VOC management is the cornerstone of an effective customer experience (CX) program. By listening to and analyzing customer feedback, you can develop a real understanding of your customers. When you act on that understanding, you can drive significant improvements to CX.

Our research suggests that there’s a disparity in approaches to managing VOC data. While some utilities rigorously collect, analyze, act on, and close the loop with these insights, others conduct surveys with no follow-up.

To understand VOC maturity within utilities, we analyzed data from the 2018 E Source Customer Experience Survey. These data include responses from more than 20 utilities across the US and Canada, providing insights on the maturity of VOC management throughout the utility sector.

Disciplines and activities of VOC management

We asked utilities about 44 VOC management activities in the 2018 Customer Experience Survey. These activities captured the majority of possible tactics that lead to effective VOC management. We’ve categorized these activities into four disciplines of a VOC program:

  • Listen. This discipline includes all activities that gather the voice of the customer, from solicited (surveys, focus groups, ethnographic research) to unsolicited (complaints, social media, call recordings), and from structured (closed-ended survey questions) to unstructured (chat transcripts).
  • Analyze. This discipline includes all activities that analyze the voice of the customer, turning most VOC data into insights that you can apply to manage the customer experience.
  • Act. This discipline includes all activities that use VOC insights to manage CX or to embed a customer-centric focus in the organization.
  • Close the loop. This discipline includes all activities that make sure the customer is responded to and that the organization is aware of and engaged with VOC information.

Since we fielded the 2018 survey, we added a fifth discipline to our VOC model—share. Because it wasn’t part of our 2018 research, we included all activities associated with sharing VOC insights in the fourth discipline—close the loop.

VOC maturity

Turning survey data into a VOC maturity assessment

To transform utilities’ survey responses into an assessment of VOC maturity, we manipulated the data in a few ways. First, we coded all the responses with our judgment of best practice (for example, sharing VOC results with all employees at least quarterly, including a customer’s emotional response in transactional surveys, or measuring and analyzing customer satisfaction). For each instance of a best practice, we awarded one point to the utility, the activity, or the discipline. With those points, we then ranked the 22 responding utilities in terms of VOC maturity—with the assumption that maturity is defined as doing more things. We ranked each activity in relation to its representation in the data, and we also ranked each discipline based on the percentage of points received.

We determined that sharing VOC results with employees every quarter is a best practice.

Several assumptions guided this assessment of VOC maturity. For example, we determined that sharing VOC results with employees every quarter is a best practice; therefore, we also consider monthly and weekly as good practices because they’re more frequent. But we don’t consider annually as good because it’s not frequent enough. We didn’t code ad hoc as good either because it indicates an ill-defined, unstructured, or immature practice.

If a metric we noted as best practice was included in corporate-level performance goals, we also included goals at the department, team, and individual levels among the point-worthy, even if it didn’t make sense for a given metric to be included in an individual’s goals.

Looking at VOC maturity by utility

We saw a wide distribution of points among the 22 utility respondents (figure 1). Of a possible 44 points—each utility could earn 1 point per activity, with a total of 44 activities—the top utility in VOC maturity earned 32 and the bottom utility earned 3.

Figure 1: Ranking utilities according to VOC maturity

The most-mature utility conducted almost three-quarters of the activities we associate with VOC maturity—10 times more than the least-mature utility.
Bar chart showing data from the 2018 E Source Customer Experience Survey. It shows where the 22 utility respondents fall on the VOC maturity scale, out of 44. The highest utility had 32 points and the lowest had 3 points. For more information, call E Source at 1-800-376-8723

Looking at VOC maturity by discipline

Utilities are spending more effort and resources on gathering VOC data than on analyzing it or acting on it (figure 2). Utilities have an opportunity to improve VOC management by analyzing the data gathered and using it as an input to CX management.

