Biz Tips: Seeking a New VOC Vendor? Here’s How to Make the Transition

Biz Tips: Seeking a New VOC Vendor? Here’s How to Make the Transition

Biz Tip:

Seeking a New VOC Vendor? Here’s How to Make the Transition

As with any business solution, it’s not uncommon for companies to feel trapped by their voice of the customer (VoC) vendor once they’ve already implemented VoC tools and attempted to put them into practice. Even if the solutions in place aren’t delivering the desired return on investment, and even in the face of vendor incompetence, the prospect of switching vendors may appear more costly and disruptive than sticking with the existing solution and hoping it eventually works to the company’s advantage.

At times, refocusing your efforts may be the best course of action. A recent Forrester white paper entitled How to Transition Your Voice-Of-The-Customer Vendor explains that “failure is not always the vendor’s fault.” Additionally, the report notes that “firms that do not invest the time and due diligence that is necessary to select a vendor should not blame the vendor when the program fails.” [1]

According to the Forrester report, many VoC programs are still immature and face common challenges:

  • Not Listening to Customers
    • Only focused on surveys
    • Failure to capture unstructured and unsolicited feedback
    • Ignoring the voice of the employee (VoE)
  • Not Interpreting Feedback
    • Focusing entirely on data collection but no analysis
    • Over-analyzing and failing to act
    • Struggling with siloed data
  • Not Acting on Insights
    • Lack of priorities
    • Informal processes
    • Failure to translate insights into action
  • Not Monitoring Changes in Customer Perception
    • Unproven ROI
    • Progress isn’t socialized
    • Success isn’t celebrated

Customer experience (CX) professionals are stuck within enterprises that “approach CX in silos,” [1] and their processes of listening to customers, interpreting feedback, acting on insights, and monitoring changes in customer perception are often hindered by common challenges, such as unproven ROI, siloed data, and the ignoring of unsolicited feedback.

Nonetheless, when a vendor’s technology doesn’t live up to expectations, or when your company has clearly selected the wrong vendor, transitioning to a new VoC may be your best or only option.

The Importance of VOC to CX

According to MIT researchers, VoC “is a process for capturing customers’ requirements” which “produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs which are organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.” [2]

The process of gathering, organizing, and analyzing customer feedback is an essential component of this process, and one that is most often facilitated by a solution or technology stack provided by a vendor. Where once VoC could be characterized by tailored interactions and traditional market research initiatives like customer feedback surveys, there are now more CX channels than ever, so new technologies are warranted.

The role of a VoC solution is to consolidate information from those channels, then synthesize it to help the company develop a CX environment that produces value and aligns with or exceeds customer expectations. Naturally, the more inputs, the better.

McKinsey & Company recommends obtaining “journey-centric feedback” from customers, supported by a backbone of technology investments. Such technology solutions “make it possible to tap many more customer voices beyond individuals with whom the business interacts the most. Moreover, they provide an analysis engine that can incorporate all kinds of data: survey results, social media posts, and linking operational data.” [3]

Direct feedback from customers can still come from surveys, focus groups, and interviews, all of which are important for product development. But voice of the customer data can also come in real-time. For example, customer service chat tools, social media interactions, and reviews on third-party websites are all sources of customer feedback.

As an article in the Harvard Business Review puts it, you need enough input “to get to the point at which you hear nothing new and material is being repeated – so-called ‘saturation’.” [4] Compiling and analyzing all this data is the challenge posed to VOC solutions and their vendors.

Establishing Criteria for Your New Vendor

If you aren’t satisfied with your current VoC vendor and there’s no way to transition the VoC environment with your current vendor into one that produces value, you can begin to evaluate your current VoC program and determine what you’ll need from a new vendor and a new solution.

Here’s how to get started.

Evaluate your existing VoC program.

You can start shopping for a new vendor immediately if you think your current vendor doesn’t meet your requirements. But it’s important to keep in mind that you could be getting in your own way. If your VoC program is immature or if you aren’t utilizing the full potential of your VoC product, it would be pertinent to evaluate your existing VoC program- including your technology stack and your integrations.

You’ll also need this information to develop criteria for your new vendor.

