Listening to the Voice of the Customer

It's time to gather customer feedback in one place so you can take action.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3

The Silos Problem

The problem is that such deployments tend to create information silos that are isolated from IT staff and systems. As a result, there's little sharing of insights among groups. VOC programs need to integrate all of the various feedback channels into a single infrastructure, Temkin points out. And that's where IT comes in.

At iRobot, for example, customer feedback used to reside in a variety of silos, including outsourced call centers and a growing number of social media sources, says Maryellen Abreu, director of global technical support at the maker of self-guided vacuum cleaners and other robotic equipment. This meant that managers had trouble using the data to make high-level decisions about subjects like changes to product designs, Abreu says. "We're introducing new products all the time, so it's important to have that immediate, almost-real-time feedback," she adds.

Burlington, Mass.-based iRobot decided to use RightNow CX, a SaaS-based customer experience management system from RightNow Technologies that "gives a 360-degree view of the customer: when they called, emailed, chatted or posted on a forum, and what issues they brought up," Abreu says. It aggregates opinions from various sources so that managers can quickly determine customers' key concerns and respond in a timely fashion.

"Timely" is a relative term, however, when it comes to the social Web. "Because our product is very visual, customers would show us problems on YouTube and at the end say, 'iRobot, what are you going to do with this?' and the post would have 60,000 hits," says Abreu. "We needed to respond faster."

The robot maker now uses RightNow's Cloud Monitor, which mines customer posts for words or phrases with negative connotations, such as all-cap words and "bad language," Abreu says. It then alerts customer support personnel and, if a post starts to go viral, automatically escalates alerts to Abreu's attention.

Most companies are still figuring out the critical components of their VOC programs: what data to look for, what metrics to use and, most important, what action to take, according to Temkin. "Feedback is cheap. Actionable insights are priceless," he says.

IT and business leaders shouldn't become discouraged: Even early-stage VOC programs can get good results, according to Temkin. "Once you get into actually quantifying how customers view you, it starts changing how your people think about the business," he explains. "They start to spot customer issues and put in place processes where they can highlight and start to solve the big problems. And the big payback is customer loyalty."

Liss definitely has some ideas. For example, monitoring blogs will give his employees an early heads-up on buying trends. "If all of a sudden plus-size women are talking about how comfortable a certain fabric is, we can study it for use in our products," he says.

Charming Shoppes' VOC team has already developed a dashboard, including a one-page document that each brand group uses in its monthly business review. This enables groups to share their insights, according Liss. "Right now it's just the highlights -- major feedback that's actionable -- but we'll build from there," he says.

Horwitt, a freelance reporter and former Computerworld senior editor, is based in Waban, Mass. Contact her at

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3
It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon