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Voice of the Customer

There was a time when Britons never complained. In the land of the stiff upper lip, “mustn’t grumble” was something of a national catchphrase. With the arrival of the Internet and then social media, all that changed. It’s never been easier to vent spleen and to complain about shoddy services, not just to one’s circle of acquaintances but, often, directly to the organisation at fault.

The result was not just a revolution in Brits’ “can’t complain” attitude, but also a fundamental change in the attitude of many businesses, which could no longer count on their customers’ quiet acquiescence.

The businesses that have adjusted best to this behavioural change are those that have chosen to embrace social media and engage with their customers. There are many examples of initial customer anger being assuaged by savvy social media engagement where the problem is speedily rectified, compensation is given, and the customer leaves with a strengthened relationship with the business. Some of these businesses have grasped the lesson of positive customer engagement so well, that they are finding additional ways to put customer feedback – both positive and negative – to work.

For example, in recent years, departments outside of Customer Service and Customer Experience such Marketing & eCommerce have started utilising customer feedback to acquire new customers and accelerate word-of-marketing initiatives. This has helped to drive the growth of Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes.

The growing importance of forming a view of your customer across the business is clear. Gartner has forecast that VoC programmes will be one of the most significant strategic investments businesses make over the next five years, and estimates that the VoC market is set to grow 30 percent annually. This is not surprising given the findings outlined in a recent report by the Aberdeen Group, in which it estimates that those businesses embracing VoC programmes could see an increase in annual revenue of over 10 percent.

So what makes a great VoC programme? In truth, this depends on a number of factors such as the type of business, its relationship with its customers, the aims to be achieved, the businesses’ own brand and ‘voice’, and the creativity it can bring to such a project. Nevertheless, there are certain principles which are common to every successful VoC programme. Trustpilot studied several leading initiatives from companies including Schuch, Tesco Mobile and AXA Insurance to find out how businesses can set up an effective VoC programme.

Here are the three key areas we identified:

Listen

Without the tools and ability to listen to the customer, businesses will have nothing to act upon. Therefore, the first step is to ensure that as much feedback data is being collected as possible.

By directly asking customers for feedback and asking them to review their experience, businesses can gain the insight they need to improve their marketing strategy and business processes, while showing customers they value their opinions. As customers already talk about businesses online, regardless of whether they are asked to by the business, it makes sense to be proactive in providing customers with a range of platforms to share their feedback with you. Offering a structured forum for responses will allow you to engage in a dialogue with customers rather than just receiving one-way commentary on their opinion of your business, providing a range of data for you to act upon. 

In addition, businesses should look across the organisation to determine what data points are available to use for customer feedback. For example, social media provides valuable data that is freely available online. When this is combined with online reviews and other points of data, this can be combined to form a single and comprehensive view of the customer.

By ensuring they have collected information from as many avenues as possible, businesses can ensure they have the raw materials to generate the insights they need.

Measure

When setting up a VoC strategy, it is critical to measure the impact of customer feedback and what this means for the business. This can be done by measuring factors such as ratings, social media engagement, customer satisfaction surveys and the sentiment of customer reviews, and linking this to business figures including revenue and the number of new customers. This will allow businesses to make a connection between VoC strategies and their return on investment.

Of course, there is no use in measuring this if it is not being shared with employees across the business. Therefore, it is essential that the information is shared in a clear and visually appealing way, and that it is framed appropriately so it can be easily understood and actioned by each relevant department.

By doing this, companies can make sure that everyone has the ability to use this data to their advantage.

Act

Armed with these insights, it is vital that businesses act on any trends that have been identified and decide how best to respond. In order to do this, VoC needs to be centralised so that any department can act on its feedback.

For example, if there are frequent complaints about product quality, this can be addressed by manufacturing, whereas delivery complaints can be addressed quickly by the distribution department.

This will mean that customer requests can be dealt with quickly and effectively and give businesses with a VoC strategy a competitive advantage.

And finally

Although VoC strategies are still in their early stages, it is important that businesses act now to ensure they are prepared for its growth. By listening, measuring and acting and on their customer feedback, companies will be in a great position to make the most of their customer data going forwards.

Jan Vels Jensen is CMO at Trustpilot Read more at Trustpilot’s Insights.

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