Proactively Use VoC Insights to Blow Your Customers’ Minds
They say that by 2020, customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the No. 1 brand differentiator. I say it already has. Every smart company today is looking beyond the expected product or service to radically improve the quality of the experiences they create. They’re focusing less on price points and more on touchpoints. The way I see it, companies won’t make it to 2020 if they don’t start adapting now. Executives know this, but that doesn’t mean they know how.
A recent report from Accenture shows that most companies are confident in their technology, processes, and organization as it relates to CX. Good, right? Not considering that only 7% are exceeding customer expectations. That means for most organizations, CX is “good enough” at best. There’s clearly something wrong here, and I’ll tell you what that is…
Companies are poorly incorporating Voice of the Customer (VoC) insights into the experiences they deliver.
To compete on CX, companies must know how to address customer needs on their terms, providing technology in the manner and to the degree that they will accept. This is a key barrier to digital transformation success. Think about it: it won’t matter if you’re aggressively training staff, increasing collaboration or promoting top-down cultural change. If these organizational initiatives don’t reflect the voice of the customer, what the heck are they there for?
Sustainable, agile transformation should work to elevate VoC by capturing customers’ expectations, preferences and aversions. Without a successful VoC program, it’s nearly impossible to create value-driven, customer-focused change. It’s like trying to force a square peg into a round hole or pulling on the handle when the door clearly says “Push.” It just won’t work.
How are companies doing when it comes to VoC, then? Research from Gartner shows that only 29% of companies with VoC in place actually incorporate insights about customer needs into decision-making processes. Overall, 75% don’t believe their VoC programs are effective at driving actions. That certainly explains a lot.
It’s clear that companies understand the importance of listening to customers. Rather, the question is how they can capture and use VoC insights to continually improve. Here’s my two cents:
- Engage Customers Early in the Development Cycle
Engage customers early in the development cycle to validate that services and solutions meet top needs. These early engagements (i.e., paper, flash-based demos) should be aimed at soliciting customer input on user experience (UX) designs, for determining expectations on what should be in a certain release, and for formulating backlog requirements (after all, CX-driven design is about looking at the backlog through the eyes of the customer). The goal is to understand what is and isn’t acceptable to customers as early as possible. Input from early adopters is crucial to ensure alignment with expectations, from concept to general availability. In the case something is off (it likely will be, and that’s okay), correct your course. It makes no sense to deliver a product, service or feature that customers don’t want, cannot use, or worst of all, find frustrating. Learn, update, and repeat.
- Get Your Architecture Right
You need to get your architecture right to deliver “sticky” customer experiences (i.e., something customers will constantly use). Otherwise, you’ll be caught in the aggravating cycle of valuable concepts going to waste because they don’t properly fit in a product or service. Once you’ve got your architecture right, go beyond general offerings. Think about the total customer experience in how you conduct business—not just in the products and services you offer but across every team and interaction point. Iterate and validate through engagements enterprise-wide to gain a better understanding of needs across the entire customer journey.
Still struggling? Take a closer look at your communications technology (or lack thereof). A new IDC study published in partnership with Avaya elaborates further:
- Lack of common database: Nearly half of surveyed enterprises said they lack a common database and, therefore, key customer knowledge for improving CX. Companies should be able to seamlessly collect, track, and share data across communication channels organization-wide to intelligently deliver on preferences and improve personalization efforts. This level of data integration has been proven time and again to positively influence customer relationships.
- Incompatible business applications: It’s impossible to enhance or integrate cross-channel experiences with incompatible business apps. This is exactly why 43% of surveyed enterprises struggle with seamlessly blending human and digital interactions, for example. What companies need is an open customer engagement platform that lets them flexibly build custom, communication-enabled apps. Companies should have complete freedom to develop the digital communications solutions they need to deliver the experiences customers expect.
- Communications tool quality: Adoption of communications is not where it should be for many organizations, and the impact is evident. For example, 56% of surveyed enterprises cited increased costs and 55% reduced flexibility/agility due to poor-quality communication tools. That makes it awfully hard to develop next-gen communications (i.e., AI, VR, IoT) that many customers expect or are open to using.
VoC requires companies to set the bar, not just by listening to customers but using that information to continuously monitor performance and improve CX. No one said it was easy, but incorporating VoC insights is worth it: research from Aberdeen Group shows that best-in-class VoC users enjoy 55% greater customer retention rates, 292% greater employee engagement rates, and have an average 23% decrease in year-over-year customer service costs. Let’s go beyond “good enough” CX and not just set the bar but raise the bar.