Marketers Need Results-Oriented Voice-of-the-Customer Programs

Does your company listen to its customers? The answer is almost certainly “yes.” Organizations typically send customer surveys and collect feedback in other forms. Does your company make the most out of those insights? It’s highly likely that the answer is “no.” Temkin Group’s research report “State of Voice of the Customer Programs, 2013” shows that few organizations have mastered their voice–of-the-customer (VoC) programs.

Our research found that VoC programs evolve through five stages of maturity:

  •  Level 1: Novices. These organizations are in very early stages of VoC development.
  •  Level 2: Collectors. These organizations are caught up in just obtaining data. They spend most of their time focused on discussions about identifying the right “listening posts,” choosing the questions to ask, and debating which metrics to use.
  • Level 3: Analyzers. These organizations do a lot of data crunching. They find interesting and novel ways to uncover insights about what’s working and what’s not in their businesses. They have some cross-functional processes set up, but the effort isn’t well-integrated with the rest of their company.
  •  Level 4: Collaborators. These organizations have strong relationships between the VoC team and other parts of their business. They’ve developed processes for tailoring data and insights to meet the specific needs of other functional areas and actively support continuous improvement efforts.
  • Level 5: Transformers. These organizations link customer insight data to most of the processes throughout their company, from operational activities to strategic decision-making.

Only 4% of large firms in our study have reached the highest stage of VoC maturity.

Look through our maturity levels. Where does your company fall today? Where does it need to be in the future to stay competitive or to stay ahead in your industry? Are you on the right path?

Despite the low levels of VoC maturity, three quarters of companies in our study reported positive business results from their efforts. There’s a lot of value to be gained by using even little bits of customer insight.

Marketers can’t be satisfied with basic VoC programs. Over time more companies will master these activities. If you’re not one of those companies, then you’ll fall behind competitors that adapt to customers’ needs and desires.

To gain VoC maturity, you need to pay attention to significant shifts in these programs. We examined the difference between leading VoC programs and other less mature efforts. The state of the art is no longer an annual tracking study that results in a PowerPoint deck of results. Leading VoC programs will have the following:

  • More operational insights. Only 4% of companies think they’re very good at making changes to their business based on customer insights. In the future companies will only collect feedback and generate insights if they plan to use the information. VoC efforts will deliver insights tailored to the specific needs of people in different roles.
  •  More analytics. Companies will rely more on analytics to tap into unstructured data and predict customer needs and less on multiple choice survey questions. Leading VoC programs were much more aggressive in their spending plans for text mining and predictive analytics.
  • More data sources. Leading VoC programs tap into a larger array of data sources. The most significant gaps are in customer transaction history, surveys after interactions, and call center agent notes.
  •  More active executives. One of the most dramatic differences across these two VoC program groups is the level of involvement by their executive teams. More mature VoC programs have significantly more senior level support.

The bottom line: Marketers need to tap into the voice of their customers.

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