Expert’s Corner: Delivering Voice of the Customer

listen wallRecently on Customers Rock! Radio, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Richard Owen, CEO of Satmetrix. We had a great discussion around listening to customers, gathering social media feedback and turning it into action inside of a company, and of course we talked about the NetPromoter score and how to use it strategically.  You can listen to the 12-minute segments here (Segment 1), here (Segment 2), and here (Segment 3).

Richard’s colleague, and CMO of Satmetrix is Deborah Eastman, and she is our guest blogger today. Deborah shares with us about considerations when listening to customers, whether online or offline, and how technology plays a part.

Delivering Voice of the Customer to Enable Customer Delight and Financial Gains

I hope we can all agree that delivering a positive customer experience is the key to building customer loyalty and achieving financial success. Countless reports and case studies have proven this linkage. A recent report that caught my attention is Watermark Consulting’s 2007-2009 performance analysis, which examines Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Index and shows how customer experience leaders outperform laggards in the stock market.

Now, it’s likely that the CEOs of customer experience laggards will tell you that their companies strive to deliver an outstanding customer experience. However, understanding the principles of customer experience and actually delivering them do not necessarily go hand in hand. In 2008 Bain & Company found that while 80 percent of companies believe they deliver a superior experience to their customers, only 8 percent of those companies’ customers report having such an experience. Similarly, a CMO Council study found that fifty-six percent of technology vendors perceive themselves as being extremely customer-centric, compared with only 12% of their customers.

There is a clear disconnect between the experience companies think they deliver and what customers experience, perceive and – more importantly – desire. It’s not about what you think… it’s about what your customers think.

In order to determine whether you are disappointing, meeting or exceeding your customers’ expectations, you need to continuously listen. And it’s not as easy as it sounds. It goes far beyond monitoring the chatter on Twitter and other social media platforms or performing your annual customer satisfaction survey. It requires soliciting customer feedback on a regular, ongoing basis at multiple touch points, and closing the loop to address issues and understand root cause.

You should know what your customers are experiencing every time they interact with your company. Take, for instance, a bank. You must consider your customers’ experience when they open an account, deposit or withdraw funds, overdraw their account, receive quarterly statements, use your online banking tools, request technical support, purchase savings bonds, apply for a mortgage, refinance a mortgage, and so on and so on….You get the picture.

My point is that your customers’ experience at each touch point will form their overall impression of your organization, resulting in a financial impact in terms of retention, repurchase and recommendations. In order to improve, you need to continuously listen and deliver real-time data to empower employees to take action. To gain sustainable competitive advantage, you need view data in a way that reveals trends and helps you to identify structural areas in need of improvement (i.e. policy, process, pricing, products, etc.).

So, as you can see, managing your customer experience means monitoring multiple customer interactions, aggregating and analyzing a plethora of data, and distributing role-based information across the enterprise in a timely manner.

It’s harder than it sounds. No matter how well you understand these concepts, you can’t make them work to your advantage without the help of technology.

And yet, a December 2008 study we sponsored with the CMO Council reveals that most organizations have not adopted the technology necessary to support their customer experience programs, and therefore have major deficiencies in the way they respond to customer feedback. In fact, only 23 percent of the senior marketers surveyed said they were using enterprise technology to engage, listen and respond to customers in real-time.

First-rate technology can and should:

  • Bust organizational silos and provide an enterprise view of the customer experience.
  • Capture information from multiple touch points and distribute it in real-time to initiate required action.
  • Provide sophisticated, interactive analytics and role-based reporting that allow you to quickly identify and act on performance gaps.
  • Allow you to segment data to identify trends and performance gaps across business units, customer segments and product lines.
  • Incorporate your CRM and financial data to provide a big picture view of the direct correlation between customer experience and business performance.
  • Be user-friendly. Employees will be more likely to embrace the system if it is intuitive and integrates seamlessly into their everyday tasks.

