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The Top Challenges in VoC—and How These Industry Leaders Tackle Them

Written by Alida

Published May 25, 2021

Earlier this month at Alida Activate, a customer experience masterclass event, a panel of voice-of-the-customer (VoC) innovators from leading brands—Twitter, AutoDesk, Adobe, and HBO Max—took to the virtual stage to share how they’re adapting and evolving their VoC programs to address the toughest challenges and hot topic issues facing companies today.

This past year has put the spotlight on the importance of driving customer closeness, empathy, and trust. In the face of adversity, these leaders are bringing their organizations closer to their customers with innovative approaches to VoC and customer insights. We’ve highlighted the top three challenges VoC programs face in the current market, what you can do to address them, and how industry-leading disruptors are tackling them head on. Read on to learn more about how you can elevate your VoC program to keep customers first.


Prioritizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Now, more than ever, brands must ensure their products and services foster safety and belonging for all communities and ultimately reflect the diversity of those they serve. This has sparked a big focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)—specifically in customer innovation and data collection. Traditionally, gathering feedback from underrepresented groups and communities was difficult and resource intensive, leaving organizations blind to the needs of a large portion of their customers. Fortunately, technology has broken down some of these barriers and made it easier than ever for companies to recruit and engage with a diversity of customers. 

Organizations are using VoC tools like digital insight communities to recruit customers from diverse backgrounds allowing them to continually tap into them for ongoing research efforts. Not only does this help organizations gather insights from customers that reflect the diversity of their customer base, it also enables organizations to run longitudinal research, checking in with these customers at regular intervals to understand if their DE&I initiatives are hitting the mark. VoC leaders understand this is an ongoing process, but in order to be successful, brands must start taking steps in the right direction. 


Nikkia Reveillac, Head of Research, Twitter

Nikkia Reveillac, Head of Research, Twitter“There is a lot of conversation around how to do this well. As you can imagine, there is thought going into everything from who we go after with research to how we recruit  and retain people who work at the company. It’s an all encompassing and comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion. It starts with making sure the people in the building represent the people we serve.

We’re building communities that have marginalized people to make sure that in addition to the research we do, we can tap into this community to ask “how are we doing? Does this solution/feature work for you?” as early and often as possible."

Iva Kralj-Taylor, Product Insight Director, HBO Max

Iva Kralj-Taylor, Product Insight Director, HBO Max"Consumers told us across the broad entertainment ecosystem that we need to think about end to end processes. For example, more people of colour to produce and write for content to feel more authentic, from LGBTQ to showcase the nuance elements that they aren’t a single note and need to look broader. We push the information to the business and there’s a desire to repeat this research, utilizing the Alida Sparq panel, to understand the progress, if what we’ve done worked, and how we can do better."


Staying Agile in a Constantly Changing Market

According to a McKinsey global survey, companies have accelerated the digitization of products in their portfolios by seven years in the past year alone. The rate at which trends are shifting is increasing and businesses are less certain about customer preferences than ever before. Customer insights have never been more crucial, but insight teams are expected to do more with less. Agile customer feedback solutions have become a necessity as organizations look to keep the voice of the customer in decision-making to keep up with the ever-changing market.

Fortunately, VoC technology gives companies the ability to reduce research timelines and scale their efforts to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the business. Successful insight teams have found ways to do more with less and our industry leaders are no exception.


Alison Lutjemeier, Group Manager, Customer Feedback Programs, Adobe

Alison Lutjemeier, Group Manager, Customer Feedback Programs, AdobeWe’re constantly trying to pull that voice of the customer together. To tackle this, we rolled out our feedback panel, using Alida Sparq, to help accelerate decision making. We are actively able to recruit customers within two weeks instead of the traditional five weeks plus. This helps us get closer to customers a lot quicker and helps our product department make decisions quicker. Our research activities were able to be filled within 24 hours at times. We’ve been able to run 67 feedback activities with 700 customers just this year alone. The breadth is a lot bigger and we can make insight driven decisions more confidently.

Christie McAllister, Senior Experience Research Manager, Autodesk 

Christie McAllister, Senior Experience Research Manager, Autodesk Despite having such a challenging year and working remotely, we haven’t changed any launch deadlines. It has been increasingly challenging for research to meet those needs. We’ve been forced to think of creative ways to inform and inject that customer voice and data into these cycles. We’re leveraging Alida as a platform to help us stay in touch with those highly engaged, harder-to-find customers. Instead of spinning up multiple research streams to match the ever-increasing sprints, we can start to explore creating panels of very specific persona types and check-in with them at a regular cadence. It gives our teams the relief in centralizing that customer voice in a way that works better with the demands of the business.


Adapting Research to a Digital World

Access to traditional customer advisory boards (CAB) or in-lab testing disappeared almost overnight. With these new challenges came new opportunities for companies to think creatively about how to adapt their research and insight efforts.

There’s no denying the quality and depth of feedback gathered through in-person, face-to-face interactions, but until the global pandemic forced companies to adapt their strategies, few questioned if it was worth the price tag that came with it. The surge of digital solutions has revealed the tremendous strides technology has made in helping brands connect and engage with customers.

Industry leaders are now working to find the right balance between digital and physical. These new hybrid approaches look to combine the scalability and cost-effectiveness of digital research with the depth of in-person activities. There will always be a need for in-person research, but everyday assumptions are being shattered around what can be done digitally. For example, video feedback becoming a staple in VoC programs shows how companies can gather a wealth of insights from customers about who they are, how they’re experiencing your product or service, and what their story is—without having to get on a plane and fly halfway across the globe. These deep insights were previously thought to only be possible through in-person interactions, but technology continues to challenge our assumptions and drive innovation.


Alison Lutjemeier, Group Manager, Customer Feedback Programs, Adobe

Alison Lutjemeier, Group Manager, Customer Feedback Programs, AdobeI see a hybrid approach happening in the future. In-person research will come back when it’s safe to do so, but you can’t discount the fact that our Adobe Summit had 200k people register where normally we can only host 25k people in person. That’s a massive increase in people we can touch and it won’t go away in the future. We’ll do a hybrid approach.

For our CAB, we had a cocktail making hour with our digital CAB last week because it couldn’t be in person but we still want those connections. Normally that’s at a nice restaurant where we do something fun where we can learn about each other in not a boardroom setting. We’re being really flexible in trying to think of new ways to get to know our customers that aren’t formal board meetings. I definitely see more of that happening in the future.

Iva Kralj-Taylor, Product Insight Director, HBO Max

Iva Kralj-Taylor, Product Insight Director, HBO MaxThe benefit of research has been highlighted because this is uncharted territory and habits and needs have changed so dramatically. We need to understand the impact they have on our business and what changes we need to adapt to very quickly.

We also became more efficient. We had a piece of work covering 20 countries in two weeks which would normally take 6-8 weeks. There will always be a benefit to being in the country to talk face-to-face, but you can’t ignore the efficiency we have been forced to create in this period. And that’s without sacrificing the quality of the output. It has made us more sharp and we learned how we could be more creative. There is much more we can do than we thought we could because it forced us to be more creative.

These are just a few of the challenges facing VoC leaders today, but with the right solution in place, industry leaders are turning challenges into opportunities and forging ahead with stronger approaches to gathering and sharing the voice of their customers than ever before. 

Want to hear more from these VoC leaders? Check out the full panel session and the rest of the Alida Activate Masterclass event, on-demand now.

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