Power Up Your VoC Program: Provide Feedback On Customer Feedback

It seems that Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are exploding these days. Almost every organization I have come into contact with has implemented some kind of VoC program that includes a collection of customer feedback. As consumers, we often get bombarded with requests to participate in "short" surveys.

My personal and professional reward for participating in such inquiries is learning about the different kinds of feedback organizations try to collect. Do they allow for free-form comments or are the questions all structured on a 1 to 5 scale? Most importantly, I'm curious as to whether these companies will actually take action on my feedback or respond to me so I know they are listening.

I believe that customers generally like to provide feedback, as long as it doesn't require hours of time filling out surveys. This begs the question -- what are customers getting in return for sharing opinions on a variety of products and services? Some companies offer to put the customer's name into a drawing for a prize or a gift certificate.

However, it may be more effective for the organization and rewarding to the customer to provide feedback in return. For example, wouldn't you find value in knowing how many other customers have provided similar feedback and what action the organization plans to take? This is likely to provide incentive for customers to continue suggesting input in the future, knowing that someone is listening to their comments.

Steps for Providing "Feedback on Feedback"

Organizations that fail to mine and take action on collected feedback could potentially alienate customers. This not only reduces a customer's willingness to offer contributions in the future, but can create a negative impact on overall customer satisfaction.

The following identifies different avenues in taking your collection of customer feedback to the next level:

  • Make sure you provide some relevant feedback on the input you collected, showing you actually listen and plan to take action. This can be relevant also when gathering "Voice of the Employee" feedback. In one of my recent postings, I referenced Best Buy's "Voice of the Customer Experience" program. Employees were asked to provide free-form feedback following an in-store interaction with a customer. This data is aggregated and mined with a VoC Analytics platform that includes text analytics combined with sentiment analysis. The results and specific recommendations are then pushed out to the actual stores and relevant departments. This program led to various process changes within the store, increasing sales in some departments by 10%. One data point from this program stood out to me -- once employees realized that actions were actually being taken based on feedback they submitted, employee participation in this program increased by roughly 400%.
  • Another aspect to think about is collecting too much information or even data that you have already pulled. For instance, customers already provide rich feedback through the initial contact with an organization via email, chat, voice conversation or other channels. If these interactions are being recorded, it makes sense for the organization to leverage the data. In turn, it's only necessary to ask very specific questions that may not already appear in the original interaction such as, "How likely would you recommend us to a friend?"
  • Finally, respond to customers in a reasonable timeframe. I recently offered feedback to an airline after a business trip. I went to its website and, after much searching, finally found the link. What it revealed was a very long and tedious form. Many customers may have just walked away, but given this is an area of interest for me, I filled out the form in great detail. After all that time and effort, what I received in return was even more alarming. An auto-reply indicated that my inquiry will be reviewed and responded to within four weeks. Four weeks -- wow! Clearly listening and responding to my feedback was not a high priority for the person in charge of the VoC program. I ended up sending a free-form email to their investor relation email address and received a response within 12 hours!

The explosive growth in VoC programs has great potential for both organizations and consumers alike, but there is an inherent responsibility on both sides. From the customer perspective, it's important to provide constructive feedback so a company understands what it can do better to improve the customer experience, versus posting abrasive comments on a Twitter feed. Global organizations also have a responsibility to make sure they are collecting relevant feedback -- without being overly invasive and requesting more information than necessary.

The most important step is to provide feedback or a response to the information a customer shares, reinforcing a focus on the customer experience. Let them know that you plan to act on their feedback. Without this circle of mutual responsibility and respect, VoC programs may not achieve their full potential and mutual benefits to customers and organizations alike.

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