• September 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

When VoC and VoE Combine

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By now, companies have seen the value in capturing and acting on the the voice of their customers. However, there is growing recognition of the value of listening to the voice of the employee (VoE) as well. Employee engagement, experts posit, is just as vital to every company's success, and has been shown to have a direct impact on employee retention, thereby reducing turnover costs and driving a more customer-focused workforce and business environment.

A happy and engaged employee does have an impact on whether the customer has an enjoyable experience, says Chris Cottle, executive vice president of marketing at Allegiance, a provider of enterprise VoC and VoE feedback management solutions.

There's also a financial incentive for companies to listen to employees: Companies with engaged employees and customers are three times more profitable, according to Cottle.

"It makes...sense, he says. "After all, the most critical component of any company is its people."

Employees—especially those in the contact center—are often the first to interact with customers and shape how the customer perceives the company, the brand, and its products or services. Because of these early interactions, these employees have a lot of knowledge about what frustrates and delights customers. If there's a problem or a concern, they are typically the first to know. As such, they can typically identify problems days—even weeks—ahead of customers and can get organizations to provide positive customer experiences proactively, rather than reactively.

Organizations such as NASA, Xerox, Best Buy, and the U.S. Postal Service have recognized the correlation between VoC and VoE insight, funneled through a new type of solution called voice of the customer through the employee (VoCE).

These companies are not alone. Many executives are starting to look at VoCE, amplifying the insight gathered from customers with insight from customer-facing employees. After all, VoC, VoE, and now VoCE provide different views of the same subject, and bringing all the data together in one implementation will help garner a better understanding of customer experiences and uncover new ways to drive change in the company.

The premise behind VoCE is simple: While customers who provide feedback are only able to talk about their own individual experiences, employees on the front lines are ideally positioned to recognize patterns based on their conversations with the many customers who call them every day. Not only can they identify common issues, but they can also assess how important these issues are to customers, help to understand what's causing them in the first place, and provide insight into how customers would like to see those issues corrected.

Granted, contact centers today have access to all sorts of analytics to mine voice recordings, text, the Web, social media, and other customer touch points, so they can spot trends and respond to issues more quickly. The importance of analytics cannot be overstated as a way to extract call content, identify emerging issues or concerns, and quantify the number of calls regarding a specific problem, but getting the information directly from contact center agents in almost near real time allows the company to act on and resolve issues much faster.

And while VoE and VoCE are somewhat roundabout ways to get at customer sentiment, they can be more reliable than VoC solutions alone.

"Information from customers alone is not always accurate," says Tore Haggren, senior vice president of VoE solutions at Confirmit. "The customer might not be completely up-front."

Plus, customer feedback is often slanted. It's a well-established fact that customers are more likely to complain about a company than they are to issue praise.

Adele Sage, an analyst at Forrester Research, says companies should really be collecting two types of input from their customer-facing employees. Employees, she says, can have great ideas for customer experience improvements, such as how to fix broken processes. At the same time, they hear feedback directly from customers.

She suggests that companies should not only have the mechanisms in place to allow employees to share those insights, but they 

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