SOCAP International


  • Building a Voice of the Customer Strategy for Contact Centres

    Posted on: 01/06/2014

    by Rory Florence

    Although progress has been made by South African companies to recognise that the voice of the customer (VoC) and employee (VoE) is critical to its success and sustainability, it is still challenged by feedback silos, technologically impaired processes and a lack of holistic VoC programmes. Customers are left feeling frustrated, either because they have not been asked for any feedback, or when asked feedback was given, with no follow up response.

    All businesses are challenged - in one way or another – with the demands of increasingly knowledgeable customers; customer expectations changing continuously and attracting and retaining talent in a global competitive business environment where multichannel stakeholder communication resonates. With traditional feedback channels evolving, companies are forced to either adapt or stay behind.

    In South Africa, customer feedback efforts suffer from a fundamental flaw. Although businesses have taken measures to listen to their customers, they fall short on acting on that feedback. Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a wasteful activity - a high satisfaction score might make businesses feel good, but at the same time an opportunity is lost to drive constructive business and or product change.

    Multichannel, multi-disciplined – the modern contact centre is a platform of staggering complexity. Characterised by cross-department integration, multi-channel communication support, and underpinned with 21st century IT, several operational, cultural en technical obstacles are evident and needs to be addressed with key focus on cost, resource and time constraints.

    It is therefore not surprising that from a strategic perspective the incorporation of an end-to-end VoC programme with the contact centre is becoming a business necessity.


    Step 1: Laying the foundation – Changing the core focus from product-centered to customer-centered

    Companies use Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs to collect and analyse customer feedback, make customer experience improvements, and track the results of those improvements. The VoC programme team is seldomly responsible for implementing the changes required - they are not the people who own the website, customer care contact centre or product design, for instance. There is a limit to what they can do – which is trying to convince others that the feedback data collected is important and should be listened and acted on.

    To address this, your VoC programme strategy should start with proactive management and leadership. Top management need to focus on the outcomes of feedback and the activities that should take place to address it - actionable insights. It is futile to collate VoC data if no-one believes in it with no cross-silo control and dissemination.

    A product-centered approach is, by default, the conventional choice. Many companies ?nd it challenging to restructure their businesses around the customer, having been organised traditionally around products, price or geographies. In a customer-centered approach, the business' objective is fundamentally about providing value to the customer. Customers perceive value when they get what they want, conveniently, at an acceptable price.

    However, the total value of a customer cannot be determined from a single transaction. The real measure of customer value is discernible over time. Therefore, it is imperative to listen to the customer throughout their buying journey to determine their lifetime value.

    If top management doesn’t comprehend that listening to the customers' needs and wants is the key to lasting success, and if the company is doing "OK" nonetheless, it may be difficult to move forward.

    This is still the biggest fundamental obstacle for successful VoC programmes realisation.


    Step 2: Setting goals and metrics

    A proper VoC programme will require investment whether it is financial, resources or time. In order to capture and maintain the attention of top management, your goals must be tied to corporate financials. Top management does not really care about an "excellent customer satisfaction" rating. Therefor goals must be quantifiable and comply with the SMART principle (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) for example using metrics such as Net Promotor Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSI) scores.

    In addition, businesses should seek financial targets. VoC programmes can generate new revenue, increase the success rate of new product to market, reduce cost of sales, decrease costs of poor processes and increase customer retention, so it's important to find a way to set goals around these areas.

    The VoC strategy must be aligned to supporting the business goals. It must reflect the requirements of the respective stakeholders so that they can clearly see how the program will directly contribute to their unit and equally how they will play their own part in the programme.


    Step 3A: Map the customer journey

    How does your customer really experience your business? What decisions do they make during their purchasing journey? Companies must take some time to really understand how customers experience their business, and put the processes and channels in place to monitor, measure and report on those experiences at the key touch points.

    Not every fragmented touch point is critical to customers – some does not take priority at all – customers are still content without those interactions being great. Every organisation has limited resources; therefore proposed improvements to your customer experience must be prioritised so that the actions you take have impactful results.


    Step 3B: Building the VoC strategy - going back to basics

    All too often, much effort are placed on the technical aspects of implementing a VoC programme across different channels and touch points, but fails to embrace a coherent change plan for front-line staff which enables and empowers them to respond directly to customer feedback. Front-line staff need to be engaged and supported through cohesive training and coaching in order to take ownership of the customer enquiries.

    Technology alone will not fix anything. The old adage 'garbage in = garbage out' still applies - consumers react well to honesty and genuine customer care.

    A VoC programme is not a once a year market insight survey. It needs to capture customer feedback in real-time. Its insights should be challenging and viscous. It must demand that the company changes to incorporate its findings into the management heartbeat of the business.

    While customer feedback can appear to be a scary, unsettling and disruptive influence in your business, it is essential you have a robust strategy to guide your VoC journey. Without one, your programme will stall.


    Step 4: Act, review and enhance

    Acting is the analyses of the data you gathered throughout the listening process and using it in your decision-making process – at this stage, the return on investment should be realised.

    Lost customers can be won back, customers can be kept longer, more referrals can be generated, product improvements can be prioritised correctly and investments can be directed in the right business areas.

    Change in business is hampered with a tendency to over-analyse results and a prolonged discussion of proposed actions. Rather than a green field-approach, implement a priority mechanism to focus on critical areas that have a positive impact on customers - closing the loop with individual customers as well as building a foundation for longer-term profitable opportunities.

    It is imperative that you review your goals and revise them regularly. Examine all aspects of the programme with a cross-functional team of experts, to seek continuous improvements, to re-focus on new issues as they arise and to adjust your priorities along the way.

    Sharing the results widely across your company will increase visibility to what customers are saying.

    Here are a few ideas in order to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to - i.e. meaningful business change:

    • Act quickly: Responding quickly to a customer's concern as it has a significant impact on the probability that the customer will return and buy again.
    • Focus on the overall experience: Do not only seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, user interface, and pricing.
    • Acknowledge customer feedback. Do not forget to thank customers for the feedback given.
    • Loyalty: A loyalty programme is a good way to reward customers for sharing their feedback.
    • Action taken on feedback: Always give feedback to your customers on how, when and what you are doing about feedback received.
    • VoC Program is a project: Creating action logs as part of a project helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
    • Realisation: Share with your customers how their feedback helped the business realise positive results in processes and service offerings.
    • Post-action follow-up feedback: Initiate a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your focused efforts and share their comments.

    Customer feedback is a two-way street - involving your customers in the process improvement journey.


    A Success Story - Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd and Touchwork partnership

    A. Business Requirement

    Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer, South Africa stepped up to the challenge to improve their Voice of the customer strategy. Enabled with top management support, the business set its goals to measure the customer service provided by their consumer care team. Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd SA wanted to ensure that any negative feedback was followed up immediately and that this was used as an opportunity to train team members.

    B. Solution Integration

    Using the Touchwork Voice of the customer solution, Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd was able to send customers that have recently interacted with the consumer contact centre a Text message (SMS), requesting them to give feedback on their experience with their interaction.  Mobile numbers and opt-in permissions were obtained during the call centre interaction. The main reasons Text messaging (SMS) was chosen were:

    • High open rate of Text messaging (SMS) (98% – Frost and Sullivan)
    • High penetration of cell phones in the South African market (>100% – Cellular News)
    • Immediate real time response from customers
    • Easy for the customer to respond

    Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd also addressed customer grievances regarding high call costs when phoning the call centre from a mobile phone by providing the call centre number as well as a Text message (SMS) number on their product packaging.

    C. Results - Benefits realised

    Since the start of the VoC relationship, Touchwork have worked as an integral part of Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer Care centre team – achieving operational excellence across and beyond the customer touch points and striking the appropriate balance between efficiency and effectiveness.

    With the Touchwork VoC Solution integrated, the Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer Care Centre can provide an efficient way to deliver excellent service at reasonable costs - without sacrificing the human touch - and drive future revenue, thus turning customer experience into profits. By responding to customer complaints timeously, consistently and keeping customers involved throughout the process, Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd were able to manage and close the feedback process effectively and consequently increase their competitive advantage.

    With a positive response consistently over 91% and an average response rate over 60%, the method of asking for feedback from customers via text messages (SMS) highlighted that customers wanted to engage even when they had a positive experience.

    "TxtandTell has brought us into the "real time" space with focus and efficiency.   Not sure how we managed before!" - Laura Nel (Head: Corporate Affairs - Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd, South Africa)


    Tough economies, global markets, and on-the-fence loyalties have made it harder than ever to get and keep people committed to your business. But building a comprehensive VoC program isn’t easy. It involves complex challenges, such as collecting customer and employee feedback in real time across multiple channels and tailoring reports for diverse internal audiences. Nothing can erase these challenges completely, but the right strategy can help overcome them.



