A wise old farmer and his diligent son lived in the heart of a tranquil countryside, nestled among rolling hills and swaying fields of golden wheat. This father-son duo was known for their work ethic and customer-oriented mindset. Yet, their lives were about to take an unexpected turn one fateful morning as they embarked on a journey to the bustling market town nearby.
As they got ready for their journey, the farmer and his son knew the importance of listening to the community’s voices because their farm’s success had always been intricately intertwined with the needs and desires of the people they served. Unknowingly, this journey would impart a vital lesson to them and, hopefully, us.
On the dusty path leading to town, the farmer, his son, and their trusty donkey encountered a diverse array of passersby, each with their own opinions and advice to offer. The farmer’s encounters triggered changes in his mindset regarding his operations.
This symbolic journey would later strongly resonate with companies aiming to understand the importance of listening to the voice of the customer (VoC). You can be hit with many suggestions on the next move to make so you need to analyze them and then follow what you think is the right one.
For the VoC...is about listening i.e., understanding the messages that they [the customers]are communicating.
Sadly, the farmer and son duo wanted to please every customer’s opinion, which cost them dearly. Though the farmer had the right mindset, contact centers need to learn from his mistakes, as today, we have several tools that we can use before implementing a customer’s feedback.
Listening to the Customers
For the VoC is not about hearing what customers are saying. Instead, it is about listening i.e., understanding the messages that they are communicating.
1. Collecting customer feedback
- Collect customer feedback using surveys, customer service interactions, and other methods.
- Gather input from various customers, including demographics (age and income) and segments (internal and external customers).
2. Analyzing and organizing
- Analyze and organize the feedback systematically by categorizing it to identify patterns.
- Utilize sentiment analysis tools to gauge the overall sentiment of the feedback, if possible.
3. Prioritizing and segmenting
- Prioritize feedback based on its impact on your business goals, frequency, and sentiment.
- Consider creating a matrix or scoring system to rank feedback items in importance.
- Segment your customers based on demographics, behaviors, or purchase history.
- Analyze feedback for each segment to understand customer needs and preferences.
4. Utilizing quantitative and qualitative data
- Integrate quantitative data, like survey ratings and numerical data, with qualitative data, such as customer comments, to better understand.
5. Plotting the customer journey
- Understand the customer journey and identify touchpoints where customers enjoy or encounter pain points. (Also see Infographic).
6. Benchmarking and using cross-functional teams
- Benchmark your customer feedback and satisfaction levels against industry standards to gain insights into your competitive position.
- Create a cross-functional team from members of various departments, such as marketing and customer service, to understand what is happening, good or bad.
7. Feasibility and testing
- Consider the feasibility of implementing changes based on your resources, technology, and capabilities.
- Evaluate the cost-benefit analysis of addressing specific feedback.
- Test and validate proposed changes before full-scale implementation by running pilots.
- Gather feedback from a subset of customers or a controlled environment to fine-tune your approach.
8. Creating an action plan and communication
- Develop an action plan that outlines what changes will be made, the implementation timeline, and responsible parties.
- Express gratitude to customers for their feedback and ensure open communication regarding changes.
- Be transparent about timelines and anticipated outcomes to manage expectations.
9. Monitoring, adjusting, and documentation
- Continuously monitor the impact of the implemented changes.
- Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess whether the desired results have been achieved.
- Be prepared to adjust based on ongoing customer feedback and performance data.
- Document the entire process, including learning opportunities.
Suppose you’re not convinced to buy into VoC yet. In that case, companies that employ it enjoy 55% greater customer retention rates, an average 23% decrease in year-over-year customer service costs, and an increasing year-over-year increase in annual company revenue. You can review these data points and others in this article.
How Feedback Makes the Difference
During my tenure at a previous call center, I was frequently privileged to receive invaluable feedback from my team of agents.
This feedback revolved around the challenges callers faced while attempting to navigate the complexities of the company’s reward program. It offered members rewards for specific health activities, such as completing annual visits.
However, there were a few hoops to jump through; members were confined to a limited selection of brands and stores where they could redeem these rewards.
This restriction led to increased call handle times, as callers found themselves in the awkward position of needing to dial our number while standing amidst store shelves, reciting items like toilet paper brands and sizes.
Subsequently, the burden fell upon our agent’s shoulders to painstakingly sift through an extensive list to determine whether these items were eligible for purchase using the accrued rewards.
I recognized the need for change and took the opportunity during our weekly touchpoint meetings to discuss this matter with my manager. I highlighted the frustration experienced by our members, who found themselves stranded in stores, utilizing their limited calling minutes in a frustrating back-and-forth with our customer service representatives.
Develop an action plan that outlines what changes will be made, the implementation timeline, and responsible parties.
The primary bone of contention? The challenging process of identifying which items qualified for redemption with their hard-earned rewards.
The leadership team took my concerns to heart, and during our discussion, I referenced a particularly poignant call I had monitored.
In this instance, a caller, exasperated and standing within the confines of a Dollar General store, found themselves reading a laundry list of paper towel brands and sizes on the store’s shelves.
Regrettably, the agent on the line, through no fault of their own, lacked the means to recommend suitable brands due to the lack of sorting options based on the store. The 13-minute call showed the importance of addressing the pain point soon.
Call center agents offer valuable insights into the customer experience (CX), such as customer feelings and operational challenges, to name a few.
