A few weeks ago, I described the sobering fact that most voice of the customer (VoC) programs don’t deliver business results. I recently dug into the responses to Forrester’s Q1 2011 Global Customer Experience Peer Research Panel Survey to find out why. Here’s some of what I found (full results will be available in my new report titled, “Voice Of The Customer Programs Don’t Deliver Enough Value,” due out later this week):  

  • Lack of processes for taking action. Sixty-five percent of respondents admitted that their VoC programs don’t systematically take action based on customer insights. Without clear processes in place, it’s no surprise that VoC programs don’t drive enough value-generating activities.
  • Lack of accessible, relevant insights. Sixty-five percent of respondents also admitted that their VoC programs don’t make customer insights easy to access, and 52% said that they don’t tailor insights for different internal groups. That means many potential participants within companies don’t get the information they need to take action — even if they’re inclined to do so. As a result, VoC leaders are left to personally move actions forward, and that approach doesn’t scale.

Of course, not all VoC programs suffer from these kinds of problems. Here are just three examples of companies that have taken their programs to the next level:

  • Avnet proved the link between VoC and financials. Avnet combined its customer feedback with its operational and financial data to evaluate the relationship between customer perceptions and customer behaviors. It found that perceptions and intentions of loyalty do indeed equate to serious financial gains. In doing so, it validated its loyalty index as a predictor of financials, which created additional justification for executives and employees to engage in improving the index score.  
  • Cisco made VoC actionable for engineers. General customer perceptions are difficult for some employees to digest and act upon. Cisco made it easy for its engineers to optimize product experiences by isolating software defects per million hours of usage (SWDPMH) as the single most important driver of perceived product quality.
  • ExactTarget used communities to get specific product ideas. Like Avnet and Cisco, ExactTarget had gone beyond just collecting customer feedback through surveys. It started engaging customers in online communities and live user groups as part of its VoC efforts. This approach has generated hundreds of specific improvement and innovation ideas, more than 100 of which have already been implemented. 

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ll be talking to the VoC leaders at each of these firms during a panel discussion at our Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 22nd. We’ll also be celebrating leading VoC programs during our third annual Voice Of The Customer Awards ceremony on the evening of June 21st, with in-depth coverage from 1to1 Media and Forrester to follow.