VOC 1-2-3 :: Strategies for a successful Voice of the Customer program

With increasing competition to retain customers, build brand loyalty, and attract new business, companies of all types are seeking ways to sharpen their focus on the customer experience. Success often relies on having a deep understanding of your customers across every touch point –and that involves listening. That’s where an effective Voice of the Customer (VOC) program can add real value, delivering insights to help you improve customer experience and meet key business objectives.

To build and run a successful VOC program, your approach will evolve along the way, so think about it in three strategic phases: getting a great start, building momentum, and then expanding the potential.

Phase 1: Plan for success

  • Create a Strategic Roadmap: Whether you’re a large financial institution, a retailer, or a utility company, you’ll gain greater value at potentially lower cost if your VOC program starts with a clear game plan.
  • Gain a holistic view of the customer experience: To really understand and improve your customer’s experience, it’s important to develop a complete picture of their relationship with your business. For well-rounded insights, be sure to monitor numerous touch points —capturing both structured data (e.g., surveys and transaction data) and unstructured data (e.g., call center transcripts and customer support email feedback). And don’t forget to track social media, where customers often vent about, or praise, their service experiences. Analyzing both structured and unstructured data provides a richer, more nuanced view of the customer experience. Additionally, it’s a good idea to map the customer experience lifecycle (such as pre-sales vs. servicing) to better understand where and how to make improvements.
  • Be prepared to take action to drive improvements: To ensure you can act on insights gained through VOC analytics, build buy-in for customer experience changes by recruiting champions, influencers, and executives across numerous lines of business. To build the business case, start with small, measurable, pilot efforts. As an example, VOC analytics helped a Top 50 bank uncover numerous customer complaints about being required to make wire transfers in person at banking locations. In response, the bank began offering wire services online, and developed metrics to track the impact of the change.

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Phase 2: Optimize your efforts

  • Discover more by letting the data speak: You’ll gain more value from your VOC efforts by listening to what customers are really saying. By using text analytics to let themes emerge, you unlock the true value of your data. With a more complete picture, you can prioritize targeted improvements that will produce the biggest wins.
  • Increase the relevance of insights with unique business context: Your company likely has a wealth of customer comments from surveys, call centers, email and in-store feedback, and social media—so how do you make the most of it? Find out what’s really driving the comments by engaging team members from various lines of business who understand the issues and can provide important context to help classify customer comments. Root-cause analysis can also help you focus on making changes that will mean the most to customers.
  • Measure the effectiveness of your actions: To confirm the business value of your VOC efforts, you should consistently track the impact of any improvements you make. Define metrics and leverage analytics dashboards to create progress reports you can share with business leaders across the company.

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Phase 3: Take it to the next level

  • Think bigger by multi-purposing customer insights: Increase the power of your Voice of the Customer program by leveraging insights to make improvements in multiple areas. For example, after analyzing millions of customer comments, you might identify key pain points that enable you to triage customers into different support strategies that help strengthen relationships. Expand your perspective to include feedback from frontline employees and other key partners who play a role in shaping the customer experience. This added layer of insight can help you define strategies for new product offerings, training, or other resources that would appeal to customers and grow your business.
  • Increase revenue potential through customer insights: Customer listening can identify more than just the problems; it’s a great way to learn what people value most about your business. From there you can use predictive modeling to classify customer segments most likely to respond to certain promotions, and deliver targeted marketing. You can also leverage VOC analytics to “crowd source” for ideas on how to attract more business. In particular, social media analytics may uncover insights about what people want that you don’t already offer.
  • Build more power into CRM with insights from VOC: Boost the value of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program by systematically tracking feedback as part of your customer profiles. By integrating customer comments from multiple touch points into CRM, you can better understand their emotional connection to your brand. It also helps you identify customers who consistently provide positive feedback so you can explore cross-sell or up-sell opportunities, and even engage them to become brand advocates.

To gain the most from your Voice of the Customer program, focus your approach on creative strategies and advanced analytics that help you maximize the value of customer insights. You can use what you learn about customers to drive measurable change across your organization to improve customer experience, strengthen engagement and brand loyalty, and increase the flow of new business.



Privacy concerns with big data marketing

Big Data analysis has been opening up big opportunities for improving targeted marketing to consumers. But how is it affecting their perceptions of privacy? In a recent article in American Banker, Beyond the Arc CEO Steven Ramirez noted that simply having huge amounts of customer data doesn’t necessarily drive greater marketing effectiveness – it’s all in how you use the data.

