he worked as a barman he had intimate contact with people so you could say that he understands people – perhaps better than some of us.

What’s the big issue with how companies are going about Voice of the Customer?

You may have noticed that has been a backlash about customer survey.  It appears that customers and people who write about customer related topics like customer service and customer experience have had enough – it has got to the state where requests for customer surveys are having a negative impact on the Customer Experience!

What does Erich say about that?  Erich gets the issue.  He is also clear that VoC, done right, can and does create value for customers and the enterprise – Mindshare has the data to prove it.  Which begs the question: what is the key issue with VoC?  Why are so many companies not doing it right?  Here’s what Erich says:

“No-one is really doing VoC surveys with the customer in mind!”  

By this he is pointing out the following:

1. Customers are not given an incentive to take part in the surveying process.  Put differently, the question “What would entice our customers to give up their time and provide us with valuable feedback?” is not being addressed.  Erich’s view is that a monetary incentive should be provided to kick start ‘engagement’ with the customer.

2. The customer surveys are too long, asking unnecessary questions and so asking too much of customers in terms of the effort and customer time.  I pointed out this issues in this post, ‘The Coppid Beech Hotel: are you asking the right questions?’

3. Companies are not showing customers what they are doing / have done with the feedback.  Customers want to know that they are not wasting their time providing their feedback.  Customers also want to see the changes that have been made – that their feedback can/does make an impact in the way that the company does business.  Enterprises are not providing this feedback – not at the individual customer level nor at the aggregate level – and as such not meeting a vital customer need.

Why is this happening?  What is the root cause?

OK, I get the issue now tell me what is giving rise to this behaviour? That is the question I posed and this is Erich’s answer: companies do not get VoC is about engaging customers in a meaningful dialogue (around the customer experience) and not simply surveying customers! 

This led me to ask this question, why are companies approaching VoC as customer surveying rather than a meaningful dialogue around the customer experience? Here is Erich’s answer:

1.  There is an existing strong tradition of surveying customers. This traditions comes for the marketing world – that of surveying customers and/or holding focus groups.  In both cases the research is expensive to set-up and do and so companies are intent to get the most out of this research. As such companies (and researchers) see customers as a valuable captive audience and want to get as much out of them as possible – hence the battery of questions that strive to ask about anything and everything that might be useful.

2.  There is no tradition and accepted practice around engaging in a genuine dialogue with customers.  Exploring this further, Erich and I agreed that there isn’t even any genuine dialogue within the enterprise – between the manager and the people that report into him, between colleagues, between one department and another….. In short companies run on a ‘command and control’ mode and in that mode there is no room, no space, no opening for dialogue, discussion, batting things back and forth.  In ‘command and control’ the Tops decide, the Middles relay the orders, the Bottoms execute.  And this is exactly what is happening with VoC.

Part II coming next

In Part II (coming next and soon) I will share with you Erich’s views on the second critical issue with VoC – getting value out of it!  I will close this series with Part III, where I will set out Erich’s recommendations on how to do VoC right and get value out of it.  I thank you for listening to my speaking.