Thursday, August 25, 2016

Voice of Customer (VoC) Platforms Become Customer Experience Platforms

This post was originally published on my Gartner blog for marketing leaders

Ten years ago, "voice of the customer" (VoC) platforms were thought of as systems that sent surveys to collect feedback about customer satisfaction so that the data could be exported and distributed, typically via an Excel spreadsheet. As the demand for customer experience data, knowledge and action has grown, so has VoC. Today, these platforms are becoming robust tools to combine customer feedback with other indirect and inferred data so as to catalog customer journeys, understand customer sentiment and experiences, identify customer experience issues, resolve outstanding customer needs, and measure improvement in satisfaction, loyalty, brand advocacy and business outcomes.

In our new report, "Market Guide for Marketers' Voice-of-the-Customer Solutions," we surveyed the marketplace and found that as surveys are becoming table stakes, VoC platforms seek to differentiate themselves in other ways, including:
  • Ingesting and analyzing data from other systems, such as CRM, call center and web analytics platforms. 
  • Providing ways to close the loop with customers using alerts and workflow management.
  • Parsing unstructured data, not merely text answers to open-ended survey questions, but customer care emails, social media posts, and voice calls, as well.
  • Democratizing customer feedback within the organization with a broad range of dashboards to serve the needs of employees and leaders.
  • Furnishing interactive and rich-media methods for customers to supply feedback and improve upon the information collected.
  • Gathering and interpreting the voice of the employee (VoE).
  • Offering powerful analyses to identify trends and discover insights to guide CX efforts and investments.

VoC vendors that traditionally served the needs of customer care or operational leaders are seeing growing demand from marketers with responsibility for customer experience management. If you are a marketing leader and Gartner subscriber interested in VoC and customer experience, please read our new "Market Guide for Marketers' Voice-of-the-Customer Solutions." It provides summaries of more than a dozen vendors offering solutions for direct customer feedback, text and sentiment analytics, speech and interaction analytics, market research communities, customer journey monitoring and VoE.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Introducing the Buy/Own/Advocate Customer Experience Journey

Even though we all recognize the role of word of mouth (WOM) in building brands and delivering marketing results, customer journey models routinely omit any consideration for the impact of brand advocacy. Many of the journey frameworks used today to guide customer experience (CX) initiatives fail to account for the ways happy customers champion the brands they love and how others value WOM as they discover, evaluate and select products and services.

In the era of always-on, personalized information and trusted WOM at scale, it is time to update our customer journey models to recognize how great customer experience drives WOM, and great WOM drives business outcomes. Marketers need a new and better framework--one that considers the entire virtuous circle from buy to own to advocate and back to buy, again.

The customer journey model we use on the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team--the Buy/Own/Advocate framework--recognizes that strong brands aren't merely better at acquiring customers; they are better at keeping them and motivating them to tell others. This is why improving CX isn't just the right thing to do for your customers; it is also the right thing to do for your organization and its stakeholders.

For example, in 2011, Starbucks was honored as one of the top five brands for customer experience. That same year, the brand moved up two spots to become the third largest restaurant chain based on sales. It did this despite “being outspent on advertising anywhere from two to eight times by rivals.” This company and its success demonstrate how great marketing results come from the combination of smart outbound marketing and compelling, differentiated customer experience.

To learn about other brands activating their Buy/Own/Advocate customer journeys, the importance of driving customers not just to use but love and the power of advocacy and loyalty, please read the complete blog post on my Gartner blog. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

You Don't Own the Customer; She or He Owns You

"Who owns the customer?"

This is a question I have heard from a wide variety of organizations. Insurance firms wonder if the agent or the company "owns" the customer. B2B firms struggle with sales and account teams that seek to "protect" their clients. CPG brands wish to have more direct customer relations while retailers work to control the customer relationship. And companies with many competing or complementary products and services strive to balance the contradictory needs of different brands and departments.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin once said, "There are no right answers to wrong questions." "Who owns the customer?" is the wrong question. The terrible connotation of asking who owns a human being should be the first hint we're on thin ice. Moreover, it should be easily apparent to everyone that brands don't own or control anything; it is the customer who chooses us, pays for us, and abandons us if we fail to provide the right value or experience vis-a-vis the competition. If you consider this question from the perspective of the customer and not the organization, there is no question that you don't own the customer; he or she owns you.

Thus, the right question is not "Who owns the customer?" but "How best can we serve the customer?" This servitude approach is not simply philosophical but can have a profound effect on the actions of your firm and your employees. To see how important it is to start with the right question and learn the ways it drives better process and outcomes, please visit my Gartner blog for the complete post. Thank you.