“Retailers and travel providers use transaction data in their marketing initiatives. Banks already have the data, the question is if they have the data analytics capabilities and the strategic thinking to act on the insights.”

-Steven Ramirez, Beyond the Arc

While collecting and analyzing customer data delivers marketing advantages, the increasing efforts to tap mobile devices and social media is beginning to raise privacy concerns with customers.

By looking at a customer’s spending patterns, geolocation, analyzing social media posts, and other factors, businesses can “connect the dots and understand a lot about a person’s social network,” said Ramirez. It can even inform predictive models for marketing analytics. However, in some cases, customers feel it’s getting too personal.

Avoid the “big brother” effect of mobile tracking

Mobile geolocation data has played a huge part in bringing concerns to a head. Now, when customers walk into a bank or past a restaurant, welcome messages or discounted food specials are sent directly to their phones. How much is too much? When does the “creep factor” come in such that customers feel like they’re simply being watched?

One solution is to help ensure consumers feel like they’re still in control, with the ability to opt in and out. Apple’s iBeacons welcome customers as they walk into their bank branches—but they first have to opt-in for services like this when they install the app.

Be transparent

Above all, one of the most important considerations is how to generate customer confidence –so transparency is key. When capturing data, businesses should give customers a clear and accurate sense of how their information will be used. Help customers understand what to expect about the confidentiality or sharing of their information, and allow them to opt-in or out. In so doing, companies may build greater trust and customers may be more open to their targeted marketing efforts.

Innovative web apps help jumpstart newbie investors


Investment websites that enable consumers to manage their own trading and portfolios online have been around for years. In their wake, many financial advisors have been fighting for business, trying to prove they still add value. Yet they may find that rapid advances in the digital age work in their favor, as investment applications are reaching and teaching younger audiences. If consumers use these online tools to learn the basics of investing, financial advisors can spend more time focusing on delivering strategic value to more seasoned clients, and may experience a wave of new and “better prepared” clients in the coming years.

At Finovate Fall 2014, a multitude of investment web applications were introduced that demonstrated quick and easy ways of investing for consumers who are just getting started.

A fusion of gaming and investing, Kapitall is geared towards a younger generation, and for those who lost faith in the stock market after the dot-com bust. Users can engage on three levels:

    • Practice - use an “imaginary” portfolio to learn the basics of investing.
    • Tournament - the gaming sector where you learn about investing by competing with other Kapitall participants.
    • Live - open a brokerage account and join real-world investors with no minimums or fees.

This “fantasy-football game” for investors is a great way for people to test the waters of investment strategy, and evolve their experience until they’re ready for real-time investing.


As a fee-free, user-friendly web application for everyone, Loyal3 attracts beginners and small investors wanting to get their foot-in-the-door. The Loyal3 website explains investing to newbies, and consumers can invest in the brands they love with as little as $10.00 per stock, fee-free. It provides a great way for anyone to begin their investing journey.


Ever been interested in real estate investment, but have little knowledge of how to get started? Patch of Land understands the challenges of real estate investing, and their website makes it easy for everyone. It’s a peer-to-peer crowdfunding community model that brings together investors and borrowers for sharing real estate investment know-how and funding. It covers many key bases from deal sourcing and due diligence to the legal and financial nuts and bolts of the deals.


Will new tech bring better clients to financial advisors?

While these new investment applications have tremendous potential for gaining a large following, they don’t necessarily push financial advisors aside. Their lives may get easier when fewer potential clients with little experience call with questions like, “Can you teach me everything I need to know?” Advisors may instead benefit from these technologies as a means to weed out the newbie investors who may never retain their services, and focus on the “let’s get started” customers.



Transforming your public relations with content marketing and social media

Traditional news media play an important role in enabling companies to tell their stories. Although broadcast viewing patterns have changed, according to consumer research from Gallup more than half of Americans still cite television as their main source of information about current events. Remarkably, this holds as true for an 18-year-old Millennial as it does for a 49-year-old Gen X-er.

interview_reporter_television_camera_350x234However, as the Pew Research Center notes, “Online and digital news consumption, meanwhile, continues to increase, with many more people now getting news on cell phones, tablets or other mobile platforms.” How should companies act on these insights to ensure the highest levels of engagement with customers and critical stakeholders?

