Evolving VoC Programs: Expert Insights on Activating the Customer’s Authentic Voice

Drawing on expertise honed leading CX strategy, Debbie Braney examines common VoC pitfalls that restrict data integrity and actionability, while advising how technologies like AI and silent majority activation enable continuous optimization.

During a webinar discussion hosted by Jim Marous of The Financial Brand, Debbie Braney, SVP of global marketing at Glassbox, recently shared her seasoned perspective on optimizing voice of customer (VOC) programs.

Leveraging expertise honed previously leading customer experience strategy for Hitachi Vantara, Braney provided an invaluable roadmap for extracting more value from VoC investments in the digital age.

She examined inherent limitations of many VoC approaches that restrict strategic impact. Braney also explored emerging best practices and technologies to help banks evolve VoC for greater actionability and continuous optimization. Her insights illuminate a path to making VoC a systematic engine fueled by the authentic voice of the customer.

Q: Could you start by introducing yourself and Glassbox?

Debbie Braney: I currently serve as SVP of Global Marketing at Glassbox. In past roles, including leading digital CX at Hitachi Vantara, I owned VoC program development. So I’m quite familiar with the tremendous potential of VOC, as well as challenges CX teams face trying to activate insights.

One reason I’m passionate about this topic is because customer perceptions of digital banking have improved tremendously. Over 80% of U.S. consumers rate their bank’s digital experiences as excellent or very good. But there’s still ample room for progress.

Glassbox is a platform that allows banks to exponentially increase understanding of digital experiences. We capture every detail across customer journeys, analyzing massively detailed data to help banks prioritize insights.

The Maturing Role of VOC

Q: How have VoC programs evolved over the past 5 years?

Braney: The interactions being measured have changed dramatically. VoC used to focus on feedback after branch or call center interactions. Those tight couplings between feedback and specific experiences have been disrupted as digital becomes dominant.

Most companies now ask for feedback through channels detached from actual digital experiences. This fragmentation makes connecting insights to optimize journeys challenging.

The good news is reconnecting feedback to experiences is increasingly achievable, which is key to making VoC insights actionable. New technologies also allow analyzing feedback at a far greater scale, which is pivotal to overcoming the limitations of small sample sizes.

“The good news is reconnecting feedback to experiences is increasingly achievable, which is key to making VoC insights actionable. New technologies also allow analyzing feedback at a far greater scale, which is pivotal to overcoming the limitations of small sample sizes.”

Q: What does it look like when VoC is working well?

Braney: First, feedback is collected at multiple points through the customer lifecycle, especially during emotionally impactful moments. Second, insights are integrated across channels to connect the dots on how experiences impact loyalty holistically.

Third, feedback is correlated between channels at both the individual and aggregate levels to inform continuous improvements. Getting an integrated, correlated view of the full journey is the pinnacle.

Overcoming Insights Limitations

Q: Where do VoC programs commonly fall short today?

Braney: The limitations stem from current tools, not any one company’s approach. The sheer volume of feedback is restricted. Typically, only 4-18% of customers respond to surveys. And of that small subset, 58% only respond when they’re having an exceptionally good — or bad — experience.

So, by default, the results are not representative of most experiences. This matters because 88% of consumers say brand perceptions hinge on how companies respond to feedback.

Beyond limited samples, much of the feedback lacks clear actionability. Comments like “this mobile app is the worst” express emotion but don’t expose root causes. This makes it hard to diagnose why customers feel that way or to pinpoint experience improvements that will have the biggest impact.

While no program is perfect, today’s VoC insights remain very limited in scope and actionability.

Q: What risks result from these inherent VoC limitations?

Braney: Leadership makes strategic decisions based on incomplete data that misrepresents true customer sentiment. Also, resources get wasted trying to connect the limited feedback to actual customer experiences.

And finally, CX KPIs like NPS (net promoter score) reflect inaccurate data. Ultimately, it hinders data-driven decision-making, continuous optimization, and identifying quick wins. So despite investments, VOC’s business impact is constrained by limitations of underlying data.

Q: How do these dynamics compromise the strategic value of VoC efforts?

Braney: The value of VoC hinges on illuminating specific experiences requiring improvement. But most data is either ratings, which lack detail, or vague qualitative feedback like how we said “this app is terrible.” So root causes driving sentiment remain unclear. This impedes diagnosing where and how to enhance experiences systematically. Sentiment alone holds little tangible value without exposing precise touchpoints failing customers.

