Chair Report, April 2017: Are you listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC)?

The Australian Marketing Institute, in conjunction with Vision Critical, recently completed a study* amongst 244 marketers to gain an understanding of the current status of VoC programs in Australia.
The key findings were stunning. Here are the top line stats:
– Only 37% of all respondents stated they had heard of VoC programs
– Of those respondents who stated they had heard of VoC, 80% stated they believe VoC programs to be critical to the success of their business

I was surprised by the quantum of the gap between the level of those that had simply ‘heard’ of VoC programs and those that hadn’t.  So, who are they listening to if it’s not the customer?

The majority of respondents stated that they could do more to develop and apply their VoC programs; however, only 28% believed that their VoC program was “integrated within the business”.

Why are VoC programs important?

Customer centric organisations use VoC programs to listen to their customers to better understand how well they are performing against customer expectations. This informs the strategic decision making process leading to higher customer satisfaction, enhanced retention and acquisition levels and, ultimately, greater share of customer spend.

VoC programs go well beyond retrospectively approaching customers on past experiences alone; instead, it offers organisations the opportunity to plan ahead and indentify potential challenges and perceptions of a brand, product or service at any given time. VoC is pivotal in informing and engaging organisations with customers to build stronger relationships over time.

Given this, why is it that few businesses seem to really get it?  Whilst there is growing recognition of the rationale for and value to be gained from VoC programs, most businesses are still in their infancy when it comes to VoC . As the research shows, there is still a high degree of ignorance and (dare I say) tokenism.

The VoC challenge in Australia is to overcome:

  • A lack of integration into the organisation
  • A lack of leadership and direction
  • A lack of internal buy-in
  • Unrealistic expectations

Many organisations have embarked on VoC by adopting the use of the Net Promoter System (NPS). A good start, but NPS does not provide your business with a holistic view of the VoC. What about the (typically) 80% of customers that do not contact the customer care/call centre? What do they think?

An effective VoC ‘program’ draws on multiple sources/tools for collecting and applying customer insight (e.g. CSat studies and the use of insight communities) and, ideally, analysing this data on a common platform; a platform that enables businesses to listen to, act on and measure customer insight, performance and feedback.

Too often, the insights around the customer’s experience are the domain of the ‘front office’ whilst the ‘back office’ makes decisions in blissful ignorance of what impact these decisions may have on the customer. Your VoC program must be supported by mechanisms to ensure there is a clear ‘line of sight’ between your customer facing teams and back office teams to ensure there is a common understanding of how business decisions may impact the customer’s experience. A holistic understanding and buy-in is what is required – from the leadership down.

It is also important to measure the impact of your VoC program but make sure you set realistic expectations. Economic proof is compelling especially when all employees understand the proof points because this is the fuel for progress.

It is time to get serious about it people. Start listening to the voice of your customers – if you haven’t already. There is a lot to be gained from really embracing a VoC program as a key competitive tool for your business. Bottom line: it will help you produce better outcomes for your customers and your business.

Andrew Thornton
Chair, Board of Directors

Defining Voice of Customer Programs Report 2016

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