Many customer-centric organizations are using Voice of the Customer (VoC) data to enable them to understand their customer journeys, which facilitates the ability to keep customers satisfied and coming back.
Some businesses are unsure of just how to effectively use VoC metrics, and much of the confusion derives from the fact that they are underutilizing the most valuable VoC feedback they have gathered. This article will tell you about the VoC metrics that you should focus on, and those you may have been ignoring.
The term “Voice of Customer” is a term that was coined by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in a 1993 MIT Marketing Science paper, and it refers to a marketing technique that involves interviewing or surveying customers about their experiences, desires, expectations, understandings, and needs in relation to a given product, service or industry — in short it tells businesses what their customers really think. The actionable insights that are produced, referred to as VoC metrics, are organized in a manner that enables a company to set priorities and goals that are more consistent with those of their customers, which in the end, result in a greater ROI for the company. It’s a win-win opportunity for both the company and the customer, and the results enable the optimization of the customer journey through the creation of a customer-centric business model.
The Customer Journey Map
The metrics collected via VoC are a vital part of the creation of a customer journey map. This provides businesses with a method of understanding the path a customer follows from the time they first hear about your business, consider using a product, service or business, through the acquisition of and use of the product or service, ending with the final interactions with the business.
The customer journey map provides a business with key insights and more of an intimate look at the customer touchpoints — the places where the customer and the business interact — and enables business leaders to cultivate an empathetic viewpoint of what their customers go through, what they experience, and ultimately, their satisfaction, or lack thereof, with the experience, and how it can be improved. It also illustrates the “pain points,” that is, those spots within the customer journey that are troublesome and need to be addressed.
CMSWire spoke about VoC to Jeanne Bliss, noted Customer Experience expert, author of four books, and former chief customer officer for Lands' End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker, and Allstate Corporations, and she said point blank, “I don’t think of VOC as a campaign,” but rather she strives to better understand each customer as a person, an individual going through their day, and build a better relationship with them. As she puts it, it’s about “thinking about people, not accounts, managing the life, not the spreadsheet, and showing your values in how you operationalize the business.”
As business leaders, we have to understand what may seem obvious — customers are people, going through the trials and tribulations of their daily lives, and if we care about our fellow human beings, let alone our bottom line, then we want them to have a positive experience when they interact with our businesses, from start to finish. That’s what a customer journey map is all about — finding ways to improve the experience a customer has with your company. “Walk in their shoes, find a way to deliberately walk through and step through the processes you ask your customers to do,” stated Bliss.
CMSWire also spoke to Ruchika Sharma, customer marketing manager for Clever Tap, a mobile marketing platform, and asked her what she considered to be the key to understanding the customer journey. To Sharma, similar to Bliss, it’s simply about people. “Understanding the customer journey can not be limited to figuring out their acquisition source, the actions they perform on your app or website or how and when they transact. It needs to be extended to developing an in-depth understanding of their persona — their business, their vision, their mission, their challenges, their ever changing needs and preferences, their aspirations, their pain points and the core reason that brought them to discovering about your business.“
Now that we understand why VoC metrics are important to the growth of a business, and how they contribute to the Customer Journey Map, we can take a look at VoC metrics, their properties, and why each should play a role in your VoC program.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS)
The NPS tells you if a customer would recommend your product, service or business to others. It’s the difference between someone who interacted with your business and called it a day, or if they would actively promote your business to their friends, family or colleagues. Essentially, an NPS question is stated like this:
“Based on your experience with us, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague, on a scale of 0 to 6?”
If they rate your business a 6, they may be so happy with their experience that they would leave a positive review on Amazon or your website. Or alternately, a 0 means they may be so dissatisfied with the experience that they would tell others to avoid your business at all costs. If it’s the former, you’re doing something right, and if the latter, you have something to work with to improve the customer’s experience.
The Customer Effort Score (CES)
The CES metric defines the effort that a customer has to exert in order to do business with you, reasoning that the less effort that is exerted, the better the experience for the customer.
We’ve all been there, using an app or a website, trying to find something we want or need, and not having an easy time of it. We are forced to jump through hoops just to find the product we’re looking for. Once we find it, we try to add it to a shopping cart, only to find that the process is interrupted by a sales alert, or worse yet, a malfunctioning shopping cart. Finally, we get to the point where we are supposed to enter our credit card details, only to find that our shopping cart has been wiped out, and we must once again find the product and add it to the cart, now that we are logged in. Eventually we are at the point where we are ready to just give up and go somewhere else, and many times, that’s exactly what happens.
