Non-Invasive Voice of the Customer

Don Peppers, co-founder of the Peppers & Rogers Group, recently blogged on LinkedIn about Non-Invasive Voice-of-Customer Feedback, in which he voiced concerns over how surveying customers directly can contaminate results. He makes the point (adding a number of good examples) that gaining true VoC insights requires non-invasive methods. Don gave the anecdote of speaking to taxi drivers to discover the kind of service a hotel provided. The logic here is that customers of the hotel are far more likely to be truthful to taxi drivers about their experiences compared to speaking to hotel staff or managers.

Yet, whilst I can imagine some customers balking at a face-to-face confrontation with staff about  service that didn’t live up to expectations, I struggle to believe customers wouldn’t be honest in a non-incentivised direct customer feedback survey. Are customers so truly connected to their brands that they would directly lie about a service experience in a survey yet pour their heart out to a taxi driver or on a social media site?

I think that the emphasis here is also on the negative impact of VoC rather than the positive impact it can bring; if a customer has had a great experience with the brand why would they keep this from the business rather than sharing it, either by praising staff face-to-face or giving positive feedback while being asked about the service.

I am not for one moment suggesting that Voice of the Customer programs should set out to be invasive, and there is a valid point here about over-surveying customers. But there is real value to be missed in only trying to capture VoC insights through tapping into conversations customers have about the service outside of the organization-customer relationship.

Voice of the Customer feedback is incredibly important and should be solicited from customers in a non-invasive way – for example, enabling customers to provide feedback via their preferred channel, keeping the survey short, and ensuring it is completed in a conversational manner. In addition, businesses can tap into other VoC channels, such as capturing and analyzing customer interactions with the organization as well as what they are saying outside of the organization-customer relationship in spaces such as social media.

As Voice of the Customer matures, we need to be smarter about how insights are captured and analysed. At the same time, in order to consistently provide excellent service, we must empower and trust our customers to help improve the experiences and interactions they have.

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