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Can Voice of Customer Mislead Our Business?

Voice of Customer, Customer Feedback and many kinds of customer satisfaction scores are very popular today. There are hundreds of technology companies offering various solutions to listening to the voice of the customer. However, it is very likely that you have heard the quote from Henry Ford saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Who is right then? Is it possible that voice of customer can mislead our business decisions?

It is easy to find examples for both sides of the coin. There are a lot examples of successful application of Voice of Customer. These efforts are able to measure drivers for customer satisfaction and loyalty (provided that you know what they could be to begin with). On the other hand companies like Apple trust more on their own innovation skills and will not ask customers on ideas for what to do next. And maybe this is the crucial distinction that we need to make between the Voice of Customer and other mechanisms to understand them. Do we always have to ask them to know what they think? And when we ask, are they actually able to answer us in a sensible way?

Are you ready for another survey? I at least am not. There are way too many surveys flying around today. At the same time there is very little effort from the companies to close the loop with the client to deal with their feedback. How many times have you responded that you are not happy and nothing happened to it? I have done that tens of times, even hoping that someone would contact me to remediate with the situation, but no go. Silence. I suppose I did not matter enough as a client to come back to me even though I used my valuable time to give them feedback.

Let’s assume that we care about our clients and get a lot of responses. Likewise we close the loop with our clients and come back to them to discuss their concerns. What kind of information will that give to me? It surely will help me to understand the operational aspects of the business and customer perception of how we did this time. What it will not be able to tell however is that why clients think the way they do and what else is out there that would make a significant difference to our business. Or can you imagine someone telling Apple 10 years ago that they would like to have a device that is too big to be a phone and too small to be a computer? I doubt it. Still when they came up with it, the success was huge. That came more from Henry Fordism than Voice of Customer.

So as a conclusion, everything have its place and use. Voice of Customer can mislead the businesses if used for wrong purposes. You cannot get really innovative ideas from there (unless you are really lucky). It will not show you where the world will go because it does not know that even itself. Someone has to show the world where to go and that requires out-of-box thinking as well as Henry Ford like approach to innovation. That being said, you can’t ignore the Voice of Customer either. You need to know how the business is performing and how customers are perceiving it in order to improve operations and strategy.

Who is right then? The Voice of Customer or Henry Ford? They are both right. Both of these approaches have their own unique purposes and uses. They complement each other instead of competing. If our business lacks one or the other, then there is a void. How about is it possible that voice of customer can mislead our business decisions? Yes it is. We need to understand its role and have it in the right place. Voice of Customer can tell us the results of our previous actions. It will not be able to predict the future or give us direction in macro perspective. It is a tool for micro decisions on how to improve the business, operations and our strategy. The macro picture, our mission and vision as well as how we are going to serve our clients in the future has to come from more Henry Ford kind of approach.

This is the beauty of Customer Experience Blueprint. It enables our business to understand both micro and macro perspectives of the customer landscape that we perform in. It gives us tools to listen to Voice of Customer to improve what we are doing today. Equally it opens our eyes for the macro picture asking the questions to reveal those new Apple kind of innovations that will shake the world. Do you have a proper Customer Experience Blueprint in place?

Here are some reflective questions for you to think about:

  • Do we have a Voice of Customer programme in place? How is it performing?
  • Do we have a Customer Experience Blueprint in place? Does it determine our direction today and in the future?
  • What needs to be improved in our business regarding thinking out-of-box in order to innovate more?
  • Are our Voice of Customer efforts really giving us what we need to become better?
  • Are we being mislead by listening to wrong kind of Voice of Customer?

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