Use the Voice of the Customer to improve Service

Customer Service was around even before the onset of the Internet (really? How did we survive before?). Even then companies required to know what customers thought and how they would describe their experiences with the company. Of course, they would simply ask albeit through a rather rigmarole process for the customer and one that was an administrative nightmare for the company too. From long questionnaires being sent to customers – hoping they would complete them and return – to seemingly never ending questions via a telephonic conversation that would be painful for any customer to endure. Requests to complete forms or walk in for group discussions would often fall on deaf years since these methods were inconvenient and time consuming. The responses that came in would not be helpful since the response base was not large enough to conclusively determine anything. These traditional methods also involved high costs, man hours and frustration on the part of the employees responsible for this activity. Once the internet arrived companies were relieved of the painstaking customer feedback process and used the email and other web options to conduct polls and gather information. This method was more effective and also lowered the costs incurred by companies.

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Collecting feedback from customers is a vital task for any company but is hugely inconvenient and time consuming. Companies therefore tend to conduct such surveys not more than once or twice a year. Also since the surveys are typically structured from the company’s point of view, the customer can hardly get an answer to “what’s in it for me”. This is ironically, since customer service is all about the customer! And to heighten the problem, the surveys are unable to really reach the root cause of sloppy or great customer service.

Starting with large companies and other average sized companies following suit, is the use of Voice of the Customer (VoC) metrics. As the name suggests, these VoC surveys target the root cause of the failure and maybe even success of a company’s customer service techniques. This method is more effective and relevant even from the customer’s view point as it focuses on customers based on the kind of industry or line of business. The pointed feedback received through the Voice of the Customer surveys is accurate and is higher qualitatively and quantitatively. VoC surveys are being widely used given their effectiveness and key role in improving the customer service company’s provide leading to higher levels of customer satisfaction. However, this too incurs cost and the best way to measure its efficacy for a company is to understand the connection between these surveys and the effect it is having on the bottom line or the return on investment.

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Companies that decide to use these surveys must understand what changes they need to make in their business strategies and what the end result would be on their overall business purpose. Voice of the Customer has varied metrics that need to be implemented based on the business needs. Unlike other random surveys, VoC surveys would be effective if some key factors were focused on before implementing any of the metrics.

– Get buy-in from all those internal customers likely to be involved in the survey. They must be shown the value of the survey by aligning it to the business objectives of the company. A direct insight showing how the success of this survey will help to strengthen the bottom line, bring down costs and improve the overall customer service experience, will get the employees engaged and interested in contributing whole-heartedly to the success of the Voice of the Customer program. Companies could also link this program to customer loyalty and also in being able to get back an important client who might have deflected due to service lapses. A sneak peek for the customers prior to launch, will also have customers excited and would be a good way to show prospective clients the company’s commitment to service excellence. These ‘peeks’ can be either through email and or social media sites via all channels (smartphone applications, calls made by the customer service teams, mailers) Customers will know what to expect and will be more willing to share feedback and divulge information rather than if they were taken by surprise if the VoC program was launched suddenly.

– The results of these surveys must link directly to financial goals through the customer loyalty index. The loyalty data would have information on a customer like history, length of association, the kind of revenue they give, how and when they buy, where they are located, how often have they provided repeat business. Based on this information customers can be segmented in to the happy, not so happy and disgruntled customers. Voice of the Customer survey feedback would help to improve on the satisfaction levels of the various customer groups – making an unhappy customer back to happy and getting back a vexed customer.

The different metrics within the Voice of the Customer program must be chosen prudently to have a visible and measurable impact and lead to the success of the program. The metrics given below are the most used and have been known to be effective.

– The Net Promoter Score or NPS determines a customer’s willingness to ‘promote’ or stand for your company and brand. It calculates through a relationship survey, whether the customer is excited enough to be a brand ambassador by speaking about your company to their associates, friends and family

– Overall Satisfaction Index (OSAT) is part of the transactional surveys to measure the company’s performance on various channels and the satisfaction levels based on the interactions taking place
– Customer Loyalty is measured by the Customer Loyalty Index. This would measure the kind of business, repeat business and the number of complaints the customer has made.

– Customer Effort Score or CES measures the satisfaction that customers may experience from their interactions related to a problem resolution. It measures how much effort the customer put in to understand and use troubleshooting methods, the self-help troubleshooting diagrammatic representations to resolve an issue. It also ascertains if the call centre staff dealing with technical problem solving was able to satisfy the customers in the first instance saving on time and money.

Being able to understand the customer’s experience through looking at this data, companies can determine which interactions score higher and which have left something to be desired. It is beneficial to know what the overall perception of the customer is when interacting with the company whether it is for a simple query or a more complex troubleshooting of a problem. Understanding why and when the customers interact – is it only for a problem or do they also reach out to say thanks or provide feedback – this is ascertaining the Key Driver metric or the main reason a customer connects with a company.

Once you have all the data, it needs to be analyzed and assessed against the kind of return it has been bringing and will bring on investment. Each detail is important in measuring the metrics and the data received to help a company to successfully realize their aim of providing better customer service and creating an environment for growth and employee development. Customer service excellence is not something that happens by fluke – it is the result of focused effort and intent on the part of a company. Ensuring that you know what kind of customer experiences you are creating contributes to great customer service. Satisfied customers are crucial to building loyalty for your brand and a well-implemented Voice of the Customer program is one such method. Getting customers to spend their valuable time in providing feedback is the first step towards creating more meaningful and memorable customer experiences which in the long run will show sustained positive results on the profits and growth for your company.

“95% of companies collect customer feedback. Yet only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard.”- Gartner Group

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