    Florence_Rory_headshotRory Florence as COO of Touchwork has been involved in customer service solutions across multiple channels and markets for the last ten years.  Rory started his career as a design engineer and project manager at Plessey in 1990 and has extensive experience in developing innovative solutions for a range of industries. He was instrumental in taking advantage of the opportunities being created by the take up in mobile communications as a co-founder of Touchwork in 2003. He has a passion for trying to ensure a great customer experience.


    About Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd

    Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Limited has been in South Africa since 1930, manufacturing and distributing a full range of consumer and over-the-counter products from their factories in East London and Cape Town. Their Head Office is based in Cape Town.

    The fundamental objective of Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd is to provide scientifically sound, high quality products and services to help heal, cure disease and improve the quality of life. This is a goal that began with the Company’s founding in 1886.

    About Touchwork

    Touchwork is a global leader in Mobile Actionable Intelligence solutions and value-added services that help organisations worldwide capture, analyse, and act on information in real-time - anytime, anywhere. Touchwork's enterprise solution puts the right information in the right hands at the right time. In doing so, organisations can achieve first class physical asset performance, enhance products, customer experience, processes, and workforce performance; reduce costs and liability; and generate revenue and gain a competitive advantage.

  • A "Seat at the Table" for Insights; No Reservations Required

    Posted on: 12/16/2013

    by Denise R. Venneri

    Sitting at the "Kid's Table" was always fun growing up, but I often looked out beyond the kitchen at the adults sitting in the dining room knowing that eventually I would earn a seat at that table.

    Throughout my experience leading the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team for a CPG company, I've often felt similarly — knowing our team was valued, but always looking to consistently earn a "seat at the table". Eventually, that "seat at the table" was earned, but it required careful strategic planning, creative process re-engineering and most importantly — the sheer tenacity and persistence of the team.

    Looking ahead, the Insights function of the Contact Center of the Future will have a permanent "seat at the proverbial table" sitting right next to other consumer research type functions such as Market Research, Digital Analysis and Sensory & Product Guidance. Ideas to bring this vision into fruition in the future might include the following:

    • Metrics Matter:  The Quality/Supply Chain and Marketing organizations from top to bottom will have relevant annual Consumer Affairs' metrics to be achieved so all are vested in the same end goal (i.e. reduction of consumer negative sentiment by x%; improvement of CSAT or Net Promoter Scores by x %).  These will be presented in easy to understand dashboard type reporting to easily continuously track and course correct as needed.
    • Holistic Integration:  Consumer Affairs Insights Team will lead the conversation to integrate data points across a variety of sources — from traditional call center and social media space, to in-market metrics such as sales/consumption, trial and repeat metrics and pre-launch research insights.  No longer will Consumer Affairs' data be viewed in a silo, but rather as piece of the entire puzzle to understand consumer reaction across the organization.
    • Higher Analytical Tools: Higher analytical tools will be employed by the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team to increase the speed, breadth and depth of consumer insights provided. These could run the gamut from macro development and advanced Excel add-on statistical tools to higher end, complex systems that integrate all channels into a single dashboard at the touch of a button.
    • Qualitative Methodology Toolkit: Various qualitative methods will be piloted and included as part of the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team "tool box".  These include developing brief "Consumer Surveys" across all channels (i.e. phone, email, social media and chat) both in-bound and outbound including both closed end and open ended probing. Seasoned customer service reps will be tapped to channel the voice of the consumer via "Rep Focus Groups" to provide early reads on prototypes and concepts in the early development phase. Targeted local consumers who contacted the company across multi-channels will be invited to participate in "Consumer Focus Groups" either in person, virtually or via on-line methods to provide consumer reaction on specific topics/issues.
    • Career Pathing & Cross Training:  Consumer Affairs Insights Team will be considered a "rotational opportunity" for high performance employees looking to gain more direct brand/consumer experience such as those in plant/manufacturing roles or scientific/laboratory type roles.  Additionally, Consumer Affairs' Insights Team career pathing would include opportunities in other consumer research functions within the organization to develop breadth and depth of consumer behavior knowledge.

    The future is bright for the Consumer Affairs' Insights role, so grab a "seat at the table" and enjoy making a difference to your company AND your consumers.



