Voice of the customer is just scratching the surface

With 95% of human decisions happening unconsciously (Professor Gerald Zaltman, Harvard Business School), can surveys ever be relied upon to provide insights into customer behaviour? And why are organisations spending £millions on the voice of the customer (VOC) programmes and so very little trying to uncover the 95% of unconscious behaviour? It seems to me we have got things upside down.

Voice of the customer

Voice of the customer

I don’t want to entirely disregard your voice of the customer programme because they do serve value in understanding and dealing with customer complaints. When you annoy the pants off your customers, they will tell you – whether you choose to listen and act is entirely up to you. There is value in understanding conscious customer feedback and intention but given that this represents just 5% of human behaviour then you are certainly not discovering the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) about your customers.

Going beyond voice of the customer

Let’s start with the basic principle that broadly our unconscious is in control – this BBC Horizon video puts this nicely in perspective. This means that we don’t consciously know why we do many things and when asked about the whats and whys about our behaviour, we often make things up – not intentionally, but we do. From this perspective asking customers about their behaviour becomes a lot less valuable than you might think. You may think that you are listening to your customers and being customer-centric, but the reality is you’re just scratching the surface.

If you really want to be customer-centric, you need to go beyond VOC to focus more on customer behaviour, what customers do and how they feel rather than just what they say. If you love an acronym then you could call this BOC (behaviour of customer) but frankly I don’t like acronyms. Using a mix of big data and deep data you can understand what customers do, how they respond and how they feel. Advanced analytics can uncover detailed customer journeys online, voice analysis can understand call behaviour,  facial coding can monitor the unconscious facial response of customers, advanced CCTV can track (anonymously) your customers as they walk around your store, biometric devices can monitor your customers’ physiological response to the experience, ethnography can observe behaviour. The tools exist to discover the 95% of unconscious behaviour it is just a case of using them.

Reduce risk

Why then do so many organisations spend £millions on voice of the customer and surveys? Behavioural science is at work here with the principal of Social Proof (Cialdini 1984). As humans we are naturally (and unconsciously) much more likely to do things that other people do. When so many others are doing surveys and VOC programmes, more people are likely to do the same. Surveys and traditional research have been around for a long time and so they are seen as a safe place. I mean who wants to be radical and do something different from the herd (now you probably say you do but this is again where your unconscious is in charge because for most of us we do just follow the herd most of the time). Most organisations are very risk averse about new approaches (which is another blog entirely) but the real risk is relying on what customers say and using this insight to drive your decisions!

Reduce your risk, increase your customer understanding and go beyond the voice of the customer.

If you would like to learn more about how CX Lab can help uncover your customers’ behaviour and use this to drive commercial improvements then please get in contact