Look to Mobility to Broaden Your VoC Capabilities

Mobile devices have made a significant mark on the sales and marketing landscape—and the consciousness of many business leaders. Many consumers use smartphones and tablets more than they do any other medium to interact with brands, requiring companies to create content and communications channels that work effectively—and attractively—through the mobile medium.

There seems to be an ever-expanding suite of tools, technologies, and best practices for getting the most out of mobile. One area seeing a significant impact from mobile is voice of the customer (VoC) programs. These are designed to interact with the customer to understand and improve the customer experience, so creating a VoC program that doesn't integrate mobile runs the risk of undermining other—more successful—customer interactions.

Businesses looking to expand their VoC capabilities as well as focus on delivering engaging digital experiences need to consider that they no longer have total control of how they communicate with customers. Even if you're not actively embracing the mobile channel, your customers are using it. If you're seeking feedback about your customer experiences and design a feedback mechanism for use on a desktop or laptop, you cannot be sure this is what your customer will use.

A beautifully designed feedback interface, which has so much impact on a PC screen, may not be what your audience sees. If they're viewing your interface on a mobile device, they might be subjected to buttons, check boxes, and grids so tiny as to be virtually unusable, and certainly not engaging. At this stage, they'll most likely close the survey and never return to it on another device. Essentially, you've lost their feedback and probably alienated a customer. Keep in mind that consumers expect to be engaged in an interactive and dynamic manner. Surveys that were clearly created for another platform, and, in effect, another consumer, are simply not good enough.

There are several key tools customer experience practitioners should consider to ensure that they get the most from the mobile channel—and their overall customer experience management program. Each provides different benefits and requires a different way of thinking to engage customers effectively.

Mobile apps. If you're building a long-term customer feedback channel, and particularly if you're building up a panel of engaged customers who will provide you with regular feedback, it's worth investigating a mobile app dedicated to the task. You can design such apps to match your branding, so that customers feel it's a seamless part of your customer interface.

Apps like this enable users to provide feedback on their own terms, creating a "diary" whereby they can provide insights when it suits them, rather than because you've initiated contact. Additionally, they provide consumers with the ability to send you more than simple rating scale answers or free-text comments. They can capture or display video, audio, and photo clips (e.g., of a situation taking place in your retail store) and you can use GPS data to validate exactly where they were when they provided the feedback. Such rich media not only provides a much more engaging experience than a traditional survey, but it also provides a wealth of information that you can use to drive action as a wider part of your VoC program.

Automatically rendered surveys. As mentioned above, you need to account for people who choose to open a traditional online survey on their mobile device. And not just a single mobile device. It's important to make sure that your surveys will work on whichever type of smartphone or tablet a customer chooses to use, and they must automatically take on the key design elements of the appropriate operating system.

This isn't as hard as it sounds, as long as you have the right technology behind you, and it will hugely increase not only the number of responses you get, but the quality of the feedback as well. Poor feedback experiences garner poor quality data, and when you're trying to understand the customer experience, the last thing you want to do is to generate a new, disappointing one. Consumers have high expectations of mobile experiences now, and in 2013, it's just not acceptable to provide something substandard.

SMS surveys. It's probably fair to say that the jury was out on SMS as a feedback channel for some time. Many companies leapt on the opportunity and executed their campaigns badly, which gave the channel rather a bad name. However, done correctly SMS provides a highly valuable way to gather very specific feedback on key events. More than with any other feedback channel (even other mobile channels), it's crucial to keep the questions short, to the point, and timely.

A real advantage of SMS surveys is the ability to let people "opt in" to the survey themselves—for example, through QR codes or sharing a short text code via posters, receipts, or literature. This enables you to gather feedback from unknown customers (or noncustomers) who can be hard to reach through other channels. This helps add another dimension to the insight you gather through your wider VoC program.

Mobile represents a huge opportunity to better understand—and thus improve—your customer experiences. But key to it all is the ability to turn your requests for feedback into positive experiences. Create timely, engaging surveys that link directly to the rest of your VoC program and you'll not only understand your customers better, but you'll engage them by interacting with them in a way they understand and enjoy.

Dave King is the executive vice president of mobile solutions for Confirmit. He is in the process of establishing a Canadian Center of Excellence for the development of mobile solutions.

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