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Voice of the Customer has Five Categories

Forrester Research studied customer experience initiatives, and they uncovered a variety of approaches that companies use to incorporate customer feedback into their efforts. These "voice of the customer" exploration processes fit into five different categories as follows.

Companies who already have highly developed customer advocacy programs in place are no doubt very familiar with these various approaches. However, for every executive who has wondered if their organization might be too internally focused, this list is for your consideration.

Relationship tracking: Organizations need to track the health of customer relationships over time. That's why companies often ask customers to fill out surveys -- typically quarterly or annually -- about their perception of the firm. Using this feedback, companies can create metrics that are simple to understand and easy to trend. Why is this important? Because an easy-to-grasp report card helps align everyone in the organization around a common purpose.

Interaction monitoring: Every customer interaction -- from an online transaction to a call into the call center -- is important. Firms need a way to monitor how effectively they handle these customer touches. That's why many companies do post-interaction surveys -- asking customers how satisfied they were with a recent interaction. Since organizations can't monitor every interaction, they should focus on areas that are either important to customers or areas with known quality problems.

Continuous listening: Structured feedback through customer surveys provides enormous opportunities for analysis. But one of the strengths of these approaches -- providing data -- is also a limitation. If companies overly depend on data, they don't get a complete sense of a customer's emotional response to the company, and they can miss early signs of future problem or opportunities. To avoid this data-only view of customer relationships, some companies put in place processes for executives to regularly listen to customers. There are many other opportunities to hear what customers are saying, such as listening to calls, reading blogs, reading inbound emails, and visiting retail outlets.

Project infusion: Put simply, projects that affect customers should incorporate insights about customers. Despite the clear need for this type of effort, many companies lack a formalized approach for infusing customer insights into projects. To fill this void, companies should consider using design personas. To ensure that project teams keep customer insight top of mind, executives should get in the habit of asking three questions. Who are the target users? What are their goals? How are we helping them achieve those goals?

Periodic immersion: Every so often, it's valuable for all employees -- especially executives -- to spend a significant amount of time interacting directly with customers or working alongside front-line employees. These experiences, which should be at least a half day, provide an excellent opportunity for people to question the status quo. By getting immersed with the customer, it becomes easier to identify rules and processes that get in the way of delivering a great customer experience. This process can also help generate breakthrough ideas.

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