By Steve Offsey

Most enterprises that have implemented a voice of the customer program are happily collecting customer feedback and measuring metrics like NPS®, CSAT and more. But after an initial burst of excitement from obtaining real customer feedback, you realize that VoC data doesn’t tell the whole story.

In a recent CX report, 41% of organizations say they capture improvements in customer satisfaction but struggle to translate that into revenue or costs. That’s because customer feedback is often measured in aggregate or by channel, rather than the omnichannel journeys customers take to achieve their goals.

Without the ability to assess VoC metrics in the context of each customer objective and the tangible business outcomes that they generate, it’s difficult to obtain future CX investment. Your voice of the customer program must evolve to reflect how customers feel about their overall experience with your organization, not just isolated interactions.

In this post, I’ll explain how customer journey management can enhance your voice of the customer program by understanding exactly what is driving your scores, so you can improve the underlying experiences that affect them.

Why So Many Voice of the Customer Programs Fall Short

Leading organizations are connecting feedback data to KPIs more effectively by focusing less on specific interactions and more on the journeys that led customers to give feedback. More mature organizations use VoC data in conjunction with other analytics solutions that allow them to link behavior to metrics and quantify the impact of CX initiatives.

Annette Franz

Annette Franz
Founder and CEO
CX Journey Inc.

In the most recent US Customer Experience Index report, Forrester found little improvement in the three components of CX quality. Analyst TJ Keitt says, “the fact that these changes amounted to just fractions of a point lead us to conclude that they aren’t meaningful.”

Despite the almost universal adoption of voice of the customer programs, most enterprises saw inconsequential increases in CX quality. Here are four reasons why:

1.  Feedback is Captured in Isolation

 Many customer feedback management (CFM) solutions employed by most enterprises to manage their voice of the customer programs are survey engines at their core. These systems have long focused on helping VoC teams gather and report on post-interaction surveys. But merely executing and analyzing surveys is not enough. 

The problem is that most surveys are deployed after a customer has an isolated interaction in one specific channel. This particular interaction may or may not be indicative of their overall experience with your organization.

For example, if a telecom customer experiences connectivity issues frequently but an agent helps them restore their WiFi efficiently, they may rate that phone call highly. That customer is pleased that she didn’t spend much time and effort fixing the problem. She gives her provider a high score on her satisfaction survey.

However, this customer regularly experiences service outages and other connectivity issues. She requires multiple technician visits and service calls over her two-year contract and becomes more and more frustrated.

When her contract is up, she churns.

Could you have seen this coming? Maybe if you were managing each journey she took across channels—from looking up service outages online to reading forums about restarting her modem to chatting with an agent via her mobile app—as she tried to fix her connection problems. But not if you’re only analyzing CSAT surveys after agent-assisted interactions.

Essential Guide to Effective Voice of the Customer Analysis ebook cover

2. Data Silos Prevent Understanding and Action

Using customer feedback to determine which initiatives will improve CX is particularly challenging due to siloed, inaccessible data. 

Every enterprise comprises countless databases and systems housing billions of data points about millions of customers. Business functions from CX to marketing to product and customer care (among others) typically own specific systems and the data within.

This often means that consumer behavior on the website or via email lives within marketing campaign platforms and hidden from customer experience professionals, or that product and service usage is only accessible to contact center leaders and agents.

Depending on who owns CFM, members of your organization may never know what customers feel or think about your organization. How can you improve experiences if you can’t identify customer goals or why they want to achieve them?

When your voice of the customer program is inaccessible, your organization can’t work in unison and will likely:

  • Spend valuable resources optimizing interactions or processes that don’t impact important metrics
  • Deliver conflicting experiences that confuse or frustrate customers

3. Traditional Segmentation Approach Isn’t the Cure

Most VoC teams approach customer feedback analysis by segmenting it.  In an article on How to Improve Customer Experience through NPS Segmentation, Sue Duris provides a basic approach for VoC segmentation:

  1. Segment customers into three main classes: promoters, passives and detractors
  2. Segment customers within each class in a variety of ways, for example by:
    • Answers provided to follow up questions
    • Location
    • Product/service
    • Revenue amount
    • Account age
    • Customer persona
    • Point the customer is at in the customer lifecycle
    • The channels customers use
      Frequency of service calls
    • Customer feedback
    • And more
  3. Identify the most valuable segments in each class
  4. Determine the best strategies to improve loyalty and overall customer experience

While a traditional segmentation approach initially provides valuable insights, it soon runs out of steam. Unfortunately, voice of the customer programs typically stall at this stage. CX professionals become frustrated that their VoC efforts remain tactical, reactive and transaction-based. 

CX leaders often find that their existing voice of customer the program lacks the analysis and insight necessary to identify which journeys result in poor experiences, quantify how poor CX impacts business metrics and determine the best way to optimize journeys for every customer. 

4. Survey Fatigue Continues to Rise

The response rate for telephone surveys has been declining steadily over the past two decades from approximately 36% to 6%. When combined with in-person, mail, email and in-app surveys, the average response rate hovers around 33%.

customer thinking about taking a survey

There are lots of factors impacting response rates, but the undeniable fact is that survey fatigue is increasing. As is the competition for your customers’ attention. 

