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Going Beyond Surveys in Building a Voice of the Customer

A recent survey I executed found that most companies define their Voice of the Customer process in terms of complaints and surveys.  Those companies which include other data such as operations data and employee input are much more effective and impactful.   Why?  My conclusion is that executives tend to believe operations data and employee input more than they believe customer input.   To a degree they are correct, in that the data is less biased and more comprehensive.  My workshop at Call Center Demo and Conference on October 21st will describe how to painlessly incorporate these additional data sources into your VOC to enhance your impact across the company.

Adding Operations Data and Employee Input to Your VOC Process

Operations data is seldom viewed as customer feedback.  However, if the operations data describes missed appointments, dropped calls, premium increases, long wait times or imposed late charges, they are, in fact, quantifying the number of customers who have had an unpleasant surprise.   For example, if a delivery company has data on packages which missed the connecting flight, it knows exactly how many customers will suffer from a missed delivery time.  If 1,000 packages missed flight connections, the company may only get calls from 200 of the customers, though all 1,000 have been inconvenienced.   Further, in the overall survey process, it is likely that only a few of those 1,000 customers would even receive a survey so the number of survey respondents reporting failed deliveries might be very small.

Employee input is also a credible source of VOC data.   Employee are often more aware of all the problems than even customers and are very happy to report them because the front line often gets stuck fixing them.   A critical requirement is that input be easy and that impact be regularly communicated.   A West Coast utility has established an email process where whenever employees observe a preventable problem they can send an email to a mailbox in the customer advocates area describing the issue.   Contact center employees then get feedback at least monthly and often weekly on what was identified and what management has done with the data.

Getting started in incorporating operations data into your VOC Process

The key guidance in this area is better a small success than a big disaster.   Systematically incorporating operations data is a huge task requiring  IT assistance and you want to avoid that if at all possible .  The best approach is to identify one or two issues where you are encountering resistance in getting the issue addressed and gather the operations data on a manual, ad hoc basis, get a quick victory to build credibility and then more to the next issues.  Specifically:

Step 1:  identify two candidate issues that have been dragging on for months or years without getting fixed

Step 2: Find some operations data that describes the size and prevalence of the problem, e.g. exception data.  Talk to your quality and operations peer, describing the problem and ask them what information might exist.

Step 3:  Gather operations data that describes the problem prevalence for one month.   This data will almost always suggest many more occurrence than the number of complaints you have received.  Also, because it is internally sourced, senior executives tend to believe it more easily.

Step 4:  Ask your employees to describe how upset the customer is when the issue occurs and to estimate the percentage of customers who probably will not repurchase your product or service.

Step 5: Build your economic case for fixing the issue using its monthly revenue impact based on the number of occurrences indicated by the operations data – the result will almost always be a big number that will get management’s attention.  Be sure to include your recommendation for how to prevent or mitigate the issue.

Step 6: When you get management action on the first issue, celebrate the success, giving the operations executives and your front line employees the credit.   Then move on to the next issue, slowing bolstering your VOC with more and more operations and employee input.

About the Author:

John A. Goodman is Vice Chairman, Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, his latest book is Strategic Customer Service, published by AMACOM, available on Amazon for <$20.

Email him: [email protected] 

Follow him on twitter: @Jgoodman888