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

When VoC and VoE Combine

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should also be augmenting that information with their VoC data.

"You can compare external [VoC] and internal [VoE] data to get a better and more complete picture of the overall customer experience," says Koren Stucki, director of VoC solutions marketing at Verint Systems.

But attaining that level of engagement might not be as easy as it sounds. Managing an ongoing, committed VoCE program can be challenging, particularly for companies with large numbers of employees or workforces scattered across many locations and geographies.

That was certainly the case at Best Buy. In 2011, the company launched the My Customer platform to give its more than 100,000 frontline employees at roughly 1,500 stores across the nation an opportunity to share what they hear and learn about the company during their more than 1 billion interactions with customers each year. Included in the My Customer platform is a Web-based widget that invites real-time reporting of insights and issues, an ongoing feedback loop with corporate leadership, and a dedicated team to take all the feedback and funnel it to the right areas for action. On the back end, text analytics further identifies trends and spikes that can then be combined with other key customer insights. The platform allows everyone to see collated information from all of the stores.

A year into the program, Best Buy's platform was receiving an average of 6,000 employee submissions per week. That kind of information would have cost thousands of dollars had Best Buy instead turned to an outside research firm to collect it.

Steve Wallin led Best Buy's efforts to create and launch the VoCE program while he was vice president of consumer insights strategy and execution. He described the program as "a unique, always-on approach to gathering insights from the front lines to help guide business decisions and allow corporate/store leaders to engage employees on a variety of business topics."

Information gathered through the portal has affected a wide range of issues, from store signage to national promotions, according to Wallin, who has since left the company to cofound Frontline Insights, a VoC and VoE consulting firm.

Retailers such as Best Buy, while certainly prime candidates for deploying VoCE solutions, aren't the only ones that are doing it. Other industries that have seen early adoption include travel, hospitality, telecommunications, software, technology, and financial services, according to Cottle. "The companies that are doing it most are those with large customer-facing operations and those with many high-value customers," he explains.

Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), an information technology and business process outsourcing firm owned by Xerox, even goes so far as to train its more than 74,000 customer care agents working in nearly 100 countries to recognize nuances within customer conversations that could help them quickly identify and respond to customer needs.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) faces an even bigger challenge than Best Buy and ACS. It has roughly 700,000 employees and more than 40,000 locations nationwide, and a customer base that includes virtually every home and business in America. Yet it aggregates all of its VoC and VoE feedback into consolidated monthly reports that are sent to all postmasters for action.

Verint—which in mid-2011, through its acquisition of Vovici, beefed up its own offerings for executives looking to gather, manage, and understand customer feedback—can do this for its clients because its VoC and VoE programs leverage the same technologies for analytics, surveying, enterprise feedback management, case management, workforce optimization, and other critical components, according to Stucki.

Verint launched its VoE product in August 2013 as part of its Business Impact Solutions portfolio. The VoE solution uses the company's Voice of the Customer Analytics technology to provide companies with a single, holistic view of both the VoE and VoC.

"VoC and VoE leverage all the same foundations," Stucki says. "The technology is the same and can be centralized on one platform, which makes it easier to measure and analyze."

Departmental Change

That hasn't always been the case. In early VoE deployments, "a lot of times, we'd see VoE start in the human resources department and VoC managed in the customer service or marketing departments," Stucki says. Program data seldom left those silos.

Stucki is confident, though, that those walls are coming down. "You might still see VoC and VoE managed in different departments, 

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