I’ve been toying with an idea recently:  Tell my clients to simply stop doing VoC.

Yes, I realize that sounds kind of controversial.  But as opposed to my usual way of doing things, that’s not why I suggest this.  In fact, I’m only (partly) sort of kidding anyway.

But here’s my reasoning:

Brands sometimes spend inordinate gobs of money and time and resources developing over-the-top tremendously complicated VoC programs.  I’m not just talking about surveys.  I’m talking AI and “sentiment analysis” and social media scraping and all that.  So excited, or desperate, or whatever, are they to discern what their Customers think about their brand, they pour all they’ve got into the function of Customer Insights.

Well, good for them.

But here’s the big question:  What are they doing with those insights?

Far too many of them are simply reporting or declaring what they’re finding.  “Look!  Our NPS is up three points this quarter!”  That’s probably a good thing (who knows, really?), but if that’s all it is, then CX becomes simply a test.  In fact, I’d say that all they put into their program has been a waste if they’re not taking action on those insights they’ve gathered.

There’s a lot of hullaballoo about “the ROI of CX.”  As you know, I don’t even subscribe to that theory because once you’re “doing CX” for the potential monetary return, I think you’ve kind of lost the whole reason of why you should be doing it in the first place.

That said, though, let’s talk about the “investment” you’re making in your VoC program…think of the surveys, the interviews, the analysts, the time and energy you’re expending on all the different manners in which you’re trying to decipher what your Customers think.  All the manhours that go into pestering your Customers or finding outside vendors who’ll promise to deliver tremendous insights on your behalf.  You turn over the results and the details, perhaps obsessively.  That’s a big investment.

If the “return” on that investment is nothing more than the right-most dot on your line graph of the CX KPI, then, well, I’d say you’ve pretty much wasted all that you’ve put into it.  The return on that investment should be the projects that you’ve executed that have improved and upgraded your systems and processes based on those insights.  It should be the improved results as a testament to that work.  VoC is just the very first step in your program of “doing CX.”

Anything less is flushing money down the drain.

Even if you’re doing bare-bones VoC work—use Mailchimp to send out an invite to your Customers inviting them to fill out a (free!) Google form; have an intern from the local Community College come in twice a week to gather the results into a spreadsheet; do a little counting; plot it on a graph; maybe read every third or fourth one—you’re still wasting it, and you’d be better off simply taking a hunch as to how your Customers think you’re doing.  After all, if you’re not using it, what difference would it make if it’s even accurate?

It’s amazing how obsessed people are lately with the “ROI of CX,” and yet not nearly interested enough in doing the work required to actually, well, return anything by, well, doing things as a result of the insights.

I have some friends who work for some of the big-time survey/VoC companies (don’t get upset, friends!) and I’ll tell you what I tell them:  If people aren’t finding the value in the VoC work these or other vendors are doing for them, it’s not the fault of these service providers.  It’s that their clients thought that hiring one of these big-name firms was all there was in what it meant to “do CX” without consideration that it’s only the input step.

Without the follow-on work, there’s really no justification for engaging in the VoC in the first place.