We just finished judging the entries for Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards 2010. Announcing the winners will have to wait until we’re onstage at the Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29. But there is something I want to announce right now: I am really impressed by the entries! 🙂

Because I was also a judge last year, I couldn’t help but notice some big changes from last year. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Last year, it was rare for an entrant to say that they tied compensation (or any other type of reward) to voice of the customer metrics like Net Promoter scores. This year, not only is it common but also there is clearly some significant coin at stake. For example, the account managers at one company aren’t eligible for promotion to senior or executive levels unless they receive at least an 80% satisfaction score from their customers. Think that focuses their efforts? And how about this: The call center agents at another entrant can earn an incremental 25% to 35% of their base pay through incentives connected to the voice of the customer (VoC).
  • This year, so many entrants have closed loop systems that mentioning one was only differentiating if there was a really tight process tied to it, like guaranteed follow-up with an unhappy customer within 24 hours. Real-time or near-real-time reporting to responsible parties within the organization was very common — an important enabler of the fast action we heard about so often.
  • Voice of the employee programs were often featured as part of VoC initiatives. It’s really clear that many entrants understand the value their colleagues bring to the table when it comes to understanding what’s really going on with customers and then helping them. One company created a “Customer Assistance Tool” that interfaces directly with its customer support systems. The tool lets anyone in the company open a case on behalf of a client. Wow!
  • Many companies truly “get it.” We heard a lot of common themes that were spot on — and no less important for being common. To name a few: Executive involvement is critical to success (and we heard about a lot of clever ways to involve executives), VoC programs need to measure both overall satisfaction and event-based satisfaction, and insights need to be tied directly (and measurably) to actions. If those sound basic to you — great! Then you get it, too.

So what do I conclude from all of this? First, that VoC programs are advancing rapidly. Second, that VoC is alive and well at many big name companies (and we’ll publish the names of many of them after the awards ceremony). Third, that it is a great time to be working in the field of customer experience.

I hope to see you in New York when we announce the three winners for 2010!