“Resources get wasted trying to connect the limited feedback to actual customer experiences.”
— Debbie Braney, Glassbox

Q: You keep emphasizing the need for actionability. Why is this so central to VoC effectiveness?

Braney: Because sentiment without context provides limited value. VoC must spotlight actual moments of struggle, not just express emotion. This requires correlating feedback directly to real journeys so you can pinpoint which interactions frustrate customers.

Exposing where customers struggle facilitates rapidly remediating pain points. Actionability is indispensable for VoC to guide enhancements in a targeted, data-driven way.

Q: Please expand on how limited samples restrict VoC programs’ strategic value.

Braney: Participation rates are extremely low, often less than 10%. Results reflect fringe subsets rather than mainstream needs. Leadership believes skewed data represents overall sentiment. But this obscures a larger reality. Magnifying silent majorities having comparable journeys is key to accurately gauging collective perspective.

Failing to do this promotes misguided optimization, targeting vocal outliers over the majority needs. The silent many’s enhanced feedback provides the holistic pulse required to improve experiences broadly.

Read more about banking technology:

Activating the Silent Majority

Q: How does your new Voice of the Silent solution address the pervasive sample size problem?

Braney: We use AI to essentially fill gaps in limited datasets by identifying large groups of silent customers that have had comparable experiences to vocal feedback subsets. One company thought its NPS was 91 based on minimal survey responses.

However, by analyzing all similar usage sessions, even for non-respondents, our solution revealed the actual NPS was only 23. This exponential expansion provides a far more accurate picture of overall sentiment.

Q: What potential does AI introduce to enhance VoC programs as they continue evolving?

Braney: AI enables analyzing massive sets of unstructured written and voice data to determine sentiment at scale. This sentiment can be mapped to business KPIs with a precision impossible manually. Most importantly, AI allows correlating feedback to specific customer experiences to finally connect the dots on true drivers.

AI’s innate pattern recognition will facilitate extraordinarily rapid insights from gigantic datasets far beyond human capacity. These expanding capabilities pave the path to autonomous VoC systems capable of continuously optimizing experiences. However, rigorous data governance remains an indispensable prerequisite to deploying AI responsibly.

Q: Could you provide more specifics on how AI enriches VoC insights and utility?

Braney: The most game-changing application is correlating feedback directly to actual customer experiences. This facilitates instantly pinpointing precise drivers behind any expressed sentiment. With AI rapidly matching amplified feedback samples to real usage sessions, closed-loop analysis enables continuously improving experiences for maximum customer benefit.

AI propels VOC’s evolution from sporadic, rearward-looking surveys to perpetual, self-tuning optimization engines. Ingesting unstructured data and connecting it to journeys is where AI makes the biggest impact. Combining expanded feedback with experience correlations will unlock VOC’s ultimate potential as an optimization tool.

The Road to Continuous Optimization

Q: Where does this all lead in the future? What is your ultimate vision for VoC programs?

Braney: The holy grail is closed-loop systems that perpetually optimize experiences in real-time by ingesting feedback, analyzing it with AI to surface actionable insights, prompting initiatives, and monitoring impact … on and on. With each iteration, the system self-tunes based on the latest customer data.

While nascent today, fast-advancing AI and analytics capabilities make this 24/7 autonomous CX optimization increasingly achievable for those laying proper data management foundations. Continuously eliminating pain points based on an aggregated customer voice represents the future.

Q: What advice would you offer financial institutions seeking to enhance their VoC efforts?

Braney: First, focus on action, not historical metrics. Second, integrate insights across channels for a unified view. Third, apply AI to unstructured data for a complete picture. Fourth, counteract vocal minorities’ distortions with silent majorities’ enhanced feedback. And fifth, directly connect feedback to journeys to make it systematically actionable.

Following this blueprint will allow VoC to finally fulfill its ultimate promise as an autonomous, intelligent optimization engine — one that continually refines experiences based on the aggregated voice of the customer.

For a longer version of this conversation, listen to “Don’t Bank on VoC: How to Activate the Voice of the Silent”, an episode of the Banking Transformed podcast with Jim Marous, available here or wherever you get your podcasts. This Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Justin Estes is an award-winning writer, strategist, and financial marketing expert with expertise in banking, investments, and fintech. His clients include the NYSE, Franklin Templeton, Credit Karma, Citi and, UBS, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Barrons and ThinkAdvisor as well as The Financial Brand.

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