Customer Strategist Journal
Innovative strategies for building more profitable customer relationships. Published quarterly online and in print.
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The Race Is On: Rethinking Your Digital Strategy

Finding Your Voice (of the Customer) in the Digital World

Most customer experience leaders say they have active voice of the customer (VoC) programs in place. They track NPS, ask customers to complete post-interaction surveys, and employ speech analytics. But too often they are not really listening.
Research from Forrester found that 71 percent of respondents said their VoC program was not fully or mostly effective in driving actions. And Temkin Group says that although 70 percent of companies are collecting customer feedback, only one-third actually believe that they are designing problems to solutions or making changes to the business based on the insights. The Temkin Group reports that only 11 percent of companies have reached the top stages of VoC maturity (collaborators and transformers).

VoC is a term that has been around for ages, but is often misinterpreted. Why is success so elusive? There are four VoC myths that have taken hold over the years, repressing its potential. These myths need to be dispelled if VoC has a chance of driving added business performance.

MYTH 1: VoC=Survey Data. In the early days, the only voice of customer data that could be easily collected and analyzed was survey data, and it soon became the norm. However, recently new sources of data have emerged and it has become easier to analyze and extract insights from them. The scope of VoC data has expanded to more than just self-stated survey responses. Other kinds of VoC data such as speech recordings from call center transactions, emails, chat data, and social media comments, for example, provide more layers of information that can help companies better understand their customers’ actions. Any behavior or perception that can be captured and analyzed has the potential to provide even greater insights about customer motivations, frustrations, expectations, and experience. Adding a component of understanding helps answer “why” customers act the way they do.

MYTH 2: VoC only applies to our customers. VoC should be renamed to voice of the consumer. Voices of potential prospects are highly relevant and insightful, too, and one could argue that in a growth company eager to identify new opportunities, the voice of the prospect is even more important than the customer’s. The prospect’s voice helps us identify opportunities for education, gives us insight into why we may not be in the consideration set for some, provides an awareness into a competitive strategy, and a lot more.

MYTH 3: VoC is explicit customer feedback. It is a common misperception that the voice is always customer/prospect-initiated and explicit in the sense that they have to call-in, text, email us, or fill out a survey. While proactive customer outreach is certainly part of it, there’s much more. When your customers and prospects visit your website, for example, their clickstream data is VoC data that provides very valuable insights. When customers click on a banner ad or traverse aisles in a retail store, their behavior qualifies as VoC data, as well.

MYTH 4: VoC data on its own can improve business performance. VoC data is extremely powerful and can provide invaluable insights on its own. However, it typically lacks information around a customer profile and transactional behavior that reside in enterprise data warehouses and CRM systems. The real power of VoC data comes when you can link all of these data sources. Linking data is critical to evaluate the worth of what can be learned from VoC data to make meaningful, actionable recommendations.

For example, you may receive 200 inbound calls a day to your call center, and speech analytics tells you that on average most of the callers have a very negative sentiment because they are upset about the new pricing strategy recently launched. That is great information, but would you go out and change your pricing strategy based on that information alone? What if 90 percent of these calls came from low-value customers who represent only 5 percent of your revenue? Linking VoC to customer profile data and transactional behavior is of paramount importance when deciding your best course of action.

VoC strategy
Robust VoC insight isn’t found in a software algorithm or dashboard report. Technical solutions available in the market are only one tool to create actionable VoC insight. It’s imperative that companies consider the five strategic ingredients to VoC success (see Figure 1). Ideally, each will align to the other across the entire organization, not in just one department or business entity.

A centralized CX function or a cross-functional team that is championed by the CEO is usually the best place to start to develop and take action on a VoC strategy. One of the key things for this function to keep in mind is that they are not only leveraging the data and the insights developed in various siloed business units, but they are also leveraging the front-line capabilities of these business units to act on VoC strategy. Hence, collaboration is critical. Be careful not to replicate what already exists in the siloed business units. Start small with pilots to prove the value, and to foster collaboration with business units. When they see the value, then it is time to scale up and go into production.

Digital and mobile take VoC center stage
Digital and mobile sources of customer data (websites, social media, smartphones) have not only become important sources of voice of the customer, but also critical channels for enabling the actions and insights learned from voice of the customer analytics.

Let us consider mobile. First, mobile can be a data collection channel. One has to take care to not just put current online surveys on mobile, but instead design for mobile to get instantaneous feedback. This means keeping it short and sweet. Second, mobile is more than just a data collection channel. With the amount of time customers are spending on mobile, it is a great source of implicit VoC. What customers are doing on mobile will provide insight into customer needs, preferences, and motivations (e.g., how often are they browsing on apps versus texting, etc.). What is the content that they are viewing and how engaged are they with it? Finally, mobile can also be used as a channel for action either via SMS, email, alerts, or other outreach.

Today, tracking visits on your own site (mobile or otherwise) can easily be done using cookies, resulting in what is typically known as first-party data. Third-party tracking is feasible as well with customer consent. Customers are very willing to share information as long as they get something in return, and in this case the promise is for a seamless, frictionless customer experience.

 As we add additional channels to our VoC programs like digital and mobile to serve as both voice of the customer input and enablers of actions, it will become imperative to build capabilities in the following areas:

  • Integrate the information collected from these channels with information collected from traditional channels.
  • Analyze disparate sources of information in real time and extract signals.
  • Translate those insights into actions and determine the best channel(s) to leverage.


 As mentioned previously, VoC is not a new term. It has been re-ignited as a differentiator due to its influence on the customer experience. While several companies have tried to launch VoC programs, their success has been fair at best. Companies need to heed the mistakes of the past and look to digital and mobile channels as a way to light a real fire under their VoC programs, to the benefit of both companies and customers.