Driving a fit-for-purpose Voice of the Customer (VOC) initiative to stay aligned with their needs


  • Respond promptly to customer concerns to enable you to recover from bad experiences

As a boy, I learned a valuable lesson from my dad about feedback, something which keeps coming back to me again and again. Anytime I ran an errand for him, he insisted on my coming back to inform him that I had completed the task. Initially, I (my small mind) thought his rumblings were pointless and that the old man was just making a fuss. However, over time I soon learned the importance of feedback as he kept harping on to me. So, he would say go and tell Mr. T so and so, and as a boy, I would do that obediently but failed to see the need to report back to him.

He would call me to order a couple of minutes after my return from the errand if I failed to report to him and would give me a lecture on feedback. Feedback, he would say is extremely important whether the errand ended well or not one needed to provide feedback for the sender to know that the message had been received or the task was well executed. To ensure that you are aligned with customer sentiments you need to incline your ‘organizational ear’ to the Voice of the Customer (VOC). By focusing on customer needs, wants, expectations, and preferences you differentiate your business from the competition.

It allows you to identify pain points very quickly and work promptly to improve the quality of customer experience. A few weeks ago, I shared a personal experience in my piece, of how bad experiences can leave an indelible mark on the mind of the customer. I walked into this bank to cash a cheque that had been issued to me. Naturally, the bank’s policy (as is the case with any other bank) is to verify the authenticity of the cheque by contacting the issuer so I don’t begrudge them that privilege.

What is mind-boggling about this incident is the way they went about it. I handed the cheque to the teller and the next thing she directs me to one of their front desk staff. The gentleman asked me to sit down and picked up the phone to call the issuer right in front of me. I felt like a criminal, could they have done this at the back end? What would have happened if the issuer was unreachable, I suppose they will call security and handcuff me ……. The least said about that incident the better, the long and short of it was that the bank was gleefully handing me a bad experience.

When I drew his attention to it, his response was ‘Oh our customers are happy for us to do that’, I suppose that meant I was only a passer-by. What every organization or business needs is what CX experts refer to as customer understanding. It is about creating a culture where feedback is welcomed. In such an environment the closed feedback loop is limited, even non-existent. This is the key to driving change. According to CX expert Jeff Sheehan, to know your customer you must facilitate internal systems that listen, learn, and act with the right skill set and tools to keep your customers happy and satisfied.

Listening to your customers

To deeply understand why customers, behave the way they do when engaging with your organization you need to develop a learning culture that will help you discover where you are failing to meet their expectations. Many organizations claim that they are on top of their customer agenda and have a clear sight of their needs. However, a survey cited in 2005 concluded that 80% of companies surveyed believed they were delivering a superior experience. The irony is that only 8% of their customers interviewed agreed with them.

To find out the gap between customer expectations and what you are delivering as a business you need to focus on the customer feedback data that your organization collects. Furthermore, you must harness the data in as practical a way as possible. Let us admit that an organization cannot be all things to all customers, partners, and suppliers. Be that as it may, a well-thought-out CX programme will position you to be agile in responding to new challenges and opportunities in real-time.

To clearly understand what the organization wants to obtain from the insight requires careful planning. CX leaders must partner with stakeholders to forge meaningful associations and work collaboratively to mine relevant insights that are meaningful to them. For example, sales will be interested in the propensities to buy, finance will focus on profitability by offering and channel, and product managers are interested in features being enjoyed or rejected by customers while marketing listens to social media for brand or campaign impact.

Your contact centre wants to understand the main issues that generate calls and trace the root cause to reduce the time spent reacting. Customer feedback is collected in several different forms including (and not limited to) customer surveys, interviews, and focus groups, website behaviour, email, live chats, customer support. customer success teams, and social media and online reviews. This plethora of channels generates a lot of “free listening” as customers will always have something to share about what they love or loathe.

Learning from customers

Learning is the deep understanding of why customers behave the way they do. We learn about their motivations, behaviours, and sentiments as they interact with our touchpoints. The goal is to identify the gaps between your organization’s beliefs and the customers’ experience interacting with the brand. Today’s world is noted for big data. There is no shortage of it, a challenge for most businesses is how the data is harnessed to gain insights to enable the business to be in sync with its stakeholders.

