Thought leadership

Customers are playing an increasingly important strategic role in the development of organisations’ services and products across channels and the Voice Of the Customer is critical to the development of customer engagement strategies.


These were two of the key conclusions that came from the Customer Engagement Network’s Directors Forum on Voice Of the Customer (VOC) held in London on 14th February 2013 hosted by Gallup and sponsored by Questback.

Delegates agreed that strategies around customer feedback and feeding back on feedback, closing the feedback loop, are business critical issues.

The Directors Forum examined the key challenges and issues facing customer experience leaders that are impacting feedback, and Voice of The Customer strategies as customers increasingly become a central part of their employee and customer engagement strategies.

VOC take traditional feedback from siloed channels and create a unified approach that takes into account the entire customer journey across multiple channels. That is done not only with tools to segment customers and collect their feedback, but also with analytics, reporting, and data management tools to derive insight from the feedback and share that insight throughout the company.

VOC – it’s emotional

The stage was set with an excellent and thought provoking opening keynote from Qaalfa Dibeehi, COO, Beyond Philosophy 'Understanding and measuring the value of customer emotion in VOC’.

‘Using a series of case study examples from the likes of BP and Campbell’s Soup Qaalfa investigated new thinking on the importance of emotion in VOC including use of biometrics and emotional signatures.

Qaalfa stressed the critical business case for listening to our customers with an eye-opening approach to understanding customer emotion and how it adds to business value.

Next up was Jay Freeman, Senior Advisor, Gallup, former Exec VP Wells Fargo Bank with his presentation Wells Fargo Bank, Case Study: The link between Customer Engagement and revenue Growth’.

Jay explained how while the financial promise of cultivating your customers' engagement is greater revenue, but this doesn’t just happen. There are specific steps designed to translate improved customer engagement and loyalty into increased purchase behaviour and enhanced customer longevity.

Jay drew upon examples in financial services including Wells Fargo and other industries to show how companies have used customer feedback to drive revenue growth.

Contact centre as a profit centre

Jay was followed by an inspiring double-act case study presentation from Matt Kemp, Director of Customer Services and Anija Obmann, Head of Training and Quality, Lebara.

Lebara which operates pre-paid international calling SIM cards for mobile phones has won many Awards for its contact centre including European Contact Centre of the Year  and Matt and Anija told delegates about how Lebara has defining its  brand by moving from service to experience.

The Lebara story is a fascinating one and is a great example of how its contact entre in the heart of the City of London is being seen as a profit centre rather than a cost centre – with a 300 per cent ROI on its contact centre operations. More details of the Lebara story will be in the next issue of Customer Engagement magazine.

Next up was Mark Bradley, Founder, The Fan Experience Company with his enigmaticall y titled presentation Voice of the football fan Case Study:Why no one wants their ashes spread around a Tesco Car Park. How football finally ‘got’ customer service’

Mark explained through work he is doing with a number of leading football clubs including Liverpool and Cardiff City how what connects a fan to his or her team is stronger than any ‘brand’.

Mark , who with his family has been to more than 100 football grounds in the UK in the past six years, told delegates what happens when a Club wakes up to this and starts to deliver an experience designed around their supporters’ deepest motivations. It was a fascinating story which had delegates in thrall – and Mark’s amusing anecdotes and asides went down a treat too.

London Olympics – how it was done

Continuing with a sporting theme came Alex Nisbett, Customer experience and service design consultant with his presentationLondon Olympics Case Study: Customer collaboration in the design and delivery of service experiences.’

Alex explained the different methods leading organisations are utilising to engage with customers in the design, delivery and ongoing improvement of their services. Using examples from many industries including the BBC, Mercedes Benz the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Alex demonstrated the benefits of a user-centred approach and the value it brings for customers and businesses alike.

For the London Olympics he described how the learning curve from the first games helped improvements in service design and delivery for the Paralymics held a few weeks later.


British Gas is listening

Last up before the networking lunch came Charles Breslin, Head of Customer Service, British Gas with his presentation ‘British Gas, Case Study: “Noise or Knowledge?”’

In an entertaining presentation including references to the Dalai Llama, George Orwell and Churchill (the financial services provider that is!) ,Charles looked at what British Gas’s 16million  customers are telling the utility, what British  Gas does with it and what we it should do with it.

Charles explained to delegates how silence can be measured and what it means. He also looked at why some people contact us frequently and how much our behaviour and language engender multiple contacts.

After the networking lunch came a lively panel debate including the morning presenters and chaired by Steve Hurst Editorial Director of the Customer Engagement Network with the subject ‘What winning VOC strategies are needed in a fast changing customer world’

The debate was a wide ranging affair reflecting the broad nature of the topic and included views around employee and customer engagement and the use of social media in VOC strategies.

The power of Twitter

Next up and continuing the social media theme came an excellent and fun presentation from Dara Nasr, Director, Twitter, former Head of YouTube, Twitter with his presentation Move People with Twitter – case studies’

Using examples from the likes of PaddyPower and the NHS Dara examined how Twitter can help build brands' campaign further and faster. Dara discussed the benefits of transmedia and real time planning to engage with customers and the sheer power of Twitter as an engagement and VOC medium. Great stuff.

Next came a focus on the voice of the employee from Andrew Cocks, Former Senior Employee Engagement Specialist, HSBC, Questback consultant with his presentation The voice of the 'internal customer'’

Andrew explained that with organisations increasingly listening to the 'voice of the internal customer' and deriving greater value from their employee engagement research, now is the time to question current models and methods.

Using case study examples including HSBC Andrew discussed how recent developments in customer research point to a future of flexible, integrated and cost effective strategic research all driven by cutting edge technology.

Customer Engagement Awards

The final presentation of the day was by way of an announcement that the Customer Engagement Network is launching in association with the well established Peer Awards the Customer Engagement Awards.

In a joint presentation Steve Hurst, Customer Engagement Editorial Director, Stephen Citron Director of the Peer Awards made this exciting announcement.

The Customer Engagement Network wants to provide exposure and recognition for innovative customer engagement initiatives.  All shortlisted finalists of  feature in The Independent newspaper, and speak at the Peer Awards conference in Central London on 27 June, where they are judged by everyone attending the conference, including the finalists. The winners are announced and celebrated at a champagne ceremony in a prestigious Central London hotel.

In his event summary Steve Hurst reiterated the strong business case for organisations to develop integrated VOC strategies across all the channels. Are you listening to your customers?


View Agenda & Presentations

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