Customer engagement practices that will dramatically improve your business

Everyone agrees that customer experience is the new marketing, but exactly how do you measure customer engagement and success in this digitally transformed world? Andy Moore, Marketing Director of Opinion8, looks at how the best performing companies actively seek out the opinions of customers and take action on those findings…

When dealing with something as subjective as the customer experience, the final arbiters are always customers themselves. The opportunity to learn directly from them provides matchless insight into where your company excels and, more importantly, where it is failing. As Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

While companies have conducted customer satisfaction surveys for any number of years, what those do not give you beyond headline numbers is specific, verbatim feedback from customers that can be acted upon.

This where a Voice of the Customer (VOC) programme comes into its own, and gives you a unique opportunity to drive service improvements and increase customer loyalty.

Why you need a VOC programme

Customer experience covers a number of things – messaging, brand, choice of channel, price point, level of interactivity, proactive service – each of which needs to be optimised on an ongoing basis if maximum profitability is to be achieved.

This means that more granular feedback is required to know which KPIs are performing and which are not; and what can be done to improve performance.

While generic metrics like NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) give an overall picture of performance, companies also need a way to collect more detailed feedback, including open-ended comments from customers.

The problem is that most ad-hoc and open-ended feedback is either not gathered in one place, or if it is, it is unstructured data that is hard to analyse and extract useful information from. Plenty of information simply never gets recorded so never makes it way to anyone in a position to analyse it and draw conclusions.

A VOC programme deliberately seeks out customer feedback and does so at the most sensitive time, right after a customer completes an interaction with your company.

While quantitative data, in the form of sales figures, up-sales and cross-sales figures, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition costs, conversion rates, and so forth are all important indicators, if we are to acknowledge that there is any real difference between the old discipline of marketing and the new one of customer experience, taking the time to listen to the voice of the customer is critical.

Make it company-wide and across all channels

In order to gain an accurate picture of what customers really think, and ensure that your VOC programme is genuinely transformative of your business, it is important to get feedback at every point of interaction with customers, at every stage of your customer journeys.

Identify where your customers are contacting your company and ensure that their opinions are sought and their feedback collated at each point. Not only will this give you a more comprehensive picture, but it will identify any weak links on the customer journey and provide opportunities to address any resourcing issues.

Conducting a programme across all channels will allow you to see clearly which channel is most popular and to compare the customer service provision across channels. Most customer journeys require multiple interactions, perhaps using a number of different channels, so it’s important to track them all.

A programme cannot be a success without the buy-in and support of the entire company, from the executive board to your customer service agents. Frontline staff, in particular, have unparalleled knowledge about your customers and can help you to create a survey that will capture the most useful and valuable feedback

Make it easy for customers to participate

Typically a VOC programme involves running through a survey with a customer following a recent interaction with the company. The purpose is not just to measure satisfaction for that most recent interaction, but rather to be able to monitor indicators such as satisfaction, customer effort, and NPS changes along entire customer journeys.

Contacting customers via the same channel they used for their last interaction increases participation rates, particularly if the survey takes place immediately after the interaction. For the best speed, accuracy, objectivity and completion rates we recommend using automated surveys. These can include IVR, email, web, and chat-based surveys. We have even installed interactive kiosks in the key facilities of a London council to capture immediate feedback following face to face interactions.

We use the following methods of conducting automated surveys. Each of these has its own benefits, and we generally combine several of them to get the best mix for each client.

1. IVR. For those customers who have called the contact centre IVR is by far and away the best method to use and always elicits the highest response and completion rates. There are different methods of IVR ranging from Agent Transfer to Outbound – where the customer is called by an automated dialler – to Stealth Mode where the agent has no influence on which customers get surveyed. Completion rates range from 10% to 75%.

2. Standalone IVR. This is where the customer just calls the survey directly using, for example, a feedback telephone number on a till receipt. This is simple and quick to set up, and can, of course operate 24/7.

3. Email, web-based, and pop-up surveys. This is simply a browser-based version of your IVR survey that customers can read and answer on a special page. Survey links can also be emailed or sent via SMS. Finally, with the advent of reliable chatbots, automated surveys can be built into chat sessions on the likes of Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Skype.

4. SMS surveys. These can be really effective, especially for short, sharp surveys and work even where there is no data connection. Text messages tend to get opened quickly. Recent studies show that text messages have a 98% open rate compared with 20% for email (Mobile Marketing Watch) and that 93% of all text messages are opened within 2 minutes (Connect Mogul).

Measure and act on it, or disappear

Most companies in today’s uber-competitive business environment face greater threats, including new competitors and business models, rapid transformation and obsolescence of markets and products, global political and financial uncertainty, an economy that is still in recovery mode, and increasing homogeneity of products and services due to globalisation.

No wonder they are attempting to leverage the one thing that still seems to be totally under their own control; the experience they provide to customers when they do manage to get their fleeting attention.

It has been demonstrated time and time again that companies that take the time and effort to genuinely engage with the customers reap the business benefits. They can charge more for the same service and more easily retain customers’ loyalty. Apple fanboys and fangirls, for example, simply do not care that cheaper and in some cases better alternatives to their favourite products exist; they love the whole Apple experience.

Steve Jobs reportedly said that you have to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around. But he wasn’t talking about a customer experience he designed on a whim. The reason Apple has been so successful year after year is that it consistently and rigorously measures the impact of everything it does – from the placement of buttons in apps to the colours of the walls in its stores – with real users.

Automated survey systems, correctly deployed, can allow any company to be just as data and user-focussed as huge, successful corporations like Apple. And at a far lower cost.

Opinion8 have issued a whitepaper on how to make your VOC campaign a success. A free copy is available here.

For more information please visit