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When customer experience is not getting better, customer insights can help

Article ID:
July 2014
John Goodman

Article Abstract

The author provides methods of leveraging VOC and customer insights to improve customer experience.

Editor’s note: John A. Goodman is the vice chairman of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, Alexandria, Va.

Managing and measuring the customer experience (CE) has become a top corporate priority over the last two years. Two recent Harvard Business Review articles, one on mapping the CE journey1 and the other on technology’s critical role in marketing, further reinforce its importance.2 However, Customer Care Measurement & Consulting’s (CCMC) 2013 National Rage Study released last December, shows that service and CE are actually worse now than when the first White House study of service was done over 30 years ago.3 Problem rates are higher and satisfaction with resolution of customer problems is lower than in 1979. By creating an end-to-end voice of the customer (VOC) process, customer insights professionals can play a key part in rectifying this situation. Creating an end-to-end VOC can take them far beyond satisfaction measurement to the greater corporate role of experience management.

With all the focus, why has CE gotten worse?  There are at least three reasons:

  • First, the finance and marketing departments generally have not invested in CE because they have not quantified the revenue, word of mouth and cost implications of a poor CE and unmet customer expectations.
  • Second, technology has outstripped both consumers and executives’ ability to manage it.  Products have become more complex, with smartphones being ubiquitous, vehicles containing dozens of computers and even water faucets that can be controlled by speech commands or hand motions. This complexity is intensified by the fact that few customers read directions.
  • Finally, most companies lack leadership and metrics that span the end-to-end CE.

Why Customer Experience 3.0?

Seeing CE progressively getting worse, I felt motivated to write Customer Experience 3.0. In the book I cover four topics: how to quantify the payoff of an enhanced CE, ten technologies that have revolutionized CE, how to recreate a unified VOC and how the CE leader can partner with the Chief Technology Officer to enhance the CE.I also discuss two guiding principles of CE, “psychic pizza” and “cheap delighters.”

Psychic pizza consists of anticipating and delivering the service or information just before the customer asks for it, e.g. saying “here is the pizza you were about to order.” “Cheap delighters” are actions that create efficient, inexpensive emotional connection. For example, Chick-fil-A’s dining room staff is empowered to create “microbursts of emotional connection” via 30-40 second interactions. Recent research by Cornell University suggests that emotional connection can even be created by cartoon characters.4

How do you leverage the VOC?

There are several key steps for successfully leveraging the VOC across the company. First, understand and identify the full range of causes of customer dissatisfaction. For instance, customers usually cause 20 to 30 percent of all their own problems. Marketing and sales set incorrect expectations. Proactively warning customers reduces unpleasant surprises and service workload. Once this is done, create a unified picture of the CE by combining contact data with survey data and operational data. The unified picture, which includes operational data, is much more credible to internal skeptics. It also allows you to estimate the total number of customers actually encountering the operational problem. Survey data allows you to estimate the impact of the problems on loyalty.

When you have created a unified picture, quantify the revenue and word of mouth damage of customer problems and questions. This allows you to make a much more compelling case for investment that will be supported by both the marketing and finance departments. Use conservative assumptions agreed to by finance.

By properly packaging the data you can create it to be compelling and use it to provoke action. Long reports do not get read. Tailor the VOC to each audience.  Identify no more than three opportunities, provide two customer quotes, quantify the monthly revenue and word of mouth cost of inaction, a suggested plan of action and determine which function should take the lead – ideally all in one page. Process metrics give immediate evidence of success without having to wait to do another survey. Suggest process and outcome metrics of success. And don’t forget to make your internal clients look good. If you are to be a consultant, you learn never to embarrass your internal client, e.g. the recipients of the VOC report. Help them devise solutions and even help pilot test the solutions. Let your client get the credit. Soon, most executives will look to you for advice on improving the CE – then you are on your way to becoming the director of customer experience.

Why use VOC to drive technology implementation?

The VOC can drive a well-tuned CRM system tied to operational data sets to achieve psychic pizza that dazzles as well as reduces costs. Further, well-trained, empowered staff supported by VOC data, online communities motivated by gamification and even well-crafted digital cartoon characters can all create engagement an emotional connection which lifts customer loyalty by double digits.

Customer insights directors have a huge opportunity because the VOC is critical to managing the CE. If you do not measure it, you cannot manage it. If insights executives create a VOC that describes the end-to-end CE and quantifies the opportunities for improvement in revenue and word-of-mouth terms, they have the potential of taking the role of chief customer officer or director of customer experience, thereby raising their influence and status in the company.

In summary, Customer Experience 3.0 combines CE, VOC, ten technologies, empowerment and measurement to create a proactive, end-to-end CE with a measurable impact on revenue and word-of-mouth.


1Rawson, Alex; Duncan, Ewan;  Jones, Connor, “The Truth About Customer Experience.” Harvard Business Review, September 2013
2Brinker, Scott; McLellan, Laura, “The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist.” Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2014
3Projectable survey of 1,015 consumers executed by CCMC in partnership with Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership – see Grainer, et all, “What Unhappy Customers Want.”  MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2014
4Murphy, Kate, “Psst, Look Over Here.” New York Times, May 18, 2014

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