Let me know if this sounds familiar. Your company has developed a new feature. It’s launch day and internal enthusiasm is high. Out goes the newsletter, the social media posts, and the feature is turned on.
But then, crickets. Or worse, your customers start making the wrong kind of noise. The feature doesn’t work for them. The customer support team is inundated with questions. Social media and community posts are a sea of customers asking for changes or for a different feature altogether.
What went wrong?
While the feature seemed like a great idea, it was likely designed based on the customer experience you think your customers have, versus their actual experience.
The Customer Experience We’re Measuring
“You typically need more than one customer touchpoint to satisfy a [customer’s] need. This could be to join a company, to pay a bill, or to change something in your address. As that is more than one touchpoint, it’s important that you as a company have the whole journey in sight.”
-Harald Fanderl, McKinsey principal consultant on CX
Traditional CX programs break a user journey into key touchpoints and measure engagement and satisfaction at each. The problem with this is that a journey is more than the sum of its parts -- in fact, friction at each stage can compound each other in unexpected ways.
The problem is that when customer experience is measured piece by piece, you end up with misleading siloed data. Almost a third of CX practitioners cited that siloed customer data is a top challenge to providing a great experience (CXN Global State of CX 2020). Adding even more surveys and more touchpoints only complicate the issue. While most organizations engage customers via eight contact channels, two-thirds do not currently have a cross-channel contact management strategy (NTT 2020 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report).
Viewing the customer’s experience through individual touchpoint data is like looking through a kaleidoscope—you won’t ever see the full picture, even if it looks quite pretty.
Using Voice of Customer to Illuminate the Real Customer Journey
Instead of trying to stitch together the customer’s journey from feedback snippets, organizations need to reform their Voice of the Customer program. Customers don’t experience discrete touchpoints, so it doesn’t make sense to design products around them.
A great customer experience starts with aligning product development with the customer's journey, rather than adding features and hoping the customer’s journey adapts to it.
To align with the customer’s real experience, VoC needs to pull information from across the customer journey. This data needs to be included in the Product team’s vision prior to launch. When defining their VoC strategy with regards to product development, organizations need to focus on two things:
- Identifying customer roadblocks on their journey to success
- Incorporating Customer Support and Customer Success data
Identifying Customer Roadblocks
One of the most powerful things CX and Product professionals can ask themselves is “What limitations have been put in place that prevents our customers from moving forward?”
To answer that question requires understanding your current customer’s journey—or journeys.
McKinsey principal Ron Ritter explains that the journey construct is so helpful because it “aligns employees around customer needs, despite functional boundaries.” Instead of focusing on one step or one channel, the customer journey is focused on what the customer must accomplish to be successful. Once you’ve identified the cross-functional journeys that cause low satisfaction, you can identify the roadblocks that need to be removed.
Using a VoC program to listen across multiple channels can reveal limitations and obstacles in the customer’s journey. By pulling out trending keywords and combining that information with CRM data and product usage data, you’ll have a much better understanding of what your customers are frustrated with.
Incorporating Customer Support and Success Data
When measured by sheer volume, the Customer Support and Success teams have the most access to customer feedback. Every conversation contains multitudes of data points about what the customer wants to do, where they are struggling, and how they’re feeling. The tough part is pulling the value out of those data points so that it’s helpful for the product team.
Customer Support Stories
Support agents have similar experiences. Out of anyone in the organization they spend the most time speaking with frustrated customers. But they often have the least impact on product development. Why? Because turning customer conversation data into helpful product data is hard. Each agent will only see a fraction of the total ticket volume, which can lead to bias. They need to avoid focusing on the squeakiest wheel or the loudest customer.
Product teams know that anecdotal evidence isn’t sufficient for product development decisions. In the past, this meant that product teams were dismissive of support data because it was too difficult to rigorously analyze to be statistically relevant. But that needs to change, because if you’re not incorporating the things that customers tell Support every day into your VoC program and your product strategy, you’re not seeing the full picture.
Customer Success Stories
CSMs are often the first teams to hear about new feature requests from customers. But when they try to rally the Product team around new ideas, they find that their requests don’t carry enough weight. This is due to the same issue of siloed data. Each CSM knows what their individual customers are looking for, but they don’t have insight into the feedback from all the other customers. There is no way for them to quantify the benefit a new feature would have.
So while CSMs are closely acquainted with the real customer journey along with any roadblocks they encounter, they don’t have the necessary influence over the product roadmap.
A Data-Driven Customer Journey
Customer Support and Success data is an “always-on” source of customer insight. A regular cadence of information will enable product development to happen around the customer's journey. Incorporating this data early in the design cycle means that features are designed based on the real customer experience, not the one that’s patched together from survey and touchpoint data.
Using VoC data to inform your product roadmap and eliminate roadblocks from your customer’s journey is the biggest step on your path to becoming a customer-centric organization.