Your voice of the customer program should absolutely include customer feedback. But you need more information to make up for the two-thirds of customers who never complete a survey. This is why it’s crucial to integrate VoC feedback and metrics into a broader journey-based approach.

7 Powerful Ways to Make Your Voice of the Customer Program Actionable

Customer journeys are the key to making sense of and taking action on customer feedback and VoC data. To make the right decisions and measurable improvements in both CX and company outcomes, business leaders must understand which goals customers are trying to accomplish, why they need to achieve those goals and the channels they use to do so.

Strengthened performance on customer journeys has been shown to correlate with increases in satisfaction and organizational metrics such as revenue and churn. No wonder leading companies are striving to take a journey-based approach to improve CX.

1.  Democratize Customer Journey Data

Customer data typically resides in separate applications, such as contact center platforms, point-of-sale systems, email marketing tools, customer feedback systems and others.

With the exponential growth in the volume and velocity of data, VoC platforms are entirely unsuitable for integrating and analyzing event data from all these sources in a way that is efficient and cost-effective for your business.

Enterprises need a way to aggregate customer journey data so that CX, marketing, contact center and other business functions can see what customers are doing, understand why and determine the next action to help the customer reach their goal.

Customer-centric leaders are increasingly adopting customer journey data hubs to integrate customer data across channels. When every platform has access to the same data, each team across your organization can:

  • Analyze customer journeys in real time
  • Build and run models
  • Orchestrate actions that are consistent with each customer’s overall experience

2. Integrate Customer Feedback into Journey Measurement

Sometimes, CX, marketing and customer care teams make the mistake of focusing only on the most recent customer interactions instead of looking at the entire customer journey. Sometimes it’s not a mistake; you simply cannot access customer behavior outside of your own channels. 

Either way, your customer does not treat each interaction with your organization as a separate experience. So why should you measure survey results and CX that way? 

To understand customer feedback and make your voice of the customer program actionable, it’s essential to take a journey-based approach. It’s crucial to know which step or milestone a customer is at within a journey before surveying them. 

For instance, let’s say a health insurance member enrolls in a chronic care management program over the phone. As the insurer, you request feedback on the call. This survey will show how satisfied your member is with that one milestone. However, there are still more milestones in their enrollment journey to achieve.

example of customer journey milestones

If the member never registers for or starts their program, is the insurer still successful? The results of the survey can’t tell you that unless you integrate that member feedback with end-of-journey success metrics.

When you understand each customer’s unique journey context, you can more accurately assess their satisfaction, level of effort and more. Further, you can determine not only which interactions, but which journeys impact KPIs and outcomes the most. This is paramount because improving interactions in a touchpoint is going to yield less than optimizing critical customer journeys.

Customer journey analytics is a proven approach that allows CX leaders to:

  • Measure customer journeys
  • Analyze customer behavior across touchpoints and over time
  • Quantify the impact of customer behavior on business outcomes.

Customer Journey Analytics in Action: Leverage Journey Analytics to Understand What’s Driving NPS Scores

A health insurance provider has received a number of complaints from members trying to pay their claims and seeks to understand how to improve the experience.

To further their understanding, the CX team uses the Pointillist Customer Journey Analytics application to analyze their VoC data for members who completed the Pay a Claim journey.  They quickly perform the analysis by channel to understand differences between members who pay their claim through the website, IVR or speaking with a contact center agent.

health insurance member journey: pay a claim

Their analysis shows that members who pay their claim through the IVR have the highest NPS. But those that paid their claim through their website have the lowest NPS.

The CX team leverages this information to prioritize an initiative to improve the user experience of the web payment experience. The team makes a few quick changes on the website to make members aware that they can easily pay claims through the IVR.

3. Pinpoint the the Root Causes of CX Challenges

To determine and prioritize which actions you can take to improve CX, you must identify the root cause of customer feedback. Again, it’s important to look beyond isolated interactions to uncover what’s driving both positive and negative fluctuations in VoC metrics.

Feedback collected from one channel is influenced by each customer’s overall experience with your business. That’s why journeys are key to answering questions that are critical to your voice of the customer program, such as:

  • What goals are my customers trying to achieve?
  • Why are customers using certain channels?
  • Where do customers encounter friction?
  • What is the impact of this friction on CX and business KPIs?

In addition to optimizing measurement programs, sophisticated customer journey analytics software can rapidly analyze millions of cross-channel customer journeys and reveal exactly which interactions within specific journeys are blocking your customers from achieving successful outcomes.

This way, you can immediately understand why customers provide the feedback they do. More importantly, you can share this information with other teams and determine the best actions to improve both experiences and CX scores.

Customer Journey Analytics in Action: Identify the Root Cause of Costly Contacts

A national bank uses Pointillist to identify causes of increased contact volume and declining satisfaction rates.

The Director of Contact Center Operations at a retail bank is alerted about an influx in contacts and a significant decrease in CSAT. The director prompts her analytics team to diagnose the problem.