A few weeks later, we received an email stating the company was adjusting its reward program, where members could use their rewards to purchase any item in specific stores, except for alcohol and tobacco products. When the email came, I thanked each agent who shared their feedback.
VoC and Voice of the Employee (VoE) are essential to a customer-centric approach. VoC focuses on gathering customer feedback, while VoE draws on the knowledge and experiences of your employees interacting with your customers.
Call center agents offer valuable insights into the customer experience (CX), such as customer feelings and operational challenges, to name a few. When organizations incorporate VoE, they improve employee engagement, boost morale, and gain visibility into operational inefficiencies.
Design Thinking Principles
Recently, I had the opportunity to use design thinking principles, which I believe is another way of listening and creating solutions that help improve processes.
This is how I used design thinking to develop an application to generate notes based on the agent’s input.
- Empathize. I began by immersing myself in the world of agents and customers, seeking to comprehend their pain points and needs. Conversations with agents and call center leadership unveiled the recurring issue of incomplete notes during insurance policy updates, leading to return calls and misdirected ticket transfers.
- Define. Armed with insights from the empathy phase, I honed in on the problem. Namely, agents often overlooked collecting essential information during customer calls for insurance updates, resulting in incorrect ticket routing and urgency levels.
- Ideate. The ideation phase ushered in a range of potential solutions. I explored three options - MS Excel, Adobe Acrobat, and MS PowerApps - as applications to assist agents in capturing notes. Each route was considered without judgment.
- Prototype. Transitioning to the prototype stage, I realized that Adobe Acrobat was not viable, while MS Excel and PowerApps held promise. Opting for Excel due to its speed and user-friendliness, I meticulously designed a template. It featured essential fields, visible prompts, and two buttons: generate and copy notes to the agent’s clipboard and reset all fields.
- Test. Pilot testing with a small group of four agents revealed issues with the Excel template. Complications arose concerning macros when emailing and downloading. Despite these setbacks, testing provided good insights.
- Iterate. With the feedback from testing, I iterated on the solution, shifting to MS PowerApps. After refining and retesting, the application was deployed to the rest of the call center. The result? A reduction in call-backs and rework, alleviating the noted pain points.
This example of design thinking demonstrates how we can generate meaningful solutions, bringing processes in line with the requirements of agents and customers.
Collecting Customer Feedback
So, we’ve looked at one way to collect customer feedback from our employees, but what about other methods we can use? However, when using any of the below formats, you usually need to have a purpose for using the below tools.
- Online surveys. Utilize online platforms like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or MS Forms to craft concise and straightforward questions. Avoid lengthy surveys that may discourage completion. Instead, consider incorporating a progress bar to keep respondents informed of their survey status.
- Online polls. Deploy these on websites or mobile apps to pose single or brief series questions. While they offer a high response rate and minimal time commitment, keep in mind that they yield limited information.
- Social listening. Monitor social media channels like YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook to gauge public sentiment about your company. Consider engaging with customer groups in these spaces to fine-tune existing offerings or introduce new products.
- On-site activity analytics. Helps you capture data on how users interact with your site or web application, such as how long a user spends on a specific or frequently visited page.
- CRM. This software and approach tells you a lot about the interactions your customers are having with your company, such as which products are being purchased frequently, when and in what regions, or what callers are calling in often.
- Interviews. For quantitative data, employ open-ended questions while steering clear of leading queries to ensure robust data collection. Stay flexible in guiding the interview’s direction to capture meaningful insights.
- Focus groups. Focus groups are valuable for identifying issues and assessing the post-use sentiment of products or services. With a diverse participant pool of seven to fifteen individuals and an experienced facilitator, this method yields rich insights when managed effectively.
Properly Handling the Data
Given the importance of the data you’re collecting, storing it in a structured, highly secure, and readily accessible manner is crucial. Simply dumping it in any location won’t suffice. Proper structuring is essential as it will allow you to export your data to an analysis platform like Power BI or Tableau, enabling the data to make sense to us.
Pre-COVID-19 era, I participated in our company’s annual conference, relishing every session for the wealth of knowledge it provided. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the topics covered often mirrored the frequent questions inundating our call center.
I approached my manager because I was curious and discovered that these topics were selected based on data from our CRM, employee feedback, and customer surveys.
...VoC is not merely a buzzword; it's the metaphorical guidepost that shows the way toward success.
I took it upon myself to summarize each slide deck from the sessions and presented the information alongside easy-to-follow navigational steps and direct links to each slide deck. This resource helped to reduce agent handling time.
Here’s how it happened: When an agent came across a situation where a particular slide deck could help clarify an issue, they not only described the problems and solutions but also included step-by-step instructions on how to access the slide deck.
Each deck contained screenshots and detailed explanations of the resolution. This allowed us to turn the knowledge from the annual conference into a practical tool for improving efficiency and aiming for FCR.
One of my agents received a well-deserved review from her caller. The agent provided the reasons for the denial of the medical claim but also took the opportunity to direct her caller to these resources to assist the caller’s office in proper billing.
The caller was impressed because the resources provided detailed instructions and screenshots, which took away much of the guesswork for her current claim and a few others.
In today’s business landscape of increasing customer demands, VoC is not merely a buzzword; it’s the metaphorical guidepost that shows the way toward success.
As you continue your VoC journey may your path be guided by active listening, data-driven insights, and an unwavering commitment to excellence through innovation and continuous improvement: which adds value to employees and customers.