Developing and maintaining a customer experience platform demands time and resources, but there is little doubt that it will pay off. One example of this pay-off is Experian, a company we have worked with for several years. They successfully leveraged voice-of-the-customer technology and processes to identify key loyalty drivers and improve the customer experience resulting in increased wallet share in a highly competitive market. Experian’s customer experience efforts were so successful that they were awarded a Forrester Voice of the Customer Award in June of 2009. If you’re interested in other case studies of companies achieving business results by focusing on customer experience, visit satmetrix.com or netpromoter.com.

(Image credit: TommL)

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15 Responses

  1. Becky and Deborah,

    Thanks for the great post. It would be interesting to know whether NetPromoter can integrate with social media tools and other forms of customer feedback? Nowadays, seems like there is a lot of reliance on social media for measuring customer experience. I think it would be valuable to incorporate feedback from all mediums.

    Planning to write a post about NetPromoter Score on noHold’s Blog. Our customers use our tool to help achieve a better NPS.

    Best Regards,


  2. “It’s not about what you think… it’s about what your customers think.”

    It’s the name of the game:) Great article, worth waiting for.

  3. Deborah Eastman


    Great Question. More and more companies are trying to understand their social media data in the context of Net Promoter. The fact is data collected through a Net Promoter program and social media data work hand in hand. Let me elaborate.

    Net Promoter Score (NPS) is captured through a survey response from a customer or partner, this is solicited feedback and the wording of the question is consistent providing a standardized measurement. We recommend that the respondent data be maintained and companies build closed loop processes to follow-up with high value customers, address issues, mobilize Promoters, perform root cause analysis, etc. In this case you know who the customer is and you have a standardize way of properly identify Promoters, Passives and Detractors. The data captured also allows us to address both operational (1:1) and structural (1:many) issues that impact the customer experience.

    Social media data on the other hand is unsolicited feedback. Often you don’t know if the person is a customer, and if so, whether they represent a high value customer segment. You can close the loop, address issues and turn Detractors into Passives or Promoters, however you can’t systematically categorize them into Promoters, Passives and Detractors since there is no structured way to ask a consistent question such as, “how likely are you to recommend”. While you can address individual issues using this approach, business processes and technology are needed to capture common themes that must be addressed from a structural prospective, limiting your impact to individual issues (1:1), rather than root cause (1:many). However, social media gives you a broad prospective on the conversation happening around you and how word of mouth is translated in the market.

    So, the ideal strategy is both. Collect solicited feedback at critical touch points, monitor the social media conversation, build closed loop processes and as a result you will see high Net Promoter Scores resulting in improved retention, repurchase and referral.

    Hope that helps.

    Deborah Eastman

  4. Becky, Good Morning,
    Pretty interesting statistics you have quoted. There is clearly a significant disconnect. I think part of the issue stems from confusing Customer Service with Customer Experience. I think it is much easier to Enhance the Customers Experience than to deliver stealer Customer Service. We confuse great customer service as being Ritz Carlton or Nordstrom, it isn’t, as customer service varies based on the product type, brand and product price point.

    Folks can argue that if they want, but you simply do not expect the same level of customer service at McDonalds, a fast food chain as you do at Mortons, a high end steakhouse. The problem with focusing on increased Customer Service is, irrespective of your product price point, folks always expect a little more “service” than your product offering is designed to deliver. Trying to out service your competitors is a race to eroding profits. I am not suggesting that a company only deliver minimal customer service, but am pointing out there are differences.

    However, companies that shift their thinking toward Enhancing the Customers Experience should have a much easier time, and really speaks to shifts in your behavior to align with your brand. This was an epiphany moment for us at Urbane, as once we started behaving, consistent with our Brand, things became much easier and more clear, all of which centered around Enhancing the Residents Experience at each of the touch points throughout the resident life cycle.

    Ciao Eric

    Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/EricUrbane
    Blog: http://dsherpa.com/
    Blog: http://www.apartmentveteran.com/

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