An effective way to leverage feedback and lessons is to work towards achieving a common understanding of customer issues. This means avoiding the challenge of having customer feedback from silos. When feedback is obtained from data silos the effect is that your organization ends up with a fragmented understanding of the customer as opposed to having a holistic view. Consequently, when employees speak for the organization or deal with issues regarding the customer they are not on the same page.

These days with the influential role of social media a wrong response to a customer issue could be very damaging to the business.  The key is to consolidate data across multiple streams to get a much better view of the customer’s experience at each touchpoint.

Here is a good example of data silos and their effect from an IT perspective. A customer opening new savings account at a bank will be interacting with the bank’s systems variously. The bank in engaging the customer will be interested in knowing the following: What systems are they interacting with? What data do they need to provide, and what data do we already have available? By setting up touchpoints such that data is accessed and analyzed cross-functionally we ensure that every department is aligned to the customer’s needs. The ideal situation is to deal with the customer from a central repository.

This is where technology comes in handy. There is a better grasp of the customer journey when touchpoints are digital. Digital channels allow for real-time listening. They also allow for integrations with different digital systems and aggregation of customer feedback data giving a more comprehensive and consistent picture of customer interactions and feedback. The data managed for the customer experience could either be structured or unstructured. Here are a few examples of the data.

Types of CX Data






· Survey answers by

numbered choices

· Pull down menus in surveys

· Web forms


· Verbatim comments in


· Social media postings

· App store ratings and reviews

· Google ratings and reviews

· Web pages and blog posts

· LinkedIn articles and comments

· Recorded telephone calls

· Email and Post

· Web chats

· Images, Audio, Video







· Spreadsheets

· Database files

· CRM data

· Financial data

· Product data

· Transaction data

· A bar code that is assigned to an item in your warehouse



· Sensor data

· Employee records

· Documents (e.g. contracts,

statements of work, press releases)

· A paper-based vendor invoice that comes to your accounting department

· A product photo that gets associated with an order


Source: Customer Experience Management: Field Manual

Using digital channels enhances your capability to manage channels in an integrated way is greatly enhanced. Your marketing, sales, and support teams will be receiving the above information from a common digitized platform where the source data has been aggregated with an interface that efficiently manages how you access it from both structured and unstructured sources. Using technology this way gives you the perspective referred to by experts as the Voice of Technology. All functional areas will have a consistent view of the customer.

Acting on insights

It is needless to ask customers for their feedback if you don’t have a plan to do something with it. Analyzing data collected from customer feedback using digital technologies can be hugely beneficial. Listening to customers regularly presents you with great opportunities to establish a process for continual improvements and a framework for prioritizing action to be taken. Determining what actions to take and monitoring the impact of these actions requires a disciplined process of evaluating the insights from your VOC learning.

Two frameworks are recommended by CX experts, these are the Value-Irritant Matrix and the Five Whys. The Value-Irritant Matrix enables you to assess what needs fixing and how to prioritize the initiatives that will address the issues. The Five Whys is used by the CX lead in collaboration with stakeholders to examine the root cause of an issue discovered in your customer feedback listening and learning. Some root causes may require further investments e.g. additional staffing to remedy long wait times.

A common example is when you visit the bank intending to complete a transaction quickly to make it to your next appointment. Fat chance, only 2 teller booths will be operating at the time requiring that you wait in a long queue that might take you not less than 30 minutes of your lucky (you could be over an hour where there is heavy traffic. Could it be that the banks are saving costs at the expense of the customer experience?

Recently during a visit to Cape Coast, I noticed the very conversational cab driver drew my attention to an ATM in town which was hardly used after 6 pm due to poor lighting and security.  Could it be that the bank has no formal internal CX processes in place? Clearly, if that is the case then we are dealing with a bank that is not customer-centric.

Truly, by listening to your customers and learning valuable lessons from them you position yourself to work proactively to enhance your customer’s experience. This is ‘outside-in’ thinking at its best.

  The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717/


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