Figure 2: Listening is widespread, while other VOC disciplines are relatively uncommon

Most utilities are listening to customers, but far fewer are analyzing, acting on, or closing the loop on VOC data.
Bar chart showing data from the 2018 E Source Customer Experience Survey. It shows the percentage of utilities that that do activities in each discipline. 69% fall in the Listen discipline, 31% in analyze, 32% in act, and 26% in close the loop.

Looking at VOC maturity by activity

Analyzing VOC maturity by the 44 activities included in our survey allows us to understand how common various VOC management practices are among utilities. Nine of the 10 most-common activities come from the listen discipline (figure 3). However, 1 of the top 10 activities comes from the act discipline—including customer satisfaction (CSAT) in performance goals, at least at the corporate level.

Figure 3: Most utilities monitor social media and call recordings for VOC

Including CSAT in corporate goals has become as common as measuring CSAT in transactional surveys or monitoring complaints as a VOC listening post.
DisciplineActivityUtilities that selected each activity (out of 22 utilities)
Base: n = 22 utilities for S3_6, S3_6a, S3_8, S4_2; n = 20 utilities for S3_7; base varies for S4_3. Question S3_6: How does your organization capture feedback from its customers on their perceptions of and satisfaction with the company? S3_6a: What other listening posts do you monitor for customer feedback? S3_7: What does your organization measure with its transactional surveys? S3_8: How often does your organization close the feedback loop after gathering customer feedback? S4_2: Which of the following metrics does your organization measure and analyze? S4_3: At what levels within your organization are each of the following metrics incorporated into performance goals? © E Source (2018 Customer Experience Survey)
ListenMonitor social media21
Monitor calls and call recordings21
Relationship surveys20
Transactional surveys19
Monitor complaints18
Transactional survey measures satisfaction with transaction18
Transactional survey measures ease of transaction16
Transactional survey measures satisfaction with agent16
Focus groups15
Online customer panels14
Transactional survey measures task completion14
Monitor email and chat transcripts10
Qualitative ethnographic research7
Transactional survey measures emotional response5
AnalyzeMeasure and extensively analyze customer satisfaction15
Measure and extensively analyze employee satisfaction9
Measure and extensively analyze first-call resolution8
Measure and extensively analyze self-service containment5
Measure and extensively analyze Customer Effort Score4
Measure and extensively analyze first-contact resolution4
Measure and extensively analyze Net Promoter Score3
Measure and extensively analyze in-house metric2
Measure and extensively analyze vendor-provided benchmark metric1
ActInclude customer satisfaction in performance goals at least at the corporate level18
Include first-call or first-contact resolution in performance goals at least at the corporate level13
Include employee satisfaction in performance goals at least at the corporate level11
Include self-service containment in performance goals at least at the department level10
Address employees who receive negative feedback at least quarterly9
Recognize employees who receive positive feedback at least quarterly8
Include Net Promoter Score in performance goals at least at the corporate level5
Integrate feedback into organizational strategy at least annually4
Integrate feedback into customer experience initiatives at least annually4
Include Customer Effort Score in performance goals at least at the corporate level4
Integrate feedback into internal processes at least quarterly3
Integrate feedback into product development at least annually3
Integrate feedback into touchpoint improvements at least quarterly3
Include in-house metric in performance goals at least at the corporate level2
Close the loopRespond to customers who provide negative feedback in 48 hours12
Share results with upper management at least quarterly11
Share results with all customers at least quarterly7
Share results with all employees at least quarterly7
Develop plan and share with upper management at least quarterly6
Develop plan and share with all employees at least quarterly5
Respond to customers who provide positive feedback in 48 hours1

The future of VOC management in utilities

Utilities have room to become more mature in their management of VOC data. While many have adopted survey tactics to gather the voice of the customer, far fewer are using the information collected to generate insights and improve the customer experience. However, just as we’ve seen CX as a discipline mature in utilities since we began our survey in 2012, we expect to see VOC management mature in the coming years.

We look forward to refreshing this information with data from our 2020 survey.

Contributing Authors

Senior Solution Director, Customer Experience

Eryc Eyl is committed to improving the experience of work and business for employees and customers. His expertise in customer experience, employee...