Recently organizations have realized the value a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program can play in delivering insights into the customer experience.  VoC is now a fundamental part of a well-rounded customer experience program, increasingly so for B2B companies and as table stakes for B2C companies.

The growing importance of the customer experience isn’t surprising. After all, it’s well recognized that in many industries customer experience has become a key player, with prices and even product features being difficult to use as differentiators. With this momentum comes an evolution of best practices. As we continue into 2017, we must start thinking about what the next innovations and trends will be to continue to drive viral, transformational change.

1. Getting the executives on board

As customer experience practitioners, we know how important certain metrics are — such as Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) or repurchase propensity. However, these numbers do not necessarily hit the mark with top executives. It’s important to clearly show the linkage between customer experience metrics and financial and business metrics — as these are the sort of scores that executives focus on daily.  They may like the simplicity of one number, but one number is rarely sufficient for deeper-level insights.

In addition, the juggernaut of predictive analytics has arrived. Leveraging predictive analytics in VoC and the customer experience will help drive business change in the organization by looking forward instead of backward. For example, instead of worrying about what a customer’s NPS® was last week, it’s about strategizing on leading indicators deep within the experience that will predict impact upon customer, operational and financial metrics.

2. Motivating employees

Many workers aren’t engaged at the level that provides fertile ground for great customer experiences — and haven’t been for years. However, you can turn this situation around by demonstrating the importance of their role in the customer experience.

In the future, more organizations will focus on motivating employees to deliver better experiences. It sounds simple, but it works. By creating viral change in the organization, starting with frontline employees, organizations can kill the typical “command and control” ethos. This will empower and enable all employees in the organization — from the bottom up.

Getting customer data and insights into the hands of the right people will allow for richer conversations, translating to added value for the customers. This is great for customers, but also allows all employees to be engaged, authentic and truly enjoy their role, because they know they are making a difference.

3. Eroding existing data silos

To drive action and change within an organization, it’s critical to break down existing silos. This will become increasingly important as the customer experience evolves. Organizational data silos can make it impossible for companies to get the kind of holistic, real-time insights they need to improve the customer experience, anticipate customer behavior, drive organizational improvement and maximize innovation and profitability.

An effective customer journey map relies on cross-functional collaboration, sharing and communication and continual refinement. This helps to break down some of the walls that impede delivering on the customer experience promise and promote an understanding of how everyone plays a role in the journey. It will no longer be good enough to simply gather customer feedback, analyze and report on it, then drive tactical action. These are becoming hygiene factors — something that helps businesses improve, but doesn’t drive transformational change. “Find and fix” will only bring you up to par.

While it’s difficult to truly predict what lies ahead for VoC and the customer experience, it’s clear that change will start with those driving the program.