Voice of the Customer: what metrics matter – an update

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what a fully fledged, effective Voice of the Customer infrastructure should look like.  In previous posts, I’ve highlighted the importance of having a Voice of the Customer (VoC) within any customer or client facing business (let me know if you’d like links), but in essence, my top 5 things in a good VoC are:

  • Meaningful metrics
  • Executive buy-in and participation
  • A tracking mechanism to show progress
  • A fully mapped & measurable customer journey
  • Involvement & engagement from the customer & client facing teams

Of course, there are other factors that may be relevant to your business, so apologies if I missed a key aspect from your VoC checklist!  My recent musings have focused on the metrics.  I split the core metrics into three categories:

WHAT: objective data relating to the activities your customer or clients do / don’t do within your customer journey, enhanced by adding in timing, demographics, segmentation, products, etc.  This data is only really useful when you know what your model customer journey looks like.  Knowing what your customers did helps you see where product, service, process or people are failing and causing your customers to come to a halt along your customer journey.

WHY: This is your customer feedback, which will invariably be subjective.  It’s the customers’ opinions on what it’s like to use your product, consume your service and move through your customer journey.  It’s subjective, because what a customer says may not be actionable, or even correct!  For example, “Your website doesn’t work” may be because your customer’s employer has blocked access to your website when the employee tries to access your website from a work computer – you can’t control that aspect, it’s not that your product doesn’t work, it’s an external factor.

Together, the WHAT & the WHY give you a rich picture of activity within your customer journey, and can quickly highlight the low hanging fruit.  You can fix clunky sign up processes, better train your store staff on process and add extra products to meet customer needs by using a combination of WHAT & WHY.  But the last part of this triangle is also critical, because your customer journey involves human beings.  Human beings are ruled by emotion.

HOW: How the customer feels, the sentiment scoring part, is the final piece of the puzzle.  Your customers may progress through your journey, but feel apathetic or even resentful and unhappy – that will eventually impact your bottom line!  If you have taken time to map your customer journey, understanding the emotion you would expect a customer to experience at each stage is just as important as knowing the next step in the customer journey.  Transactional experiences (I don’t want this, but I have to have it) like banking, insurance & utilities often only range from neutral emotion to negative.  It’s hard to get excited about a bank account or an electricity bill, but if the bank charges you fees or your electricity supply is cut, you will see red!  Emotional experiences, such as retail, holidays, restaurants can swing from delight to despair.  The perfect romantic holiday all the way through to the cockroach-infested restaurant trigger very different sentiments.  So what’s evolved in the metrics that matter for the HOW?

Customer Satisfaction (how I feel now, or about my most recent interaction) is the longest established metric, and still really valid.  It’s a short term indicator, and can change rapidly.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) (how likely I would be to recommend you) is a better longer term indicator, although is not always a good indicator for some industries (funeral directors, debt consolidation companies and other emotionally sensitive experiences.) Together with customer satisfaction, you get a good short & longer term view of the health of your customer relationship.

Customer Effort Score (CES) and the revised model CES 2.0 is a newer metric that I really love.  When it’s easy, I form a habit quickly; when it’s hard, I give up.  Younger consumers are particularly sensitive to this “make it easy for me” metric.  Coupled with the other two, you can get a sense of the quality of your experience as well as product & service.

Trust is not a new metric, but in this context, it can have a direct correlation with the other three metric.  The UK CSI carry out extensive research twice a year, and directly compare all 4 metrics, with some very interesting results.  By measuring trust on a similar scale to your other metrics, you may identify a direct impact on your customer journey, and the approach you should take to your service delivery model.

Linking the WHAT, WHY & HOW data into a usable format that maps against your customer journey is not a simple task.  My advice would be treat this as a complicated puzzle, build it up a piece at a time, but always linking back to your customer journey.  Gaining traction on executive and employee engagement, and drive the low hanging fruit actions is much more important than having a fully fledged model.

Be clear on what you want it to ultimately become, but be patient, set milestones, and focus on using what you have initially to increase buy-in through small wins.  This will help you to get more business commitment to scale up your VoC to what you really want it to be.  So whether you’re already on the road, or only just starting with your VoC, stay focused, and keep the short term goals realistic!

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