The Voice of Your Customers - Listening Is Only Part of the Story


The Voice of Your Customers - Listening Is Only Part of the Story

By TMCnet Special Guest
J.D. Power
  |  March 18, 2014

CUSTOMER Magazine recently spoke with Herb Williams-Dalgart, senior director of certification and performance improvement at J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Herb to describe a world-class Voice of the Customer (VOC) research program and why it’s important to all businesses, particularly contact centers.

What is so important about gathering the Voice of the Customer?

For over 40 years, J.D. Power has had the privilege of working with some of the world’s best companies. This work has allowed us to make note of some things those companies have in common. One thing in particular should come as no surprise—they deliver what their customers want. This doesn’t happen by accident. They asked and they listened. Their customers told them what was expected and they took action. A good research program—one that listens to the voice of customers at the right times in the right ways—can help a business clearly understand what’s important to their customers, even as their wants and needs change. This information can inform strategies for product, service, sales—every facet of the business.

Is a Voice of the Customer program really just a survey?

Great question! The answer is a resounding, no. A survey in and of itself won’t provide the critical insights, analytical tools, or appropriate context by which to determine the value of the information collected. Some companies ask their customers questions using very basic surveys and nothing more, only to find themselves more confused than ever; or, worse, they take decisive and costly actions based on the results, and fail to reach their goals.

A world-class VOC research program has three critical elements:

1) Ask the right questions

Anyone can put together a survey. However, it is critical to ask questions that truly help to define and explore the entire customer’s experience or which fully examine their needs. The adage “garbage-in; garbageout” describes what happens when you gather bad information: you can only make bad decisions. J.D. Power’s qualified team of research scientists with decades of experience analyzing numerous industries have provided our clients with in-depth and proven insights that have confirmed the right questions are being asked.

2) Ensure the right context

Not only is it important to ask the right questions, but it is also important to ask those questions at the right times. For instance, if you ask a caller who’s experiencing a billing problem whether it was resolved at the conclusion of the call, they probably won’t know until the next bill comes in; thus, their answer won’t necessarily be an informed one. If you ask a customer at the time of a repair whether they’re satisfied with the work that was done, how will they know until they use the item you fixed? Also, if the purpose of your research is to identify gaps in your process, it’s a good idea to ask questions at each stage of that process, and not just at the end. To do otherwise may lead to the wrong conclusions. While these insights may seem self-evident, you’d be surprised how many big companies continue to fail at this.

3) Use the right benchmarks

Many companies ask questions, look at the metrics, and draw conclusions that drive their improvement efforts. However, what many companies lack are the proper benchmarks—to whom or to what are they comparing their performance? A company may be happy to find that they’ve improved a few points in overall satisfaction or against an operational metric, but that data is more impactful if the company also knows how they compared to the highest performers in the same metrics. That context could provide the foundation for more targeted decisions and wiser investment strategies.

At J.D. Power we use our cross-industry information and benchmarks—like those we use to assist contact centers—to set the bar high, even if customer expectations are set in other industries, helping our clients reach beyond their average performance to take a leadership position in the minds of their most important constituents—their customers. 

So, once a survey is deemed appropriate and benchmarks are set, you’re good to go?

I wish it were that easy! In fact, we know the bar that’s set for top performance keeps moving. The platforms and methods by which customers interact with contact centers or directly with companies are always changing. You have to look no further than your phone apps to know that. In order to ensure your company is meeting the evolving customer needs on emerging platforms, your world-class VOC research program also has to be built to change along with those needs. Our annually updated benchmarks and measurement instruments help us make sure that our clients don’t fall behind. When it comes to the Voice of the Customer, J.D. Power is always listening.

To learn about J.D. Power’s suite of solutions for the contact center industry, visit

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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