Forrester places VOC programs into three categories: Foundational, Advanced, and State-of-the-Art. A foundational program includes the following elements:

  • Solicited feedback from multiple channels (mostly surveys)
  • Basic analysis and reporting
  • Data that fixes basic system problems
  • Focus on service recovery
  • Ad hoc additional analysis [1]

Meanwhile, an advanced VoC program would include the ability to collect unsolicited feedback, analyze unstructured data, and act based on formal processes like Net Promotor Scores, among other capabilities. A “state of the art” VoC program is one that requires your organization to achieve full integration across all your data types and to develop a customer-centric culture that uses VoC insights to make sophisticated business value calculations.

Develop objectives for improvement.

If most of the challenges you’re facing are issues you can fix on your end, you can develop objectives and an internal plan to do so. Sometimes, breaking down data silos and utilizing your solution to its full potential is all you need to advance your VoC program.

Along this line, reaching an advanced stage of your VoC is a worthwhile goal. If you can do so with your current vendor, you may not need to switch. After all, Forrester notes that “most firms are not advancing to state of the art.” [1] It’s a worthwhile ambition, but your first objective should be to see value from your VoC solution.

If, after your assessment, you decide that your current vendor can’t help you reach an advanced program despite your own internal changes, you can formally begin the process of shopping for a new vendor. You may need to extend your contract with your existing vendor during this process.

Establish your requirements for a new vendor.

Start with a set of requirements for your new vendor. This is a good time to bring in other stakeholders, so they can have a say in the process. Your VoC program isn’t just a project for the marketing or customer service department — it affects the entire company. Every relevant party will need to be engaged with this process if your company is to acquire a solution that suits its needs.

You can inform your requirements using the insights you gained from your previous assessment of your VoC program. You can also use the criteria put forth by experts in the field to gauge where your VoC program stands currently and what you need from a vendor to reach an advanced level of maturity.

Don’t forget about culture. You’ll be interacting with your vendor regularly, so they need to be a good fit for your company culture if your partnership is to go smoothly.

Altogether, your requirements should be clear and documented, and they should be communicated to every stakeholder involved in the process. You now have a precise set of criteria for comparing vendors.

The Process of Switching VOC Vendors

With your list of criteria, you can begin to shop for a new VoC vendor in earnest. You’ll also be able to eliminate vendors that don’t meet your requirements. Eliminating vendors is an important step to take. You’ll need to contact potential vendors in the next step, and this can be time-consuming.

Send an RFI or RFP to vendors.

Eventually, you’ll be left with a shortlist of VoC vendors to whom you can send a request for information (RFI) or a request for a proposal (RFP) if you are far enough along in your process to consider how your new solution will fit into your budget.

In this respect, you are essentially on a fact-finding mission. With the additional information, you should be able to shorten your list even further and begin to invite vendors to provide you with demonstrations of their products. This will allow you to see how each vendor’s product matches your needs in practice.

Select a vendor.

After you feel you’ve received enough demonstrations, and after reviewing the information provided during the RFI/RFP phase, you can select a vendor or vendors to begin your transition with.

Of course, you may find that none of the vendors meet your requirements. If this is the case, you can start the process again or reassess your criteria. It could be that you need a different type of solution to achieve your goals, or you might need to reassess the value of other technologies you use to determine if you aren’t due for a complete digital transformation.

Begin your transition.

With a vendor or vendors selected, you can begin your transition. According to Forrester, “Transitioning requires a strategy and a disciplined approach.” [1]

You can either design an entirely new VOC program using your new technology, or you can transition your existing program into the new technology. The approach you choose depends on how mature your existing program is. If it’s new and isn’t working, it may be best to go back to the drawing board and start fresh with a new program.

Establish a timetable for your transition and develop a system for communication across the company. The project should have clear deadlines, and everyone involved should be aware of their role in the process.

Turn Your VOC Program Into a Value Center

Onboarding a new technology can be challenging, and it will often require you to integrate it with other tools in your technology stack. Most vendors will be in a good position to help you in this process, especially with their own solutions. However, you could reach out to a consultancy to help you with the transition as well.

You should also establish KPIs for the project, so you can communicate to stakeholders when your transition begins to produce value for the business. With a clear way to measure your transition, you’ll be able to determine when your VoC program begins to produce a return on your investment.

It can be difficult and disruptive to switch to a new VoC vendor. There may even be push-back from stakeholders who are hesitant about trying a new solution. But if your current solution isn’t producing value for your business, and if the voices of your customers aren’t being effectively heard, then it’s acting as a cost center instead of a value center.

If you do your homework before selecting a new vendor and embark on a steady transition, you should see clear value from your decisions in the form of stronger customer insights.

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