SOURCE: Aberdeen Group

Aberdeen Group

April 21, 2009 10:00 ET

Best-in-Class Companies Embrace Customer Feedback as a Strategic Imperative

New Aberdeen Report Reveals How Best-in-Class Companies Are Listening to the Voice of the Customer to Drive Business Value Across All Parts of the Organization

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - April 21, 2009) - The economic recession has made it necessary to curtail or completely eliminate investments in various marketing and customer support programs commonly used to attract, retain and service profitable customers. At the same time, companies are under more pressure than ever to improve customer satisfaction as a way to mitigate customer attrition and achieve increased corporate profitability.

In light of these budgetary constraints and performance requirements, Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS), sought to understand how easy or difficult it is to make the business case for investing in customer feedback initiatives. In fact, according to the new benchmark report, called "The ROI on Customer Feedback: Why It Pays to Listen to the Voice of the Customer," more than half of all survey respondents indicated that is was either very easy or somewhat easy to justify the related expenditures. More telling is the fact that 55% of all survey respondents have made zero budgetary cuts for customer feedback initiatives while 19% have actually increased their spend in this area.

These findings suggest that a majority of companies understand that customer feedback delivers a broad range of business benefits, both tactical and strategic. In fact, the insights gleaned from customer feedback can benefit multiple parts of the organization. The customer service department, for example, may use the insights to measure and improve performance in terms of problem resolution and call center deflection. The marketing organization may use the insights to understand what specific messages and offers are likely to resonate in the marketplace and elicit a favorable response or for improving website performance or any other aspect of the customer experience. The operations team may use the insights to streamline business processes and improve service quality. The product management team may use the insights as the basis for developing, testing and refining new products and services. The market research department may use the insights to identify consumer trends and competitive activity.

Aberdeen research suggests that when it comes to customer feedback, achieving the desired objectives means more than just deploying the right set of enabling technologies. Success in listening to the voice of the customer also requires a combination of strategic actions and organizational capabilities. For example, Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class companies are twice as likely as Laggards to have a process for disseminating the insights gleaned from customer feedback to key decision makers. They are also far better equipped when it comes to acting upon customer feedback across all departments and channels and then communicating the results of the actions that were taken back to customers, which is a necessary (but often broken) link in the chain.

The report includes a number of recommendations to help spur performance improvements, based on the actions that Best-in-Class companies are taking. In addition to proactively informing customers of changes made as a result of customer feedback, recommended actions include hiring resources that have customer feedback as part of their job description and marrying customer feedback data with customer profile and transaction data to create an understanding of customer value and various other key attributes at an individual customer level. The report also reveals the key performance metrics that Best-in-Class companies are using to ensure success with respect to their customer feedback initiatives.

"A bad economy, consumer control, brand disloyalty and a host of other trends are conspiring to usher in an era in which companies have no choice but to actively encourage customer feedback and to treat customers as strategic assets in the incessant quest to improve operational efficiency, product development and customer satisfaction," said Jeff Zabin, Research Fellow at Aberdeen Group. "That means moving beyond ad hoc surveys and point solutions that focus on a single channel or product or aspect of the customer experience. It means capturing, integrating, enhancing, analyzing and acting upon customer feedback in a holistic fashion, across all touchpoints and all stages of the customer lifecycle. From an organizational perspective, customer feedback facilitates a culture of customer centricity and progressive improvement."

A complimentary copy of this report is made available due, in part, to the following underwriters: Empathica and Vovici. To access a copy, visit: http://www.aberdeen.com//summary/report/benchmark/5858-RA-customer-feedback-management.asp.

For additional access to complimentary Customer Management Research, please visit http://research.aberdeen.com/index.php/Customer-Management.

About Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company

Aberdeen is a leading provider of fact-based research and market intelligence that delivers demonstrable results. Having benchmarked more than 30,000 companies in the past two years, Aberdeen is uniquely positioned to educate users to action: driving market awareness, creating demand, enabling sales, and delivering meaningful return-on-investment analysis. As the trusted advisor to the global technology markets, corporations turn to Aberdeen™ for insights that drive decisions.

As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen plays a key role of putting content in context for the global direct and targeted marketing company. Aberdeen's analytical and independent view of the "customer optimization" process of Harte-Hanks (Information - Opportunity - Insight - Engagement - Interaction) extends the client value and accentuates the strategic role Harte-Hanks brings to the market. For additional information, visit Aberdeen http://www.aberdeen.com or call (617) 723-7890, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call (800) 456-9748 or go to http://www.harte-hanks.com.

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