Many companies have shifted focus away from the pursuit of new customers toward retaining existing customers and winning more business from them. To achieve those goals, smart ones are concentrating on the voice of the customer (VOC). This requires creating what often is described as a “360-degree view of the customer” that includes all available corporate information about each one. As yet, however, few companies fully understand VOC or have the systems they need to support an enterprise-wide VOC initiative. For those that wish to create their own VOC systems, as a first step we recommend that they utilize tools that enable them to collect more customer feedback through more channels and to analyze it. By becoming more customer-focused, they can understand customers better, arrange to meet their expectations more fully and perhaps achieve the goals they set for retention and increased sales.
The primary driver for VOC is handling customer interactions more effectively. But VOC can be used for other key tasks as well, such as identifying best- and worst-performing customer service employees, interacting in customer-preferred ways, spotting trends and likely future customer behaviors and upselling to existing customers.
Vendors of customer service tools have long promised to produce the 360-degree customer view. Typically they weren’t able to deliver it because they couldn’t provide access to every source and form of customer data. What’s required of these tools is that they be able to clean and synchronize all customer-related data, whatever the source and form – structured, unstructured or event-related – and integrate it to produce a complete analysis of each customer, or at the very least of each customer segment. This is a substantial challenge. The VOC should include demographic, marketing, sales and product information. It should incorporate a record of all interactions, regardless of the channel through which they occurred, including event information related to each customer (such as a network outage that prevented a broadband connection). It should have sentiment and influencer analysis and apply various analytics, including historical, current and predictive. To track performance, companies must have metrics that relate to both efficiency (such as the number of calls made to the contact center) and effectiveness (how much new business each customer generated, individually and through recommendations).
This is a large order for vendors. A few, such as NICE Systems and Verint, are close to producing the full VOC. The next challenge is to gain adoption for their analytics products. Our research on customer and contact center analytics found that the most popular tool for producing them is still spreadsheets. Yet our customer relationship maturity research makes clear that increasingly more business units are handling customer interactions. Doing so effectively requires that everyone be working from the same information, which should be complete and up to date. That is hard to achieve using spreadsheets.
Information is the lifeblood of the customer-focused organization, and every organization should strive for a VOC that contains all of it. A full 360-degree view is something that few organizations even attempt to reach, but it is more feasible now than ever before. We encourage companies that wish to reap the benefits of the total customer view to consider replacing spreadsheets with new analytic products that offer nearly complete VOC capabilities.