In research conducted by Pew, they document the steady erosion in the frequency in which people watch the local news. In 2006, 18- to 29-year olds said they “regularly watch” local news. By 2012, only 28% of young people said they regularly watched, a decline of -14% over the period.

The growing importance of digital channels and social media
As you might expect, people of all ages are following the news on their mobile device. Pew notes that at least one-in-five Americans (17%) got news on their cell phones yesterday. Among smartphone users, it was nearly a third (31%).

Social media is inextricably linked to mobile, and there has been a corresponding leap in the share of social network users that saw news via a social platform. According to Pew, 55% of Americans access the internet via a mobile device, and 30% of those people saw news on a social networking site yesterday.

3 strategies to increase the value of earned media
As the relationship that people have with traditional media continues to evolve, there are three social media strategies that savvy communicators can leverage.

1) Drive engagement via content marketing
The hallmark of social media is that conversations drive engagement. Interesting and valuable content is the fuel that drives the conversation. For PR, media relations, and other communicators this calls for a systematic approach to content marketing. As we explained in a recent article:

Effective content marketing is basically the development of useful information to educate customers and prospects, without any hard sell. For most businesses, the goal is to provide value that informs and inspires people to learn more about the company’s products and services –with content often delivered through blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, and articles. – Read more

2) Use social listening to understand customer preferences and discover unmet needs
With digital communications, people expect an experience that is tailored to their needs. Is your brand like the guy at the backyard barbeque who spends the whole day talking shop? Make sure your media relations team knows how to listen; listening in social media is critical to success.

With a social media listening effort, communicators can learn what’s most relevant to various audiences, and tailor their outreach to audiences most likely to respond positively. And don’t forget to track what people are saying about your competitors: you may find opportunities to meet the needs of unsatisfied consumers to win their business. – Read more

3) Transform negative sentiment into a winning customer experience
News travels fast via social and mobile channels, particularly bad news. With the social conversation, people will be quick to point out the inconsistencies between your media relations messaging and the way your company conducts business. Managing negative sentiment isn’t just a task for customer service, it requires a close partnership with news relations, public affairs, marketing, and other communicators. Check out a few tips for responding to negative social posts:

When customers have a bad experience, they’re often more connected to how they FEEL about it, than the issue itself. That’s why you need to sharpen your focus on how people react to your business. Timely and effective communications can help you manage negative sentiment, rebuild trust, and promote loyalty. – Read more

Traditional broadcast and print media outlets remain highly effective means to reach customers and community influencers. However, as social media usage grows, and social networks expose people to news stories, professional communicators face new challenges. To generate positive engagement they need to spark conversations about their brand, develop and execute content marketing strategies that reinforce their media pitches, and work with internal business partners to listen for—and act on– negative feedback. More than ever, effective public relations calls for a multidisciplinary and strategic approach.

Money20/20 Update: Future of data and security in banking payments

Check out the latest highlights from the Money 20/20 event in Las Vegas. Beyond the Arc CEO Steven Ramirez talks about key ideas in VISA’s keynote, and new trends in data and security technologies that will impact the customer experience.


Money20/20 Update: New tech and top trends in payments

What’s new and innovative in the world of payments? That’s what the standing-room-only crowds are wondering at Money20/20 in Las Vegas today. It’s a full house of C-level execs, big investors, industry insiders, analysts, bankers, you name it — and it’s buzzing with exciting insights. We’re hearing about everything from personalized nano-tech to verify your ID for payment, to trends on how millenial consumers seek financial advice.

Check out a quick recap of highlights with Beyond the Arc, CEO Steven Ramirez, and PR guru William Mills of the William Mills Agency.

End of day coverage from Monday

Monday morning coverage from Money 20/20

Video preview of Money 20/20, innovation in payments

We’re looking forward to Money 20/20, the financial services industry’s largest conference on innovations in payments technology.

In this latest installment of our video blog, Beyond the Arc CEO Steven Ramirez previews what to expect from this year’s show. Apple Pay, bitcoin, mobile payments, and big data are just a few of this year’s hot themes.

Building a customer-centric culture – Top tips for employee buy-in

Co-author: Carrie Deakin

To deliver the great customer experiences that foster brand loyalty and increase profitability, businesses need to embrace a customer-centric culture across their enterprise. Research often shows that positive customer experiences trump price, and satisfied customers are more likely to maintain a long-term relationship with a company, and recommend it to family and friends. As a result, customer-centric businesses benefit from higher rates of retention and acquisition.

