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Expert's Angle: Four Steps to Measuring the Impact of Your "Silent" Customers

The new competitive advantage in today’s customer-facing companies relies on listening, analyzing and acting on the Voice of the Customer (VoC). In many cases it's actually less expensive to provide "great" service over "good" service, as the payoff for something great could be 10 times more profitable. At the Annual Call Center & Exhibition (ACCE) held in Seattle earlier this year, John Goodman—vice chairman of TARP—shared survey results from research the organization conducted on VoC. Taking place in late 2011, the survey found that roughly 33 percent of organizations produce an end-to-end view of the customer by leveraging data from multiple sources. These companies were twice as likely to have significant improvements in customer satisfaction versus the organizations that didn’t integrate multiple types of VoC data.

Voice of the Customer was named as the number one mega trend for 2012, based on a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) in conjunction with Saddletree Research. The survey identified three key technology components of a VoC program: speech analytics, text analytics and survey software. These three components are critical to providing a complete view across the different channels. The research identifies that about 23 percent of contact centers have already funded or plan to evaluate text analytics solutions in 2012; 25 percent have already funded or plan to evaluate survey solutions; and about 33 percent have already funded or plan to evaluate speech analytics in 2012.

But what happens when customers are not engaged enough to even provide you with feedback? Customers are bombarded with multiple survey requests each day, reducing response rates as a result. And, when it gets harder to reach a live agent, customers often give up and take their business elsewhere—without even bothering to tell you why. The smaller percentage that do complain usually explore a variety of channels to communicate their issues, challenges or concerns. These include sharing feedback directly with in-store representatives, blasting comments via social media, sending an email to customer service, informing a contact center agent, and/or utilizing the resources available to them via website feedback.

Many organizations underestimate the impact and damage of these various customer issues. This usually occurs because they are using data from only a single customer channel or taking into account their vocal customers only.

  • Limiting data to a single customer channel. If your organization works in silos, you may not have the complete picture—especially if customers complain across multiple channels. This means if the company only counts the cases that complain on a specific channel, your view is limited to a small subset.
  • Listening only to vocal customers. Even if your organization counts all the complaints across all channels on a specific issue, it is likely that you’ll still only see a small percentage of the cases where customers are encountering this issue. For certain issues, the majority of customers affected don’t complain to the organization directly1.

In order to more accurately estimate and prioritize the impact of each customer concern, some leading organizations follow a process similar to the one outlined below.

Step 1: Identify all known customer issues. The best way to do this is by leveraging unsolicited, unbiased customer feedback from voice calls, emails, chat sessions and social media. Speech analytics and text analytics can help mine and categorize the top reasons for complaints from these unstructured interactions. Although not all customers complain about each issue, it is unlikely that an important issue has gone by without anyone complaining about it.

Step 2: Create a survey panel from your customers who are willing to provide honest and accurate feedback. The panel should be built to reflect a representative cross-section of your entire customer base. Ask if they have ever encountered any of the issues identified in step one. For each problem they have encountered, ask whether they complained about it and, if so, in what channel. Inquire if and how the issue was addressed. For each concern, ask your panel if experiencing the issue made an impact on them (i.e., how has the issue impacted their willingness to purchase from you again, recommend you to a friend, remain a customer for the next 12 months, and have they shared their experience on social media, etc.).

Step 3: Based on the data collected from the above steps, you can now better determine the real impact of customer concerns. For each issue, you should be able to estimate how many actual complaints were received per channel. Then multiply those by a factor identified in step two. For example, if only 20 percent of the panel that experienced a “delay in service” complained about it, multiply the amount of complaints regarding “delays in service” by a factor of five. With this, multiply the total estimated delays by the average impact each delay has. For instance, if 30 percent of the customers experiencing a delay in your panel claim that they would not purchase from you again within the next 12 months—and your average annual revenue per customer is $100—you can estimate the impact of each service delay to be roughly $30. This could also be further refined, valuing the impact based on whether or not the issue was addressed when the customer complained. In many cases if the dispute was addressed properly the impact may actually be positive.

Step 4: Take action. This analysis should help more accurately prioritize the different customer issues and make more informed decisions on which issues needs to be addressed first. The most critical part is taking the appropriate actions to resolve the top issues based on their real impact to your customers and business. This process also helps demonstrate how important it is to encourage customers to complain directly to the organization when they do experience an issue. That gives your company the opportunity to fix and turn a potentially negative outcome into a positive one.

Some organizations underestimate certain issues because they aren’t reported by the majority of customers. As a result, these companies feel there isn’t a strong enough business case to prioritize them. However, the damage these issues may be causing the business could grow significantly. We’re all aware of how important it is to listen to the Voice of the Customer, but as it turns out it may be even more important to listen to the “silent” customers. The customers don't necessarily offer feedback or vocalize their opinions/concerns, but they are still at risk for leaving or buying from another provider—or even worse, telling their family and friends not to buy from your organization. All the more reason to unify your VoC program across all channels and then listen and act on your greatest resource: your customers’ voice!

1. John Goodman, TARP, presentation at the Annual Call Center & Exhibition 2012