“It’s in the Way that You Use It”


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Many of you may recognize the title of this Eric Clapton song showcased in the 1986 film The Color of Money. The song is a self-reflective piece that Clapton wrote for the album, August.1 As it turns out, the song’s title and first verse also aptly describe one of the characteristics that distinguish companies having very successful VoC programs from all the others.

Let me explain.

It’s not the number of methods or data sources they use that distinguishes organizations having very successful VoC programs from the others.2 Results of the VoC Challenges and Practices Survey recently conducted by MaritzCX reveal that a majority of firms having very successful VoC programs use between 3 and 5 methods to listen and learn about customer experiences, which is no different from other organizations.

Also, it’s not the types of methods and data sources they use that differentiate the very successful companies from other organizations. As Exhibit 1 illustrates, the percentages in companies having very successful VoC programs are not significantly different from those for other firms when it comes to using eight common methods and data sources:


Essentially, the listening and learning practices in organizations having very successful VoC programs are the same as those in other organizations.

There are, however, a couple of rather important exceptions.

As Exhibit 2 illustrates, organizations having very successful VoC programs are more likely to capture and leverage unsolicited customer communications than other firms. Specifically, very successful organizations are significantly more likely to use customer emails and letters and inbound customer calls than other organizations. This finding is consistent with those from a recent Forrester Research study, which indicate that use of unsolicited customer feedback is more common in firms having mature VoC programs than in other organizations.3

Exhibit 2 also shows that organizations having very successful VoC programs are better at using inbound customer comments and complaints to manage relationships with individual customers than other firms.


Thus, while our research shows that VoC practices in all organizations are similar in many ways, capturing and putting unsolicited customer feedback to work is a practice that distinguishes firms having very successful VoC programs from others.

As I pointed out in a previous blog, unsolicited customer feedback is a gift. When customers take the time to share perceptions of their experience with your brand or firm, you need to be prepared to listen to what they have to say, regardless of whether it is what you want or hope to hear. More importantly, it is not enough just to capture such unsolicited feedback. You must respond, especially in situations where there is an opportunity to make brand advocates of customers having positive things to say about their experiences, and/or a chance to make things right with those who have had negative experiences.

The Voice of the Customer – It’s in the way that you use it.

  1. Clapton, E. (2007). Clapton: The Autobiography. New York: Broadway Books; p.232. 
  2. Organizations having “very successful” VoC programs are those in which: (a) the VoC program has met its objectives and fulfilled senior management’s expectations; and (b) measures of both customer satisfaction and retention have improved during the past year. 
  3. Sage, A. (1 May 2013). How to Build Your Voice of the Customer Program. Forrester Research: Cambridge, Massachusetts; p.5. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Randy Brandt
I am responsible for helping Maritz clients develop and/or improve their customer and employee measurement strategies. I serve as an internal consultant to sector leaders and account managers and as an external consultant to clients. I help Maritz integrate research solutions with its other products and services to help clients reach their business goals.


  1. Randy, great post, and I agree completely.

    In a recent survey i found “leaders” (self-identified as better than average business performance) were different from “followers” (everyone else) in a couple of significant ways:

    1. Leaders listened to customers more often and used more sources
    2. Leaders made significantly higher use of unstructured sources, including social media and speech

    But the biggest difference is simply this: a bias to act on the feedback.

  2. Completely agree. This is “skylight” thinking. The more companies can learn from consumers through multiple channels, and the more prepared they are to take remedial action with what the insights from this reservoir, the better the will be able to reduce risk and extend the customer life cycle: http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/blog/at-risk-customers-do-you-have-system-identifying-stabilizing-them.

    One particularly attractive social medium for doing this is private online communities, particularly MROC’s: http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/232329/file-731896486-pdf/Michael_Lowenstein_White_Paper_Final.pdf

  3. Bob and Michael, thanks for the kind remarks. I think that the more managers turn their attention to “putting the voice of the customer to work,” the clearer their investments in customer listening and learning will become.


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