Every year, the Voice of the Customer (VoC) Awards process gives my fellow judges and me the opportunity to explore the inner workings of the day’s best VoC programs. I’ve already documented many of the best practices we’ve uncovered on my blog and in Forrester reports. Now I want to let you behind the curtain.

Here are the pieces of advice that this year’s nominees provided for other organizations to learn from, grouped into common themes. Straight from the horses’ mouths…

1)  Do pursue executive sponsorship:

  • When the leader of the organization is paying attention to the customer and taking time to be educated by the customer, the rest of the company notices and emulates that behavior.  – Mid-size B2C software maker
  • We believe involvement at the top executive level has been a main driver of our success so far. – Large retailer

      Don’t wait for executive sponsorship to get started:

  • Don’t wait for executive sponsorship to begin your VoC measurement and insight program. Much of your program’s success will be driven by bringing tangible proof points to the table that serve to accelerate executives’ appetite for more. – Mid-size B2B services firm
  • Start small, and create advocates to helpexcite others throughout the organization. – Large retailer

2)  Do engage employees at all levels of the organization:

  • Involvement across the board, from executives, to sales management, to account managers, will drive your success and maintain interest and excitement for the program.  – Large B2B/B2C software maker
  • It is critical that the “voice of the employee” is also considered when defining the VoC program. – Mid-size B2B software maker

      Don’t waste time chasing after resistors.

  • Don’t waste your time on employees who resist you and challenge the data gathering methods – go towards the “yes” people. – Mid-size B2B technology and services firm
  • Start small, and create advocates to helpexcite others throughout the organization. – Large retailer.

3)  Do communicate broadly about the program.

  • Giving the program a name/brand/identity brings the initiative to life.  – Large B2B technology and services firm
  • One third of your program team’s job is communication about the program and results.  – Large B2B/B2C software maker

      Don’t forget to tell employees what’s in it for them.

  • Any VoC program has to be in employees’ language and enable them to see the results and ROI in order to get engaged.  – Large B2B/B2C software maker
  • Understand how leaders across product and services make decisions, and ensure the metrics and reporting help leaders make those decisions wisely and efficiently.  – Large airline

4)  Do hold employees accountable:

  • By linking compensation to customer experience performance, you will make it clear that this initiative should be treated as a priority at all levels. – Large retailer
  • Build regular stakeholder review sessions into the process. – Large health plan

      Don’t just focus on problems:

  • Do not use guest feedback as a means to embarrass or penalize local management. Create the notion among employees that we want guest feedback. Don’t fear it, embrace it.  – Mid-size casual dining chain
  • Without proper attention, feedback can quickly become a succession of small, daily fires. Give at least an equal amount of time scaling successes as you do solving problems. – Large quick serve restaurant chain

5)  Do use all of the insights at your disposal.

  • Embrace analytics and data patterns from information collected outside traditional VoC survey questions.  – Large airline
  • A multi-faceted voice of the customer effort must consist of a variety of formal and informal efforts, leveraging the latest communication tools to meet customers where they live and play.  – Large B2B technology and services firm

      Don’t lose sight of the path to action.

  • Before moving forward with a specific VOC survey question, ask yourself, “Who owns this question?  Who is accountable for the data?” – Large quick serve restaurant
  • Maintaining line of sight to the insights that your organization values and understanding the data that provides this insight can limit data scope creep and deliver business impact faster.  – Large B2C financial services firm

6)  Do quantify customer feedback:

  • It’s extremely important to put in place some kind of measurement capability in order to separate hearsay from important opinion. – Large B2B technology and services firm
  • Do the analytical work to show how customer satisfaction has economic impact. – Large B2B/B2C technology and services firm

      Don’t remove the human element:

  • Listen to the customer’s actual experience.  If you see that a customer has noted they waited on hold for 15 minutes while an employee was assisting them – find the call and listen to it.  – Mid-size business services firm
  • Utilize customer journey mapping to make your customers’ experiences real to the people in your organization not directly familiar with what customers actually experience. – Large B2B/B2C software maker

7)  Do create consistency across business areas.

  • It is essential for an organization to have a single metric/approach, such as loyalty, that summarizes the health of the company’s relationships and is proven to link with business success.  – Large B2B technology and services firm
  • Unify the capability by bringing together all of the individuals capturing voice of customer data.  – Large retailer

      Don’t sacrifice relevance with a one-size-fits-all approach.

  • Make certain to create a balance between consistent feedback touchpoints and regional customization to meet the needs of a diverse organization. – Large B2B manufacturer
  • Rather than make customer experience initiatives and activities a separate program or another item on the to-do list, try to seamlessly integrate it into the tools, systems, process and activities people follow every day. – Large B2B manufacturer

8)  Do embrace technology to scale up:

  • Find a partner that has the same goals as you and can empower you with the information and tools necessary to be successful.  – Large B2C services firm
  • Implement a VoC reporting application that is easy to use and helps with decision making.  – Large airline

      Don’t let available tools stifle innovation:

  • Don’t fall into traps where you don’t experiment because “it won’t scale.”  It’s how to get ahead of the curve – technology will catch up! – Mid-size B2C software maker