In today’s retail environment, customer-centric strategies are fueling retailers’ tactical approach to shopper interactions and engagement. The Voice of the Customer (VoC) has been a critical method of measurement, but with the emergence of social media and mobile, retailers increasingly are challenged to consider how these channels factor into an effective, overall VoC strategy.
Retailers are utilizing systematized tools and programs to collect customer feedback and insight to better serve and address their needs, and to tailor specific business decisions and activities accordingly. In fact, more than half of large North American organizations have VoC programs in place, according to The State Of Customer Experience 2011 Report by Forrester Research.
Retailers can take advantage of various methods of VoC collection, including web or receipt-based surveys, online community portals, call centers and now mobile or text feedback, as well as social media.
Given this new wave of communication, retailers are charged with managing and responding to both solicited and unsolicited forms of customer feedback.
“Customers are more empowered and knowledgeable, thanks to new communication mediums like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more,” said Dave Capuano, VP of Marketing for Vovici, a Verint Company and VoC solution provider. “With the addition of a VoC initiative ¾ which captures customer comments and feedback across multichannel communications ¾ global organizations can gain access to new customer engagement opportunities, support the delivery of unparalleled customer experiences and raise customer loyalty to new heights.”
Customers are empowered to influence brand perception; therefore, customer feedback has taken on ever-expanding importance as the “pulse” of a business, Capuano said. Customer sentiment, satisfaction and loyalty all can be correlated to underlying business metrics. “To create experiences that delight customers and build deep, lasting loyalty, you need a systematic approach for creating an intelligent, ongoing dialogue with them.”
The Role Of Social Media, Customer Communities And Mobile
Because social media has evolved as a platform for customer communication, the channel has become increasingly important as a key influencer of brand and buying decisions.
“Monitoring these discussions is mandatory in order to stay ahead of your competition,” Capuano said. “The key, however, is to absorb content from more than just social media channels. Look to your contact center, product management and marketing teams ¾ these are the departments and disciplines that more often receive feedback directly from the mouths of customers.”
Moreover, the mobile channel empowers customers with an “always on” opportunity to engage with retailers, as well as through their social network sites, which are frequently cited as forums for feedback. According to the 2011 Social Shopping Study, conducted by the e-tailing group, 27% of consumers interact with a retailer’s community when they want to make a comment about a specific experience with that retailer.
Additionally, with mobile web site usage on the rise, the need to understand the effectiveness of the mobile channel is increasingly important.
“Mobile web sites are a completely different animal,” said Claude Guay, President and CEO of iPerceptions, a provider of web-focused VoC analytics. “The mobile channel introduces unique challenges for web sites, such as longer download times, significantly reduced screen sizes and platform cross-compatibility problems. With this in mind, it is easy to see how mobile web site visitors’ experiences could differ considerably in comparison to the experiences of traditional web site visitors. By collecting feedback on both of these platforms and analyzing the results separately or in conjunction with one another, companies can gain unique insights and much-needed perspective.”
iPerceptions’ Mobile Web Site Feedback solution is designed to help businesses identify mobile web site visitors as well as specific behavioral attributes, including why they come to the web site and what the biggest barriers to task completion are. The mobile survey is optimized for smartphones, feature phones and Internet tablets.
“In the online space, the relationship between companies and customers has been radically altered,” Guay said. “The web site user is now at the center of all strategic planning, and companies that do not collect, analyze and act on customer feedback are at a strong disadvantage.”
The advantages of VoC are vast and vary significantly by industry and by company, according to Guay; however, typical benefits include:
- Increasing conversion
- Improving visitor satisfaction, building engagement, lowering support costs and boosting online results
- Eliminating marketing guesswork
- Staying ahead of the competition
Understanding And Acting On The Customer Journey
Similar to the need for retailers to understand the “path to purchase,” retailers must align their tactical strategies with key touch points in the customer’s journey to optimize front and back end operations — while always keeping the customer first.
Retailers should build a program to ultimately achieve customer-centricity, according to Capuano, keeping the following five critical steps in mind:
- Manage the segmentation of customer groups;
- Understand customer life cycle of experiences;
- Create listening posts;
- Identify “moments of truth;” and
- Monitoring progress towards customer-centricity.
Case Study: National Bridal Shop Sees $4 Million Savings By Leveraging The VoC
A national bridal shop chain translates the “customer voice” into measurable actions that improve customer experiences. Due to the ever-evolving nature of wedding trends, interpreting and reacting to customers has become essential to the specialty retailer. In addition to obtaining feedback in smarter ways through targeted, profile-driven surveys and interactive communities, and bringing together feedback from many channels to make it usable for executing customer-centric business decisions, the chain utilized software from Vovici and recognized a $4 million savings by in-sourcing research.
The technology enabled projects to be completed three to five times faster, and helped the retailer become more attuned to market demand, determine product need and define brand extension opportunities. This includes social media, which has been particularly important over the last 24 months.