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Voice of the Customer – The latest Innovations shaping business success

Over the years, VoC (Voice-of-the-Customer) methodologies have undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from traditional surveys to dynamic, multi/omni-channel programs powered by cutting-edge technologies. VoC programs have become critical for understanding customers, anticipating their needs, and driving successful business decisions.

David Lambert, VP & GM, Strategy and Growth, APAC, Medallia

Voice of Customer (VoC) strategies serve as the cornerstone for businesses aiming to create exceptional customer experiences and drive sustained growth. David Lambert, VP & GM, Strategy and Growth, APAC, Medallia, comments, “The objective for businesses is not to gather customer feedback but to understand every customer experience and whether it’s meeting that customer’s expectations. This involves understanding the intent of a customer and measuring how successful they were at fulfilling it. Gathering customer feedback is one way of tracking this but we know that survey response rates are declining and will only ever give you a sample of how your customers are feeling”.

For Rod Netterfield CCXP, Director of Humind, though technological innovation has been critical, it’s really about brands being more proactive, he says, “Technology in general is having massive impacts right across the customer experience ecosystem. But where initial focus needs to be directed is in being more proactive and innovative in our voice of customer program. Being proactive means actively seeking, analysing, and leveraging deep insights about customers to anticipate needs, improve experiences, and drive business decisions.”

The evolution of VoC

Rod Netterfield CCXP, Director of Humind

Historically, VoC strategies primarily relied on conventional surveys and feedback forms to gauge customer satisfaction. However, the paradigm shift towards more comprehensive, multi-dimensional approaches has been instrumental. Businesses have embraced diverse channels—social media, chat, calls, emails—to capture real-time feedback, enabling a holistic understanding of customer sentiment.

Over time, how leading customer experience organisations implement VoC has evolved in two ways, according to Lambert. He says, “Firstly, they’ve shortened surveys to improve response rates and enabled different mediums for customers to provide feedback, like video and speech. By utilising, text, video and speech analytics they can capture the rich insights from unstructured feedback and draw on common topics that customers are talking about”.

“Secondly, organisations have expanded their understanding of customer experiences by going beyond traditional survey-based feedback programs to analysing the indirect feedback signals a customer leaves you about their experience. For instance, speech analytics are now being employed to analyse every phone conversation, specialised text analytics for live chats, and digital experience analytics for digital sessions”.

Emerging technologies

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly AI-powered sentiment analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP), has redefined the scope of VoC. “Artificial intelligence (AI) has played a pivotal role in analysing customer behaviour and enabling action in real-time for over a decade and a half, starting with text analytics and subsequently expanding to encompass speech and digital experience analytics. We are now witnessing the transformative potential of generative AI taking effect and powering many new use cases”, says Lambert.

“In a recent IDC study, 78% of organisations said customer data and technology were very important to CX but only 16% said they were obtaining significant value from their data. This is because timely and relevant experience signals exist in multiple, disparate systems and aren’t structured into usable datasets or connected to known identities. AI can help businesses bridge this gap by analysing large volumes of data to uncover customer signals and turning them into actionable insights”.

These technologies allow for deeper insights from customer feedback, uncovering nuanced sentiments and trends that were previously challenging to decipher. Machine Learning algorithms further enhance VoC by predicting customer behaviour and preferences based on comprehensive data analysis.

It’s important, however, not to get caught up with technology for technology’s sake. Netterfield advises, “There’s plenty of discussion around AI and the potential to improve your VoC programs. But you need to be very clear about what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to improve your response rates? Are you trying to get a better handle on sentiment analysis? Or do you want to be more predictive in your insights generation? CX teams must start with what problems the use of AI will it allow you to solve.”

Gathering feedback across multiple touchpoints and platforms is crucial for a holistic VoC strategy. Strategies that seamlessly integrate feedback from various sources enable businesses to gain a comprehensive understanding of customer experiences. This omnichannel approach empowers organisations to identify trends, patterns, and pain points across the customer journey.

Personalisation and customisation

The era of personalised experiences is here, and VoC plays a pivotal role. Lambert says, “Personalising every experience has emerged as the ultimate winning strategy in today’s competitive landscape. Back in 2003, the Net Promoter System marked a turning point, doubling the revenue growth for top-performing companies. More recent research conducted by McKinsey indicates a shift in consumer expectations. According to their findings, a staggering 71% of consumers now expect personalised experiences; 76% of them express frustration when they don’t find it. Interestingly, companies that consistently deliver personalised experiences are rewarded with 40% more revenue over those that don’t”.

By leveraging data analytics, businesses can craft personalised experiences based on customer feedback. Tailoring VoC strategies to individual preferences ensures that customers feel heard and valued, fostering long-term loyalty. Netterfield comments, “Personalisation in terms of VoC and the surveys we do with customers will allow us to better understand the customer journey at an individual level. If we already know things about the customer and the experience they have had with us, there’s a real opportunity to drill down and generate insights that allow us to design very personalised surveying experiences”.  

Netterfield adds, however, “I must admit I haven’t seen many organisations targeting surveys at that level yet. I’m seeing some level of segmentation being applied to surveys. But getting right down to that individual one-to-one personalisation is ultimately where I think we could build towards”.

Real-time VoC Analytics

Unveiling Instant Insights Real-time data analysis is a game-changer in understanding customer sentiments. Lambert advises, “Without a real-time understanding of each customer’s journey, you lose the ability to act and save a customer who’s having a poor experience or make the most of when someone is having a positive one. The ability to act in the moment and save at-risk customers can reduce churn rates by 20-70%”.

Netterfield believes that there will be an increasing emphasis on real-time insights and predictive analytics. “The ability to capture and then act on feedback in a much more instant way, with immediate issue resolutions and proactive experiences, is fast becoming the expectation. We will see much more use of predictive analytics. We’ve got the historical information about our customers and we have the information we’re capturing in real-time.  This we allow us to not only predict customer behaviours, but to predict customer sentiment. We’ll be able to proactively identify where issues may occur and do something to proactively address them.”

Ethical Considerations and Privacy

As VoC strategies rely on customer data, maintaining ethical standards and privacy is crucial. Businesses must address concerns regarding data privacy and ensure the ethical use of customer information. Netterfield comments, “Clearly in all of this, as we are gathering more data, we need to make sure that we have the right protections in place to be storing the data and keeping our customers’ information and data safe. There’s a role for us all to play to make sure that we’re using it in an ethical way”.

The future of VoC is poised for remarkable advancements. Anticipated technological innovations and methodologies will continue to shape customer-centric business strategies. Lambert comments, “Voice of Customer (VoC) strategies must focus on creating personalised experiences for customers and move away from their reliance on survey data as the sole method for understanding a customer’s experience. There is also a growing focus on creating actionable insight derived from advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. Real-time feedback and closed-loop automation are becoming standard practice”.

VoC will play an increasingly vital role in driving business decisions and enhancing customer experiences in the future landscape. VoC will continue to be the cornerstone for businesses seeking to thrive in a rapidly evolving market.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.