The State of Voice of the Customer (VoC) for B2B Companies

Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have been emerging across the board in the last few years. But have they been thriving? Bob Thompson of CustomerThink doesn’t believe so.

In CustomerThink’s recent study on Customer Experience Success, they found that only one in four CX initiatives are “Winning,” which they define as “being able to connect the dots from the good work being done to benefits that sponsoring executives care about.”

Having a strong VoC program is essential to connecting the dots and proving the value of customer experience (CX). When you listen to your customers effectively, you can prioritize action items and showcase the impact customer feedback has on the bottom line.

However, as Forrester has noted in its recent report on the market, VoC is still at an “immature” point in its development. Many companies are still finding their footing when it comes to implementing technology and moving the needle with CX improvements.

To explore how the state of B2B VoC has been thus far, we dive into four trends defining VoC programs in 2019 and tell you what you need to know to compete with the best-in-class.

Surveys are only the foundational tool

Let’s play a word association game. If I say “Voice of the Customer” do you automatically think survey? Most people do because surveys are a great way to gather information from your customers.

They are easy to deploy and generally quick for customers to respond to. Surveys like Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) have become ubiquitous with listening to customers.

However, while 78% of brands are measuring customer loyalty via these three metrics, very few businesses believe they are gaining any real insight from the results. In fact, less than a quarter of brands feel that the surveys they are using (such as NPS, CSAT, and CES) are giving them actionable insights that will allow them to transform their customer experience.

B2B Businesses need to find a way to move beyond surveys—either through deeper analysis or by bringing more data sources into the mix. The problem with running surveys that aren’t driving the required results is two-fold.

Firstly, customers are getting tired of being bombarded with surveys. If companies don’t become more discerning with their survey programs, survey fatigue will start to mean fewer, less accurate responses.

Secondly, executive teams are tired of tracking the number of survey responses—they want to see how a VoC program impacts revenue. And collecting feedback alone will not prove that. It’s what you do with that data that makes all the difference.

Best in class VoC programs are using a mix of data sources beyond surveys and investing in tools that can pull out real actionable insights to drive the business forward.

More impact analysis is needed

While most companies can agree on the benefit of providing an exceptional customer experience, few know exactly what actions will result in what benefit to the bottom line.

As Bob Thompson from CustomerThink explains, “More work is needed on multi-channel impact analysis and action planning. The CX industry is still fixated on surveys, in part because it generates scores (NPS, CSAT, etc.) to track progress. “Yippee, our NPS just increased 5 points!” But CX pros really need help prioritizing issues based on loyalty and business impact.”

This is a big difference between immature CX programs and mature CX organizations. When VoC teams can connect customer feedback to business metrics like revenue and cost-of-service, they can have a much bigger impact on the direction of the company.

Connecting customer feedback to your CRM can help with impact analysis. When you know what your highest value customers are saying, you can prioritize their biggest concerns over the free customers’ feedback.

Using the purchasing data from your CRM (such as LTV and customer happiness scores) can help paint a more holistic picture of what your customer base really thinks.

Secondly, connecting customer actions to their feedback can help identify what issues should be prioritized. When customers complain about the price or speed of service, but they aren’t churning because of it, then it might not be worth fixing.

Instead, focus on the issues that have a big impact on the business. This will help you get the most out of your VoC program—instead of focussing solely on the squeaky wheel.

Channel unification is a priority

Customers use their voice in so many different ways—more than ever before. From social media to online reviews, from phone surveys to customer service tickets, your customer is giving you a wealth of data on what they want from you. For each of these channels, you might be using a different tool to collect that data. And that’s a big problem.

Faith Adams, CX analyst at Forrester Research says that while some clients can use up to 10 different tools, most don’t integrate together due to technological and organizational silos. This means that businesses aren’t getting a full view of their customers.

CustomerThink VoC B2B CX

(CustomerThink shares research on the percentage of companies that are “Winning” or “Developing” a VoC program across each channel.)

While the obvious solution to the problem is to work on breaking down these silos and integrating data, that might not be as easy as it sounds.

Faith Adams suggests that there is “some confusion in the market” when it comes to choosing a VoC platform. While many VoC vendors claim to offer a “complete” CX platform, they don’t necessarily cover every channel or integrate with every tool. Because of this, it’s important to execute due diligence when vetting potential vendors.

The other challenge is that all data isn’t necessarily stored in the same format, making the analysis complicated. Structured data like survey responses and customer data is simpler to act on, but unstructured data like text responses are equally valuable.

Finding a platform that offers advanced text analysis alongside other more traditional analysis is critical to creating what Bob Thompson calls the Voice of Customer Command Center.

CustomerThink VoC

Insight sharing and collaboration is critical

One of the trends that will continue to support the development of VoC programs is the sharing of valuable data across departments and functional groups. Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner of Temkin Group (now part of Qualtrics) says that casual users will become more common on VoC platforms as more product owners seek to understand what customers really want.

This collaboration will also help VoC teams access more of the cross-functional data they need to fully understand the customer journey.

If you work in CX, reporting is probably a big part of your role. The idea of more people requesting more specific information might not appeal to you. Fortunately, customized automated reporting is the newest trend from VoC platforms.

In CustomerThink, Olivier Njamf explains that “automation and templates can help create and deliver these tailored, targeted reports quickly, rather than the VoC team having to manually build them from scratch. This speeds up the sharing of information and increases collaboration across the business.”

Temkin agrees that reporting advancements will democratize customer feedback and allow more customer-centric decisions across the company. “The information provided to people will be specific to their roles, and will proactively highlight the information that they need to know.”

Conclusion

B2B VoC programs are still very early on in their development. Moving from survey results to actionable insights comes with a set of challenges. However, because of the interest in customer-centricity and the importance of customer experience as a differentiator, VoC vendors are rising to the challenges.

In 2019, B2B companies will need to choose their VoC vendor carefully so that they can move beyond top-line survey results to impact analysis. This will almost certainly require unifying feedback across channels. Once actionable insights are uncovered, the results will need to be shared across the entire organization in order to drive action. Only businesses that are able to get to this stage will succeed in delivering the very best in customer experience.

Free Guide: How to Run a Successful VoC Program

This guide will teach you how to launch a VoC program, take action with your customer feedback, and prove the ROI of your efforts.

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