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The Voice of Customer Stack: Part I

This post is the first in a three-part series about assembling your Voice of Customer stack so that you can take action on your customer feedback faster and more effectively than ever before. 

If creating a Voice of Customer stack sounds overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that you already have one — it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. If you're analyzing your customer voice, it's critical to understand the value of all of the listening posts available to you. 

Your VoC stack represents all of the channels where you’re getting customer feedback and the systems that the feedback needs to inform. It’s probably not surprising that a VoC stack needs to reflect where you’re getting feedback from customers — but where that feedback needs to go to improve customer experience is equally important. 

Let’s start with where you’re getting feedback. There are two main types of customer feedback, solicited and unsolicited. Solicited feedback is the feedback you explicitly ask for in surveys. Unsolicited feedback represents what customers put in their own words in the channels you’ve made available to them — everything from support tickets, webchat, call center, and emails, to reviews of your product and commentary about your business in community forums and social media. Examples of unsolicited feedback can include feature requests, frustration with company policies, or reactions to a creative workaround that your Support team recommended. All types of customer feedback are important, but unsolicited feedback plays an especially foundational role in today’s VoC stack.

Examples of Solicited and Unsolicited Customer Feedback

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Unsolicited customer feedback is incredibly powerful for a few reasons — (1) it’s much higher in volume than solicited feedback and available in real-time, (2) it is likely to represent the voice of more stakeholders than solicited feedback, and (3) it is already at your fingertips. As a result, the channels where customers provide unsolicited feedback represent some of your most valuable listening posts. Because unsolicited feedback is unstructured and often spread across 12 or more customer touchpoints, many organizations have struggled to harness it effectively — fortunately, advances in natural language understanding (“NLU”) technology have made it easier than ever to put this data to work. 

According to a recent study by Kustomer, 79% of customers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred platform or medium. Your organization has probably invested in communication channels to accommodate your customers’ preferences — so it’s not surprising that 90% of your customer feedback lives in these channels. You may share Slack channels with some customers or offer premium support, such that your customers have access to a 24/7 phone line or chat with a one hour SLA. Perhaps a large percentage of your customers regularly use webchat or email ticketing. Below, we look at the dizzying array of popular VoC channels.

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Step 1: Unify Your Customer Feedback 

Unifying your customer feedback is the first step in putting together your VoC stack. You’ve probably heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out” — if your analysis of customer feedback is only limited to specific channels or only represents a small percentage of your customers, the takeaways and resulting actions from that analysis are not likely to yield the desired result. Because many CX teams lack a unified view of their customer feedback, they are unable to act on the majority of it. 

Without unsolicited feedback, solicited feedback can be difficult to interpret — it’s likely that survey respondents, or others in their organization, have left a trail of rich unsolicited feedback that will complete the picture of why they responded the way they did, and illustrate the true impact of their feedback on your relationship with that customer. Suppose you’re surveying the senior stakeholder who signs the renewal, but you haven’t considered the experience of daily users who contact you across unsolicited feedback channels — this can lead to unfortunate surprises. Similarly, zeroing in on a single unsolicited feedback channel may bias your findings to inflate issues that are unique to that channel. 

Without a unified view of your customer feedback, it’s impossible to implement consistent measurement, and without consistent measurement, it’s very difficult to improve your customer experience. A unified customer feedback library also means you can standardize key metrics across all of your customer-facing channels — companies that are racing to meet customers in their preferred channels often struggle with missing and inconsistent measurement. One channel might have impressive response and resolution times, and another might show the opposite dynamic. Since most companies support these channels with a shared resource pool, it’s critical to allocate resources to optimize for a great customer experience everywhere. A McKinsey study cautioned that individual touchpoints can perform well, even if the overall customer experience is poor. As a result, nearly a third of CX practitioners cited siloed customer data as a key obstacle to improving customer experience (CXN Global State of CX 2020). 

In the spirit of breaking down silos, many CX teams are already trying to unify customer feedback, though it’s often via manual processes. CX teams pour days of every month into cross-referencing customer feedback sources, looking to substantiate anecdotal observations or survey results with complete data and rich verbatims. In fact, having a unified customer feedback library saves CX teams an average of >6 business days of team productivity every month, so that they can spend more time activating customer data instead of collecting data. 

A unified customer feedback library also ensures that your analysis isn’t biased toward any single customer type and that you can make confident, data-driven decisions based on all customers’ experiences with your business, product, and service. 

Importantly, having a truly unified customer feedback library also means that the data is normalized into a consistent, searchable format without needing to take extra steps. This should enable you to analyze all feedback from any given customer or group of customers about any issue, regardless of the channel where it surfaced. 

Stay tuned for part 2 next week covering the next step to assembling your VoC stack, so you can activate more customer feedback faster. 

Mary Cleary

Written by Mary Cleary