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Voice of the Process: Don’t Just Watch What Customers Say, Watch What They Do

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You can learn a lot from what your customers tell you. Negative feedback reveals critical pain points, and rave reviews highlight the touchpoints in the customer journey that customers find most meaningful. You can also learn a lot through proactive customer outreach via surveys and focus groups. But after you’ve solicited all of that feedback and opinion, how much can you actually trust it?

On its own? Not as much as you might think.

Capturing and working with voice-of-the-customer data has traditionally been central to marketing efforts. Market research has long relied on interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other types of direct feedback mechanisms to collect and represent what customers want. And in many cases, companies have made sweeping changes based on these findings. Sometimes that has been a good move. In other cases, the results have been disastrous. The problem? Humans are incredibly bad at knowing what they want or how they’ll behave in a certain situation—or at least they are bad at telling the truth about it.  

Take what recently happened to Shoes of Prey. Investors in that company stand to lose $35 million due to the fact that, according to company cofounder Michael Fox, the company took its customers at their word. During market research exercises, customers reported that, yes, they would like to customize their own shoes. When those proverbial rubber soles hit the road, though, what consumers said they wanted and what they actually wanted were two different things. Customers didn’t want to actually go through the work of designing their footwear. They instead prefer to look to influencers for inspiration and be shown what to wear.

Nevertheless, voice-of-the-customer data—understanding exactly what they want or look for—remains essential to marketing, product development, and journey orchestration. So, how do you parse the validity or trustworthiness of the feedback you’re getting?

Close the CX loop with Voice of the Process and Voice of the Employee

Marrying voice-of-the-customer with voice-of-the-employee data gives you a broader look at experience data. Paying attention to voice of the employee nurtures employee engagement, which invariably drives performance and fosters CX. The special sauce, though, comes when you add operational data, pulled from voice of the process, into the mix.

By leveraging voice of the process—that is, by capturing and analyzing actual buyer behavior data—you can close the voice-of-the-customer blind spot and understand consumer needs through what they do, in addition to what they say. When you can see how customers respond to certain actions or experiences, you can make informed decisions based on real, observed behavior. 

Voice of the process can contradict or confirm voice of the customer and voice of the employee. It can also show you where you lose potential customers, or brand loyalty, when a customer can’t or won’t explain why they aren’t connecting with your products. These types of changes are nuanced and also sometimes hidden from product developers or marketers. It can change the entire product strategy/go-to-market plan. When you have complete access to voice-of-the-process data, you can look at customer journeys in isolation and step directly into your customers’ shoes, seeing exactly where the process breaks down.

So where do you pull the data from? Since customer data often resides in silos, collecting voice-of-the-process information needs to start with a journey analytics program that will house or replicate all of your behavioral data in one easy-to-access location.

The amount of behavioral data at your disposal is astonishing. You can, for example, get hyper-granular and literally track every hover and click. That, however, is not recommended. Instead, focus on getting the right level of detail. Go deep enough to get accurate and nuanced views, but not so far down in the weeds that you miss the forest for the trees. When thinking about the appropriate level of granularity, think in terms of “journey steps.” Journey steps are the key building blocks in your customer journey road map. Such steps include actions like a visit to your website, or the decision to fill out an online form or call into a customer service center.

In the end, any customer feedback you solicit, directly or through employees, will be limited to what your customer thinks is possible. Though it’s a dubious attribution, Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Customers can tell you about their pain points, but they can’t tell you the best way to solve them. By leveraging actual behavioral data analytics, you’ll be able to “see” what they really think.

Mark Smith is president of Kitewheel, a Boston-based provider of a cloud-based customer engagement hub for orchestrating real-time consumer journeys across any channel. Prior to joining Kitewheel he held leadership positions at Pitney Bowes Software, Portrait Software, and was the founder and president of the predictive analytics software firm, Quadstone. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics and statistics from the University of Edinburgh. Contact him at msmith@kitewheel.com.

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