Forget building a customer hub. Instead, consider a “customer nervous system”.


Share on LinkedIn

As I write this post, I just completed a limited review of the primary Voice of the Customer platform companies, looking for their specific positioning relative to multichannel VoC. While I’d never claim that my search was exhaustive, I’d strongly suggest it was inclusive of most of the top players and some of the secondaries. What I found surprised me and I think shows a clear opportunity gap in the VoC platform space that needs consideration and hopefully, innovation.

Most of the companies I reviewed have recently upgraded their platforms and related website collateral to reflect the notion of multichannel VoC. For those uncertain about what I mean by multichannel VoC, consider how many ways a custmomer has to communicate either with, or about a company. We can certainly write emails. Surely posting on social media websites has become the norm. Calling the company remains available to us. Even postal letter writing. Of course these same companies also send us invitations to complete surveys as well, either regarding recent transactions or our more general views about the company and its services.

Initially, the challenge brought about by so many choices was how to best integrate feedback from each channel into a more complete, 360-degree view of a customer’s feedback. This process created some large technological challenges relative to data integration, and specifically identifying specific customers across multiple channels, each with its own underlying data model and potentially, unique customer identification.

Companies in the VoC platform space have been hard at work to create a “customer hub”, strategically integrating the feedback and providing cross-channel reporting and analytics. For some the vision has been well realized and for others it appears to be a harder to hit bogie they’re still working toward. The challenge of meaningful integration is further hampered because for some, the availability of additional communication channels is either via external syndicated data feeds such as social media firehose feeds or via 3rd party solutions which have been acquired and begun to be integrated into the company’s “stack”. This integration is extremely powerful and critical to truly empowering companies to be active listeners to their customer conversations.

In thinking about what I learned by reviewing those company websites was that too many of those companies appear to have stopped at integration of the inbound data with limited cross-channel reporting. I’d like to assert this may be insufficient going forward and that the most leading edge companies will demand further integration with intelligent workflow, routing, and messaging solutions allowing companies to not simply accumulate and report on customer comments and feedback but to bring a level of enterprise-class intelligence to how the incoming data is analyzed, summarized and routed back out of the hub to key business stakeholders in near-realtime, allowing them to take immediate action and provide excellent service recovery.

Now, this in and outbound handling of customer conversation data and related analytics may already be implicit in the solutions, but the marketing messaging was not making that obvious on any of the sites reviewed. The marketing information was entirely focused on integrated collection, not realtime handling, and I think the platforms need to support that level of service recovery and the collateral needs to make it obvious to even the least informed reader.

The inherent problem in my mind with the hub metaphor is that the solution becomes the “Roach Motel” for customer feedback — you remember, where they ‘check-in, but never check-out.’ The connotation here is that the data comes into the system from each channel and is integrated and held in the system, awaiting a user to generate a report or some amount of data extract. It’s very similar to ten-year old thinking about data warehouses and the notion of the permanent data store. In this case, however, a strong customer experience demands swift and intelligent service recovery and meaningful integration with crucial complimentary capabilities to inform and alert those that need to know, when they need it will be critical.

I want to propose an idea for consideration — rather than promote a hub metaphor, let’s reconsider the approach and instead, substitute a ‘customer nervous system’. If we thinik about our own body’s central nervous system, it’s the part of us that receives all sorts of messages from a variety of internal and external stimuli and immediately sends messages to other parts of our body in response. Think of the example of putting our finger on something hot. Our Central Nervous System detects the heat, alerts our brain about the potential for injury and our brain sends messages to our hand to pull back and immediately take it off the heat source. In many ways, I envision a future where we will handle our customer conversations similarly.

Messages will come into the system from one or more channel and get integrated into a holistic reflection of the customer and his situation. This may also involve an automated review of non-VoC data sources such as our CRM system or other enterprise data system needed to compliment the Voice of the Customer. There will be a fully automated analysis of the situation with key messaging generated and dispatched by the system to those that need to be informed with very concise and low latency messaging allowing them to take action and satisfy a customer who may be in distress.

It’s this new metaphor of the central nervous system that in my mind makes the one-way, in-only doorways of the customer hub into large, two-way streets carrying critical information in and out of the platform.

The business case for strong service recovery is obvious. Strativity Group research has shown us that a company’s ability to immediately provide strong service recovery is a top, crucial driver of long term customer loyalty and satisfaction. Indeed doing so ranks as high or higher than the product sold or the price paid in many cases. Having the best technology to provide us a complete situational view with intelligent access to critical information when and where needed in support of that vsion will propel the most innovative companies to superior customer experiences, longer term loyalty and greater market dominance.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Mandel
Marc Mandel is a Regional Sales Director at Allegiance, Inc.


  1. Marc, I really like your “nervous system” concept. Totally agree that companies should use all their senses to understand what customers are saying.

    However, I also think a nervous system still needs a “brain” to manage all those inputs and decide what to do.

    That’s a key point I was trying to make in my article last year about building a “voice of customer command center.”


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here