So how do you transform your company culture? While it may take time to build buy-in and change processes across an entire business, the most successful initiatives start at the top. With executive sponsorship to drive customer-centric changes, employees can better understand the big picture impact of delivering great customer experiences. Then, like any effective change management effort, the business can focus on a variety of strategic approaches that support employees toward adopting more customer-focused behaviors and processes.

5 strategies for motivating employees to be customer-centric



Communications are crucial to building buy in for initiatives focused on transforming your company culture. Employees need to understand what’s happening, what’s expected of them, and how they can play an important role in driving measurable success. Engage team members from across the organization (whether they’re in sales and customer service, or IT and operations) with communications across multiple channels that highlight ways to put the customer first. Team brainstorm sessions or videos on your company intranet can be effective in reaching team members. Think about the work environment as well – eye-catching posters with customer-focused themes can help promote an ambient awareness that motivates employees.



Forrester® Research recently reported that in many companies “even though parts of their organizations wanted to be customer-centric, employees lacked a shared understanding of the intended experience they were supposed to deliver.”

Market Overview: Where To Get Help With Culture Transformation” August 11, 2014 Forrester Research, Inc.

Make it easy for employees to learn how to deliver exceptional experiences through a variety of everyday moments and “moments that matter” with customers. Team-building events, workshops, and communication tools are great ways to help employees understand what a customer-centric experience really looks like and how it can strengthen relationships and build brand loyalty.



Incentives such as raises, promotions, and bonuses can motivate team members to go the extra mile for customers. However, rewards don’t have to be monetary to be effective. Celebrations and awards can recognize employees who deliver outstanding customer experiences. Rewarding customer-centric behaviors can be a powerful way to “move the needle” especially for businesses that are very process-oriented in which employees may be used to focusing on functional responsibilities, more than the people they’re serving. Yet by shifting focus to the customer, employees may see they can have a real impact on satisfaction, retention, and profitability, which reward the company as a whole.


Rituals and routines

Rituals and routines also help reinforce customer focus across an organization. Encourage your teams to share success stories about their engagement with customers, and role-play to gain empathy on how customers experience your company at various touch points. At Ritz-Carlton Hotels, for instance, employees have 15-minute meetings, or “daily lineups,” during which team members share the positive guest experiences they delivered the day before. It’s an effective way to build customer-centric momentum and continuously highlight best practices that other employees can adopt.



As you evolve the customer-centric culture across your company, you’ll gain a clear idea of what an ideal customer-focused employee looks like, so you can hire the right people. When you post job descriptions, clearly convey how and why customer experience is a key focus in your company. Create interview questions and screening tools that help identify candidates with desirable behaviors and traits. For current employees who may prefer non-customer-facing roles, consider shifting their positions to something better suited to their personality and skills. During onboarding, familiarize new employees on what it means to be customer-centric in your organization, and support them with training and communication tools, as noted earlier.

For most companies, your customer experience IS your employees, directly or indirectly —so it’s simply good business sense to invest in building a customer-centric culture. To drive that transformation across an enterprise, well-communicated change efforts can empower your employees to take an active role in growing the business, and encourage a company-wide commitment to a common goal. As a result, your business will most likely increase efficiencies and build stronger, lasting customer relationships, which can translate into greater profitability.

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Free Workshop: Increase Business Value with Predictive Analytics

Join us Thursday, November 13 for an exciting hands-on workshop where you can quickly learn to build predictive models with IBM SPSS Modeler to drive actionable insights from your data.


November 13, 2014

10:00 am – 2:00 pm


IBM Innovation Center

San Francisco, CA

In this free 4-hour workshop on November 13, you’ll get:

  • Experience using the intuitive SPSS software, including expert nodes for experienced analysts and automated modeling feature for novices.
  • Step-by-step guidance for predictive modeling techniques that you can apply to your own data to create immediate value.
  • Insights on how SPSS incorporates structured and unstructured data from many sources so you can focus on analysis instead of prep work.

Workshop Instructors

Beyond the Arc


  • Arik Killion, IBM Technical Specialist – Predictive Analytics
  • Matt Hosman, IBM Business Analytics Specialist
  • Matthew Slovitt, IBM SPSS Specialist

Workshop Agenda


Intro to Predictive Analytics and SPSS Modeler


Hands-on Tutorials




Applied Learning and Case Studies

Don’t miss this great opportunity – you’ll be able to start building a predictive model within the first 30 minutes!

Space is limited, so please register today >

5 Proven ways to optimize your customer experience

In today’s highly competitive markets, consumers demand real value and exceptional experiences in return for brand loyalty. Businesses need to continuously raise the bar on how well they understand the customer and meet their needs. This becomes more challenging as technology and social business are evolving rapidly, which means organizations need to adapt quickly as consumer expectations change.

The following five strategic approaches have proven effective in helping companies understand how to design customer experiences that build brand loyalty and win new business.


Look at the big picture

Before you start making ad-hoc improvements, first make sure you truly understand your customers’ experience with your business as a whole. Customers see one company; they don’t care if you operate in silos, they want a seamless experience from one touch point to the next. Start by “journey mapping” to gain a complete picture of the customer experience across all interactions with your company, as well as their lifecycle of interactions over time.

For example, how smooth was the sales process? What kind of continued support have customers received, if any? Do you know their preferred channels of interaction and are you making that easy for them? Are you tailoring new offers to meet their unique needs? Are customers demonstrating their satisfaction by recommending your brand to others?

Taking a holistic perspective helps you focus on optimizing the entire customer journey, rather than isolated touch points. To gain insight, be sure to look at both structured data (e.g., transactions, surveys) and unstructured data (e.g., call center transcripts, social media) as this can uncover connections between interactions across your company, and help you understand how to create an end-to-end optimal customer experience.


Listen first, then take action

Key to understanding the big picture of your customers’ experience is to listen and learn –before you take action. That way you ensure you’re making changes that really matter to your customers, and prioritize improvements that create the biggest wins first. Voice of the Customer (VOC) analytics are a powerful tool for gaining insight about what works and what doesn’t at each touch point as well as across the entire customer journey. Customer “listening” programs (such as VOC and social media monitoring) can also help you identify unmet needs and opportunities for increasing value, which can drive brand loyalty.

Make sure your VOC efforts align with key business objectives to help ensure that any improvements you make will generate measurable value for your customers and the business. For example, to acquire more profitable customers, you can use predictive analytics to define targeted segments based on purchase and interaction patterns, preferences and feedback, and then deliver highly tailored experiences and offers that are most likely to appeal to those customers.


Think global, act social

When it comes to designing optimal customer experiences, today’s business simply cannot ignore the value of social media. By monitoring social networks, you can learn what your customers really think about your products and your company, which helps you better understand how to deliver experiences that create value and delight.

Similarly, with an effective social engagement strategy, you can influence how consumers feel about your brand. For instance, by providing prompt, personalized responses to customer concerns (on Twitter or Facebook), you can transform negative sentiment into brand loyalty. In fact, improving your risk management is a key way your business can gain valuable ROI from social media, as you can reduce attrition and increase customer satisfaction.


Build a customer-centric ecosystem

Another vital component to delivering an optimal customer experience is to have a company culture that places the customer at the center of everything you do. The customer journey is not simply about meeting needs, it’s about creating feel-good experiences that people want to repeat or recommend. To ensure your employees help make that happen, develop initiatives that build buy-in across your organization and encourage everyone to play a part in optimizing the customer experience –whether it’s best practices in store service, marketing communications, product packaging, technical support, billing, you name it.

Creating a company-wide eco-system focused on the customer helps you increase collaboration across lines of business and build a cohesive understanding of how all the various touch points impact the customer. As a result, the entire collective can work together to deliver a consistently great experience throughout the customer lifecycle.


Define metrics: Lather, rinse repeat

Central to optimizing your customer experience is making sure you’re doing the right things to deliver value to both your customers and the business. That means you’ll want to define metrics early on that align with key business objectives and customer experience goals. Then, after you’ve taken action, measure the impact. For example, did you reduce customer service calls? Increase response rates for cross-sell offers? Boost customer satisfaction rates and increase word of mouth referrals in social media?

Once you’ve got answers, keep refining the customer experience to meet evolving needs, and keep measuring the impact of your changes. Don’t just focus on measuring volume; be sure to track the impact you’re having on how customers feel about your brand, and look for clues on how to make the right offers at the right time.

By taking a holistic perspective on the customer journey, and nurturing a customer-centric culture, your organization will be well-equipped to deliver the experiences and value that keep customers coming back, and reduce the cost of acquiring new business.