Friday, October 4, 2013

VOC: Shifting from Asking to Listening

Image courtesy of brittreints
What is your VOC approach? Are you listening to customers, or still/only asking?

As part of the CX Day celebration earlier this week, I moderated two Google Hangouts, one for Australia and one for the Pacific Time Zone. In the former, we discussed the state of customer experience in Australia, while in the latter, our topic was the shift in VOC efforts, from asking to listening.

What do I mean by that? Traditionally, VOC (voice of the customer) has been captured by surveys or some other form of structured feedback, initiated by the company, i.e., the ask. As the approach to VOC (and tools and technology for both companies and customers) has evolved, listening has become a large part of the program; it means that the customer provides feedback on his terms, in his preferred mode, typically initiated by him in response to some stimulus or interaction. Listening includes social media (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), customer immersion, customer advisory councils (could also be a type of ask), voice of the customer through the employee (sales, customer service, etc.), CRM data, and more.

Prior to CX Day, John Cass interviewed Hangout participants to get some insights into our topics of conversation. When he asked my panel, including Yvonne Nomizu and Lynn Hunsaker, about our topic, I was also given the opportunity to weigh in. I told John:

When companies listen instead of ask, the customer is in the VOC driver seat. Customers provide feedback on their terms, when, where, and how they prefer, e.g., social media, review sites, discussions with employees. This adds a social element – it’s no longer just between the customer and the keyboard or the customer and the interviewer – and doesn’t allow companies to shove feedback in a binder somewhere, never to be seen again. On the contrary, it forces companies to pay attention, though I realize many still don’t. Asking for feedback is like lobbing a question over the net, while listening is more like volleying. Asking puts the onus on the customer; listening puts the onus on the company.

Here's the video of the Google Hangout on this topic; watch it (it's only about 20 minutes long) to get Lynn's and Yvonne's perspectives on this topic.


 Is it OK to do just one or the other? Do they work together? They sure do work together! Lynn suggests that we "augment our listening by asking very effective questions that delve into the clarification of your assumptions."

Yvonne suggests that asking still has its place. Surveys can size or quantify the voice. Listening adds the depth, i.e., what they want, how they interact, etc., which provides the opportunity to innovate. Asking also adds context, whereas social media doesn't always provide the context around why they are saying what they are saying. Lynn added that having that context allows you to segment customers in a meaningful way

It's confirmed. Surveys are not a dying breed, as many would suggest. Surveys are here to stay.

A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world. -Unknown

10 comments:

  1. Listening is a welcome improvement on asking, but are they not both still focused on the company unless they lead to action? And that might mean immediate action - depending on what the customer says.

    If few people are asking and even fewer are listening, almost nobody is acting right now. At least not in a way that the leaves the customer *feeling* like someone has listened.

    Does anyone doing a VoC program spend at least as much effort gearing up to respond immediately to what comes in? That is your chance to gain a fan. If you don't take it, the result is not just neutral, that potential fan will go away disillusioned because they gave you a brilliant chance to shine and then you..........tumbleweed.

    OK, some feedback is about deeper rooted issues and insights. But in my experience up to 60% of what comes in are cries for help.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Guy! Absolutely a must... it doesn't stop at listening... what you hear MUST be acted upon.

      Annette :-)

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  2. Annette, Guy beat me to the point,

    Ask is good,
    Listen is great
    but Act is verging on perfect.

    Bizarrely so many companies go to the effort of asking, but then do precisely nothing about it. So even if you only act on 10% of what you hear it would put you miles ahead of the competition

    James

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    1. James, you are absolutely right. This particular conversation was simply about how to get the feedback - we'll have to do a future one on what to do with it once you have it. It really is sad how few act on these gifts from their customers!

      Annette :-)

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  3. Hi Annette,
    Building on Guy and James' comments, I found a while ago a piece of research (graphic here: http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/building-a-customer-centric-business-only-starts-with-asking-for-your-customers-opinions-or-feedback/) which shows:
    95% of companies use surveys
    50% of companies tell their employees what the surveys say
    30% of companies make plans to act on that feedback
    10% of companies actually follow through with their plans; and
    5% of companies keep their customers informed on what they are doing with their feedback

    If you are going to ask and listen then to get ahead make sure that you do something about it and then tell your customers what you are doing. I'm sure they'd appreciate knowing that you really are listening.

    Adrian

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    1. Thanks, Adrian. The post and Hangout were focused on the voice, but companies absolutely need to act on what they hear.

      I've used those metrics in a previous post, as well, and while those stats have been around a few years, it doesn't feel like they've shifted much today. I'd love to see an updated version of them.

      Annette :-)

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  4. I think any serious form of listening has to include action and I mean that in two ways. The customers want to know what information you have taken and put into action. Did you add a new feature or improve a purchasing process based on feedback? Let the customers know that it changed AND that you changed it based on their feedback. That is how to make customers feel like you're listening.

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    1. Couldn't agree more, Robert. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

      Annette :-)

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  5. Thanks for a thought provoking article Annette. As providers of VOC software solutions we agree that asking and listening are both important, but suggest that by asking in a timely manner you can lessen the need for listening - by giving customers the chance to be heard before they turn to social media channels to complain. We also agree that the third step - Act - is critical. Organisations we work with integrate survey data in to their staff performance and appraisal process so that it is acted upon. Each staff member can log in to their own personalised dashboard at any time to see their feedback and anything negative is immediately escalated to a manager via triggered email or sms alert so there can be a positive outcome for both the customer and the employee/organisation. If an organisation isn't prepared or able to act upon the customer feedback data it is collecting - by either asking or listening, then why collect the data in the first place?

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    1. Thanks, Jon. I think your last sentence sums it up nicely!

      Annette :-)

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