Conversely, most of us have also had an experience so seamless that we barely have to make any effort at all to find a product or service, pay for it, and be on our way. Amazon is a great example of that. It’s easy to buy something, and which means we’re more likely to do business with them again in the future.
The phrasing of the CES question is important as well. Typically it is phrased like this:
“To what extent do you agree with the following: [Company name] made it easy for me to purchase [what I wanted].”
There has been an evolution of this question over the years, but the format is fairly precise, and although it can be varied, the basic sentence structure is sound and should be adhered to.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
The CSAT, sometimes referred to as the OCS (Overall Customer Satisfaction) metric is, much like the name implies, a way to tell if the customer is satisfied with the overall experience of interacting with your business. Typically used in transactional surveys, it provides a business with a general guideline as to whether or not the customer experience was a positive one.
The CSAT question is typically phrased like this:
“On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with your experience?”
Anything less than a 3 indicates that there is a problem somewhere that must be addressed. This process allows a business to determine where the bottlenecks are in their business, website or app, and apply a solution that will leave the customer feeling satisfied.
Often the CSAT question is the only VoC metric that is asked at the end of a customer’s experience with a business. It’s a straightforward question that doesn’t require the customer to think about details, and it effectively closes the interaction process, ending the Customer Journey with the knowledge that your business is interested in their feedback.
Customer Loyalty Index (CLI)
The Customer Loyalty Index tells a business about a customer’s loyalty towards their brand, and is a good indication of whether they will be a repeat customer. The CLI is usually made up of several questions, one of which is the NPS (“how likely are you to recommend…”) we discussed above. The other two CLI questions are usually phrased like this:
“How likely are you to buy from us again?” “How likely are you to try our other products or services?”
The CLI is an average created by adding the values from the NLP and the two questions shown above. It provides a decent insight into the overall loyalty of a business’ customers, but other factors, such as participation in a loyalty program, website visit frequency, and other factors should be considered along with the CLI metrics themselves.
Asked about customer loyalty, Sharma shared, “I’ve always focused more on retaining the happy customer and turning them into Brand Advocates. After all, it needs lesser resources as compared to what is required to turn unhappy customers (who might churn soon) into happy. The approach that worked for us was — once we identified a set of our ‘satisfied’ customers, we made sure they are constantly engaged with additional discounts or offers that were apt for them. The bottom line is to be highly customer-centric to engage and retain your existing customers.”
Other Metrics You Should Never Ignore
We’ve discussed the standard VoC metrics that are commonly used and referred to through the industry, but there are other metrics and VoC methodologies that are just as valuable, and often provide greater insight into how the customers related to a business.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
The Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a valuable measure of just how much potential revenue is attributed to a customer, and it draws its numbers from the past, current and future spending trends of a customer.
It’s time for some math. By multiplying the average purchase value of a customer with their purchasing frequency, and then multiplying that number with the average customer lifespan, you come up with the CLV, or just how much the customer can be expected to spend with a business over their customer lifespan. It’s a very calculated methodology of putting a value on a customer, but in the end it does provide a useful reference as to how valuable each loyal customer can be to a business, (and just how loyal they are).
Obviously it’s good for a business to know if a customer is likely to use the business again in the future. Will they buy a product, service or use a business again during their customer lifespan? The question for this metric is:
How likely are you to buy from us again?
And it is actually part of the three questions that make up the Customer Loyalty Index.
That said, often this type of data can be obtained by viewing historical transaction data, so you will automatically recognize that if a customer purchased from a business once, and then again, they are more likely to do so again in the future. This would not apply if the customer is in a binding contract which obligates them to continue purchasing a service, such as happens with recurrent billing, for instance, as other factors may have come into play, such as the customer not even realizing that they have been billed again for a service, or a legal obligation to continue purchasing for a given time period. To use this metric, these types of conditions need to be taken into account.
Would You Miss Us? (WYMU)
The Would You Miss Us (WYMU) metric can be a valuable contribution to both Customer Satisfaction Score and the Customer Loyalty Index. Essentially you are asking a customer if they would miss the business if it no longer existed.
The WYMU is also an indication about your competitors — is there another business your customers could easily switch to using without feeling a loss of satisfaction? That’s always good to know, and provides a business with details they can use to improve.
“I believe the most important aspect starts after analyzing all the VoC metrics to identify those unhappy customers and coming up with a plan of action to cater to their challenges. You have to put VoC insights into action, and then identify and respond to the Voice of the Customer to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty,” Sharma said. She continues on to say that “Having a VoC program is a mandate for any business. It really helps you spot early warning and potential brand crisis, evaluate new concepts, ideas, and solutions, customize your products, services, add-ons, and features to meet the needs and wants of your customers and Increase customer retention.”