When a company only has so much, they want to be sure that investments are carefully chosen to provide the best result and the most coverage. This is particularly true for investments in customer experience. Most leaders understand that customer-centricity is the key to success. Specifically, how well a company treats their customers and delivers consistently great experiences can influence growth (both among existing customers and with new customers through reputation) and retention.
Following are sources available for companies to understand their customer experiences:
- Direct feedback, or solicited sources of Voice of Customer (VOC), specifically asks customers what they experienced, how they evaluate performance, and how experiences made them feel.
- Indirect feedback, or unsolicited sources of VOC, includes contact center interactions like call recordings, chat logs, and email transcripts.
- Social media is another source of unsolicited feedback that really highlights that customers are willing to share their experiences, both good and bad, through various viral-potential channels.
- Systems or operational data, or inferred feedback, details what the customer experienced. The details of experiences depend on what is captured, but contact center systems provide a lot of critical details about experiences, including time of call, length of call, wait time before speaking with an agent, transfers, etc.
“Contact center systems provide a lot of critical details about experiences, including time of call, length of call, wait time before speaking with an agent, transfers, etc.”
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Individually, each of these sources provides unique contributions to understanding what customers experience, specifically around what is working and what is broken. But when combined or linked in a meaningful way, a complete customer experience story can be told. The challenge is that most organizations can only invest so much in sources that help them understand what customers experience with them. A well-designed direct feedback program can be a significant investment for an organization, however, the unique contribution of having a holistic VOC program that includes all forms of feedback justifies the investment.
Here are four unique contributions that only direct feedback can provide:
1. Customer Perceptions and Motivations – the only way to truly understand why a customer feels the way they do is to ask them. When you ask for direct feedback, customers share whether experiences left them feeling satisfied and successful, and let you know whether their expectations or specific needs were met. Further, their direct feedback highlights the “why” behind those feelings, so that you can follow up to enhance loyalty, plus make future customer experiences better.
Asking for direct feedback provides an opportunity for customers to share their voice in how the experience was received, and what they believe was done well or what could be improved. This information reflects a unique contribution to understanding beyond gauging whether an interaction was positive or negative (sentiment/tone) or if the interaction was efficiently or effectively handled.
In addition, a customer’s direct feedback can be used to confirm that other customer experience information sources reflect common focus on great experiences and customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is one thing to know that an experience was positive or negative, it is another to know why – so that you can follow up.
NICE Satmetrix recommends conversational approaches to collect feedback to gauge unique information about customers’ perceptions and feelings following an interaction.
2. Understanding of the Role of Context – Without direct feedback, we may misjudge or incorrectly evaluate an experience. Of course, the same is true if we only leverage direct feedback to evaluate experience. It is really the consideration of all available the sources that contextualizes experiences and enables a complete understanding of the customer journey. Soliciting feedback, especially through non-structured questions, ensures that we are completely considering the customers’ perspectives on what was most important to them or what meant the most to them during the interactions. Without direct feedback, we are relying on things said during the interaction (from recordings) or to systems information that detail the specifics of the interaction, none of which may have impacted customers’ perceptions and feelings.
“It is really the consideration of all available the sources that contextualizes experiences and enables a complete understanding of the customer journey.”
NICE Satmetrix recommends leveraging direct feedback, plus interaction data (from call recordings, chats, and emails), systems data (to understand details of the interaction), and any other VOC source to tell a complete customer experience story.
3. Opportunity to Be Customer-centric – When a direct feedback program is well designed and executed, requesting feedback feels like an extension of the experience and demonstrates that the company values customer input. Customers enjoy having the opportunity to help shape their experiences, and asking for feedback is a great way to ensure their input is part of the process.
Ultimately, customers want to be heard; they want to use their voice to influence their experiences, and they want problems, issues, and questions to be handled promptly and completely. Without direct feedback, companies may never fully know the impact of experiences – particularly bad experiences – on their ability to continue, and deepen relationships with their customers.
NICE Satmetrix recommends including a remediation process for handling negative feedback and complaints. This remediation process involves sharing the feedback with the right individuals with the company that are empowered to address customers’ feedback and make things right.
4. Customer-defined Priorities – Customers know best! They know what they want and what is most important to them. Customer-centric organizations listen to their customers to understand not only what is working and what is not, but also to isolate priorities. Whether derived from customer feedback (derived importance) or based on customers’ stated priorities for change, companies should leverage customer input to help establish priorities for customer input. It is easy for an organization to define its own priorities based on a cost/benefit analysis or based on the path of least resistance, but the most impactful change will be connected and driven by customer feedback.
NICE Satmetrix recommends conducting driver analysis with structured and unstructured feedback to identify the key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty. These drivers, coupled with a gauge of performance, can isolate priorities for improving customer service delivery.
Different information sources help a company understand what customers experience with them. These sources are complementary and confirmatory, not competitive sources for understanding customer experience. Together, these sources help to provide a complete story of the influence and impact of customer experience on important business objectives like growth and retention.
As a vital source in understanding the complete customer experience landscape, direct customer feedback uniquely contributes to a company’s understanding of:
- Customers’ feelings and perceptions based on the experience
- Context or situation in how customer interprets the experience
- The organization’s focus on being customer-centric by listening and acting on customer input
- Priorities for improvement
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Jennifer Passini, Ph.D. is the Director of Business Consulting at NICE Satmetrix. She focuses on sharing best practices, ensuring that our clients realize the value of VOC and their specific programs, and helps our client evolve their programs over time.
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