    Denise Venneri has 15 years of customer relationship experience with a focus on creating the analytics strategic plan to provide actionable consumer insights to drive business results. Most recently she was Manager, Analysis & Services at Campbell Soup Company leading a team of analysts. Her team recently won recognition from both Marketing partners as well as Consumer Affairs' leadership for the creation and rollout of several initiatives.  Always forward looking, Denise is poised to contribute her vision to that next opportunity.  Denise has been active in SOCAP at both the national & local levels and currently participates on SOCAP's CPG Planning Community.  She lives in Philadelphia and can be reached at

  • Customer Analytics: Driving the Next Wave of Customer Engagement

    Posted on: 12/13/2013

    by Lauren Ziskie

    The customer care industry has a huge opportunity to capitalize on Big Data by applying analytics to customer interaction data in order to gather customer insights. These insights will allow service professionals to deliver a personalized experience at the time of engagement and ultimately build loyalty and grow brand evangelists.

    Decoding the Voice of the Customer

    The biggest mistake an organization will make is choosing to collect and store enormous amounts of data from customer interactions, and fail to do nothing with it. That data is a company's competitive advantage if leveraged correctly. New ideas, product enhancements, quality or warranty issues, operational efficiencies, sales and marketing insights, and legal risks are all outcomes that can be uncovered and used to develop strategic business plans. The reasons companies don't tap into their goldmine is that the massive amounts of data tends to be overwhelming to filter; usually stored in multiple places; rarely integrated; hard to get at for security purposes; and require a lot of IT time and resources to access it which all tend to be very costly. Despite all of these challenges, it remains critical that consumer affairs professionals do their best to use this data to personalize the conversations.

    Let's take a look at examples of how service professionals can apply and use these tools for each channel they service.

    • Anticipatory Customer Service

    Micah Solomon, the author of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service describes the concept of anticipatory customer service where "companies predict customer needs and proactively address them". The customer care industry has officially entered an era where customer service can no longer be viewed as reactionary, meaning if the customer has a problem they call us. Instead, service professionals have to start being more proactive with their engagements by identifying a customer's need before they even realize they have one. Anticipating a customer's needs gives customer service an opportunity to provide a WOW experience by fixing the problem before it happens. This is where predictive analytics technology plays a big role. By analyzing historical customer interaction data, predictive models can be used to help uncover specific customer trends and proactively queue up the next engagement. For example, let's say there is a specific loyal customer who calls in every Thursday at 2:30pm to place his same order of five widgets. Wouldn't it be a WOW moment for that customer if instead customer service called him on Thursday at 2:20pm and ask if he wanted to place his usual order of five widgets? This type of proactive service would deepen relationships because customers would feel like brands really know and care about their business. No longer does customer service need to be reactionary. Reactionary service is not going to hold today's less loyal, ready to jump consumer.

    •  Personality-based Routing

    Most consumer affairs professionals have implemented skills-based routing, where service teams will route calls according to agent skill level such as language, license, training experience, etc. Our industry has now evolved to go beyond skills. There's a new way to route callers based on customer-agent personality matching. The philosophy behind the new technology is in life there are some people that you will instantly connect with when introduced for the first time, and then there are others that you want to run the other way. The goal of an engagement center is to match the right agent to the right customer, so the chances of having a WOW experience significantly increase. The definition of "right" is determined by communication styles, personality mapping, and behavioral characteristics.

    Leading companies are building predictive models to analyze their historical conversions to identify customer personalities. Then, with the help of routing technology, service centers are able to route each caller to the best suited advocate every time they call in. The end result is an increase in customer loyalty, rapport, evangelism, and most importantly lower customer attrition.

    •  Silence & Emotion Detection

    When it comes to monitoring the quality of phone calls, service professionals can leverage speech analytics technology to detect silence, emotion and even fraud. When there is a long period of silence on a phone call, many times that is a red flag for a system or process failure. For example, maybe the representative's computer is taking a long time to load or maybe the representative wasn't trained well enough on the correct process. Either way, by leveraging speech analytics technology you can detect these periods of silence and discover whether they are happening on every call or just a few. Next, you can leverage speech analytics to detect high emotion in a customer's voice. Most of the time, a customer will start off a conversation with customer care in a low, monotone voice. If bad service or policies are being communicated, then the level of voice will become amplified and the speech analytics technology will detect the loud tone and alert a supervisor. Lastly, many institutions are forced to verify the consumer before providing service. Speech analytics technology will tell you if that consumer is who they say they are, by matching their voice to the record on file.