The analysts use Pointillist to uncover the journeys that most frequently result in agent-supported contacts. Diving deeper, they find that the influx is coming from clients disputing a credit card charge. They see that clients attempt to open an inquiry via the mobile app, but end up calling an agent.

Further, they see that the majority of these contacts escalate to a manager, increasing AHT.

banking customer journey: dispute a credit card charge

The Contact Center Operations Director shares this information with the mobile team so they can optimize the inquiry submission process. She also connects with the appropriate digital product owner. He implements a pop-up on the website and the mobile app to notify clients of the issue and provide a temporary workaround.

4.  Orchestrate Actions Based on Omnichannel Journeys

Today, customers expect every interaction they have with your organization to reflect their entire experience. But often, each business teams has their own strategies for collecting customer feedback.

Cross-functional teams lack insight into what customers do in other channels, they are more likely to inundate customers with VoC surveys. This significantly lowers the likelihood of obtaining a response.

For example, a client of an investment firm receives an in-app message requesting their feedback after executing her first trade via mobile. However, the mobile team doesn’t know she had to contact an agent to understand how to place a trade. That agent also asked the client to take a short survey at the conclusion of the phone call. Marketing sends a SMS survey to clients who have completed their first trade since that’s part of their onboarding campaign.

The client ends up receiving three surveys in a day, frustrating her and discouraging her from further engagement. The firm risks losing her trust and her business. Clients who don’t engage with a bank within the first 90 days likely never will.

Using an approach like customer journey orchestration provides every member of your business with historical data (what customers have done across channels) as well as their current goals.  It allows you to leverage omnichannel customer behavior to prompt actions like surveys or suppress customers that should not receive a survey depending on their current context.

Adopting an approach like journey orchestration can elevate your voice of the customer program by providing crucial customer journey information to every business unit and recommending actions that are consistent and relevant based on each customer’s entire experience. 

5.  Identify At-risk Customers and Take Proactive Measures

Voice of the Customer data can inform journey-based analyses aimed at identifying customers who are at risk of churning. However, most companies focus on isolated interactions and a single VoC survey to identify at-risk customers and understand why they churn.

More sophisticated teams are deploying propensity models to predict the likelihood of customer churn. However, the output of these models are only as good as the data that goes in.

In reality, customers can have experiences that make them feel neglected or indifferent long before they end their relationship with your organization. To discover the root causes of churn and take corrective action, you need to look at every journey your customers take and identify the obstacles that prevent them from accomplishing their goals.

Combining journey data with VoC feedback will enhance propensity models and other methods analytics teams use to uncover the root causes of churn. Plus, harnessing the overall experiences your customers have with your enterprise will improve your ability to orchestrate actions for those deemed at risk.

6. Empower Front-Line Customer Representatives with Real-time Information

The success of your voice of the customer program is highly dependent on happy and engaged employees that interact with your customers.

Comcast’s VoC team empowers its front-line employees to drive outcomes by using a range of techniques, including monthly surveys and team huddles. In the initial phase, average employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) increased by 20 points across its call centers. Overall NPS jumped by 14 points.

contact center agents

Like Comcast, leading teams are now raising their VoC programs to a new level. They’re using customer journey management software to provide  customer service representatives with the unique journey context of every customer. This includes historical data including every action a customer has taken across digital and physical channels, as well as their current goals. Armed with this information, agents have the insight they need to serve customers efficiently. 

By providing real-time information, CX and VoC teams can empower customer representatives to make the best decisions for each customer, minimizing customer effort and increasing satisfaction.

7.  Prove Business Impact by Demonstrating the ROI of VoC

The importance of calculating the return on investment (ROI) of your voice of the customer program cannot be overstated. How will you build, measure and regularly optimize your efforts if you can’t quantify the return on your investments? 

It isn’t enough to convey the soft benefits. You need the quantitative ROI to make a strong business case and obtain approval for continued investment.

To calculate CX benefits, consider the most important journeys your customers take. This might include:

  • Buy or Join: purchasing a mortgage
  • Setup: enrolling in a chronic care management program
  • Pay: paying a bill or a claim
  • Use: streaming content on a mobile device or transferring money
  • Support: resolving connectivity issues
  • Change: adding or removing a dependent from a health insurance plan
  • Leave: canceling a cable subscription

free eBook: 7 Critical Journeys Every Enterprise Should Measure and Optimize

For each journey, you likely have success metrics such as digital containment rate, usage rate, NPS, first contact resolution rate and more.

By defining journey milestones and in-journey signals, or indicators that your customers will achieve their goals, you can better track VoC metrics and tie them directly to business outcomes like cost to serve, revenue and more. Using journeys to manage VoC metrics inherently connects customer behavior to critical KPIs. It also makes it easy to quantify the impact of your VoC program on the bottom line. 

example of a banking customer journey

Elevate Your Voice of the Customer Program

You’re on your way to enhancing your voice of the customer program and making customer feedback more actionable. By taking a journey-based approach, you can provide executive leadership with answers about what’s driving any low scores and negative responses—and how your CX team plans to improve them. And you’ll be able to justify your requests for increased investment by providing the ROI of your VoC and other CX initiatives.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.