Many people these days talk about voice of the customer (VOC) programs and how they can improve business performance. The foundation of any VOC program is collecting customer feedback, analyzing it and using the insights to improve customer-focused processes, training and the use of technology. Changes usually focus on customer service, but increasingly companies are focusing on the customer experience – how companies engage with customers to resolve issues, provide information, close sales and respond to social media. Our benchmark research into customer feedback management shows that although their use of customer feedback to slowly maturing, companies still need to address a number of fundamental issues.
Ventana Research judges market maturity at four levels: tactical (lowest), advanced, strategic and innovative. The benchmark shows that the customer feedback market is still relatively immature, with 43 percent at the tactical level, 28 percent at the advanced level, 20 percent at strategic and 9 percent at the innovative level. The main reason is companies’ lagging use of technology, where only the most mature 5 percent use the latest technologies available, with by far the majority (56%) content with using tried and tested technologies. The situation is slightly improved for the use of information, with 17 percent at the innovative level and 26 percent at the tactical level.
Behind these top-level numbers lie a number of process, people and technology issues. In recognition of the competitive state of the current market, about two-thirds of companies (67%) believe it is important to collect customer feedback, and the vast majority (85%) collect feedback in one form or another. The top priority is to collect feedback about customer service, in an effort to improve customer satisfaction scores, which remain the top customer-facing metric. From a process perspective, there are two issues. First, about half (52%) of companies collect feedback at random times, and only about a third (34%) always respond to feedback. In combination this means companies risk missing feedback about critical customer-facing activities, and they also risk alienating those customer who provide feedback by not letting them know what if any action will be taken as a result of their feedback. Second, having collected feedback, nearly two-thirds (65%) rely on manual methods, supported by spreadsheets, to monitor which feedback is assessed and what insights have been gained from the results. Once more, this approach risks missing important feedback and not gaining full benefits from the analyzed feedback.
These process issues are reflected in who is involved with the collection and analysis of feedback. The research shows that on average three business units are involved in collecting feedback, with the main ones being customer service (64%), contact center (53%), marketing (45%) and a dedicated team (36%). While it is good that many business units are involved, it adds to the confusion about when feedback is collected, and there is a danger the results might not be shared across the organization. A similar situation applies with who responds to feedback, with similar numbers of companies spreading responsibility across business units (38%), customer service (36%) and a dedicated team (34%). Once more, spreading responsibility across business units increases the danger that customers may not be kept informed about what actions are being taken as a result of their feedback.
As explained by the maturity model, the biggest weakness companies exhibit in making the most of customer feedback is their slow adoption of new technologies that would make the process more efficient and effective. The top four channels for collecting feedback are email (64%), web-based surveys (52%), listening to call recordings (38%) and face-to-face conversations at user forums. In order to gain more and quicker feedback from customers, companies would do well to use smartphone and tablet technologies and follow in the footsteps of more mature companies that use a downloadable app (4%) and text-based surveys (3%). Similarly, companies would do well to follow best practices and extract more consistent and higher volumes of insights by following mature companies that use speech (7%) and text (6%) analytics. Given that the majority of feedback is either in text form or can be derived from call recordings, companies that have deployed these tools find they can automate the production of key metrics (42%), automatically raise alerts and workflow if key indicators fall outside defined limits (42%) and get better insight into customer sentiment, key issues and trends (42%).
Having better insight into customer issues, trends and sentiment is key to business success in today’s highly competitive markets. The majority of companies seem to recognize this, but their failure to use the latest technologies hampers their efforts. Based on our benchmark research, we recommend that companies identify best practices shown by the most mature companies which can be done through an assessment or even purchase the full report to get more depth on recommendations and see how to adopt some of the latest technologies and update who is involved in collecting and making use of feedback.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director