    Consumers are starting to expect a level of personalization at every step of their customer experience journey. As Generation Y and the Millennials continue to grow up with options available at their fingertips, loyalty is going to become a lot a harder to maintain. This proves to customer care professionals, that customer service should no longer be viewed as cost, but instead as an asset. Customers are the lifeline of business, and organization need to invest in that asset. Provide customers with an amazing, off-the-charts, WOW customer experience and you will earn their loyalty and more important, their brand evangelism.


    Ziskie_Lauren_headshotWritten by Lauren Ziskie, Customer Engagement Officer at Dialogue Marketing. Founded in 1977, Dialogue is focused on customer engagement services that create remarkable experiences between brands and consumers. By combining proprietary technology with a passionate, innovative culture, Dialogue enhances each stage of the customer life-cycle. The company has been recognized by Inc. Magazine, Crain's Detroit and Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine as one of America's fastest growing private companies.  To learn more or ask a question, feel free to follow her on Twitter (@LaurenZiskie), call 800.523.5867, or visit


  • A Closer Look Inside: A Review and Reminder of What Matters

    Posted on: 12/11/2013

    by James Cammareri

    In addition to development in the practical elements of the role that will be specific to the organization, the following soft skills have been the most prevalent in the organization for which I've worked when looking to develop the competencies of their team leaders:

    Leadership skills - the ability to delegate, affirm and adjust performance, providing direction, leading courageously, influencing others, fostering teamwork, motivating others, working with human resource professionals to manage any agent sickness absence and persistent poor performance.  Be able to motivate and inspire agents through an effective and consistent leadership style and make communications with the team effective for cascading information and generating ideas.

    Organizational Knowledge - time and self-management, planning and organization, managing conflict, personal effectiveness, setting and meeting goals, targets and timescales, know the business, use financial data, and use technical and functional expertise.

    Communication Skills  - speaking effectively, foster open communication, listen to others, deliver presentations, prepare written communications running effective meetings, networking, working across teams and departments, connection with the wider organizations and the vision, mission and purpose and the role of the contact center in the achievement of deliverables.

    In all cases, any leadership development needs to be delivered in an interactive way, utilizing principles of accelerated learning. In order for any learning to be effectively transferred to the job it should be followed-up with effective coaching, support and opportunities to practice.  In the case of the team leader, this is usually best done by the contact center manager/director, training professionals and with good peer group support.



    James Cammareri is Vice President of Business Development at Knoah Solutions, responsible for new client acquisition, supporting client program implementations and client relationship management in the BPO Industry.

    James has 24 years of experience within the call center industry holding positions at SPI Global as VP of Business Development, and at Alorica (formerly PRC) as a Client Services Director.  His career has noted emphasis in wireless, IT and telecommunications industries. 

    James and his team have built strong client relationships with a philosophy of mutual business success through focus on Employee Retention, Client Satisfaction, and Economic Success.

  • NY Metro and Philadelphia Chapters Unite for Interactive Event Discussing Social Media and Customer Care

    Posted on: 11/13/2013

    More than 80 members from the New York Metro and Philadelphia SOCAP chapters enjoyed lunch, conversation, and lively discussion about Social Media at the inaugural co-sponsored event held in Princeton NJ on September 13, 2013. Frank Eliason, Director of Social Strategies at Citi gave an inspiring presentation about his experience building social networking strategies to enhance the customer experience - and what has worked (and not) for him during his tenure with Comcast and Citi. Following the presentation, social strategy leaders Augie Ray, a popular speaker and author, Valeria Maltoni and Marc Monseau, co-founder of the Mint Collective, led a panel discussion. Each panelist, brought a unique point of view to the table and engaged the audience with real-world stories, applications of social media, and questions for one another.

    Key Takeways from this event include:

    • Talking at your customer about yourself won't work.
    • Listen to the "chatter" about your company to do a better job of keeping clients happy and positive.

    A lively back and forth between the panel and the audience ran the gamut from members challenging some of the points made and creating a healthy dialogue for the group about real-world applications of social media strategy to solve business communication problems.  Overall, the co-sponsorship of the two chapters led to many new business connections, a healthy attendance, interesting program and very successful afternoon. It's very likely that we can look forward to more the New York Metro and Philadelphia SOCAP chapters combined!