But a Forrester Research survey conducted late last year shows some momentum behind VOC programs. Of the 118 customer experience professionals Forrester surveyed, 52% had a VOC program in place and 29% were actively considering one. "Big companies have finally embraced the link between customer experience, loyalty and long-term financial success," says Forrester analyst Andrew McInnes. "Investing in voice-of-the-customer programs is the next logical step."
Add customer voices to your CRM system
About 90% of software vendor Clarabridge's customers have chosen its SaaS offering, according to CEO Sid Bannerjee.
This is not surprising, given the costs and headaches of deploying and maintaining a VOC infrastructure in-house. Companies need a data warehouse for customer information, says James Kobielus, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Think of Twitter streaming in all the time," he says. "Even if you filter for a subset relating to the demographic you're tracking or your own customer base, it quickly becomes too much."
Another challenge is integrating VOC tools and platforms with existing CRM and BI systems. "You want to pass feedback data and alerts into your CRM application so when you call up a customer record, you see not only what they just bought, but how they rated their last interaction," says Bruce Temkin, a managing partner at Temkin Group.
Conversely, CRM systems can help VOC systems prioritize surveys and responses from customers based on which respondents are hot prospects or big buyers. Most VOC vendors offer their own proprietary dashboards and querying tools, and they're starting to link up with leading CRM and BI systems. BI and CRM vendors should enter the VOC market this year, according to Forrester.
But even with a hosted VOC platform, designing and deploying the infrastructure is far from simple, early implementers agree.
"The big challenge is integrating unstructured VOC data with structured databases, in particular CRM data," says Jeffrey Liss, senior vice president at Charming Shoppes. "Our CRM group is working toward that goal."
-- Elisabeth Horwitt
Indeed, businesses are recognizing the value of customer input for a growing number of strategic areas, including marketing, product development and quality assurance. Moreover, VOC systems can also be used to collect comments and criticisms from industry pundits and the general public.
VOC Gets Social