Chair Update: April 2018

Study shows room for improvement in VoC programs

I recently had the pleasure of co-presenting a webinar on the current state of Voice of the Customer programs in Australia with Liz Berks from Vision Critical.

The focus of the webinar was on the findings of the 2018 AMI/Vision Critical study amongst Australian marketers. The recent findings were benchmarked against the findings of the previous study conducted in 2016.

The top line finding is that nothing has really changed: awareness and participation levels have only shifted marginally in the past 18 months. This really surprises me given the importance of customer insight in underpinning a customer focused approach within organisations. How can a business expect to deliver positive customer experiences without understanding the needs and expectations of their customers (and potential customers)?

In the 2016 study, of the 244 marketers surveyed, only 37% stated that they had actually heard of VoC programs! Yet, those that were aware of VoC stated that they considered such programs were critical to the success of their business.

For those unfamiliar with what a VOC program is, let’s look at Forrester’s definition:

‘A platform (or program) that helps companies listen to, interpret, act on and measure customer feedback (insight)’.

These programs create organisational value by informing and validating business decisions with customer support, creating a straight line path to customer loyalty and advocacy.

In a nutshell, VoC programs allow you to invest in your most valuable asset – your customer – in a way that is relevant to them.

Fast forward 18 months: awareness levels have moved only a few percentage points. 75% of respondents believe they could do more to develop their VoC program (79% in 2016) showing the potential for VoC programs has still not been met.

This begs the question: why is the awareness of VoC programs so low? With CX being the buzz in recent times, surely the value of VoC programs go hand-in-hand with driving improvement in customer experiences? There is undisputed potential for VoC programs in Australia; for marketers to drive value through delivering informed CX initiatives. VoC programs allow an organisation to listen to its customers and better understand where pain points lie and where customer expectations aren’t being met.

Clearly we still have a long way to go.

Those organisations that have truly embraced customer centricity find that VoC programs can improve the strategic decision making process, resulting in enhanced customer retention and acquisition as well as increases in the share of customer spend.

A recent Aberdeen Group report found that ‘best in class’ VoC users enjoy almost 10 times greater year-on-year growth in annual company revenue compared to all others; along with 55% greater customer retention rates. These are compelling findings.

The AMI/Vision Critical study uncovered that there are some significant challenges to actually delivering a successful VoC program.  In summary, the four key challenges identified are:

  1. Actioning feedback – Some key decisions: what VoC mechanisms and tools should you use? How do you best turn data into actionable insights? Do we need to manage in real time?
  2. Engaging customers – How do you best engage customers in a way they feel included in the process? Customer engagement is key: don’t ask the customer for their feedback if you are not prepared to share what you have done with the feedback with them.
  3. Gaining internal buy in – 57% of organisations with a VoC program struggle to gain internal buy in. In my experience, marketeers need to overcome the typical organisational barriers to investment in VoC: 1. Competing organisational priorities; 2. Attaining cross business buy-in and support (you need to prove the strategic and bottom line value in investing in VoC); and, 3. (linked to point 2) Realisation of the benefits attained by leveraging VoC.
  4. Integrating data – lack of integration with internal data was seen as the biggest challenge by marketers in the 2018 study. It is easy to get ‘bogged down’ with the breadth and depth of data. The key is to start with the data you already have and focus on the critical information that directly impacts customer experiences. Don’t over complicate things and build on the foundation knowledge and insight you have.

So, what is the future for VoC programs? Well, as the research data has shown, VoC programs are still in the early stages of adoption and application in Australia. I suspect that – if the marketing fraternity (and their organisations) do not get on board with VoC soon, the gulf between those organisations who have already embraced VoC and the rest will widen. The former realising the benefits so aptly articulated by the Aberdeen Group.

Andrew Thornton,

Chair, Board of Directors

Australian Marketing Institute



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