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How to Apply Voice of Customer Research

Type: Blog

Traditional marketing tends to be a one-way street in terms of communication. Companies used to assume what customers wanted and then used advertising and other marketing strategies to tell customers about their company. 

However, the advent of the digital age has changed the dynamic between customer and business dramatically. Many businesses have found that listening to customer insights can provide valuable data and that customer experience is an important metric in customer engagement. 

People will always want to talk more about negative experiences than positive ones. With social media fueling conversations, poor customer experience can do a lot of harm to your business. 

So how exactly can companies interact with their customers in a respectful and enlightening manner? What types of listening will help the company and customer establish common understandings? That’s where the VoC research comes in. 

What Is the Voice of the Customer?

Voice of the Customer is often mistaken as another term for customer feedback, but unlike customer feedback, it wants to delve deeper. It not only focuses on whether the customer is satisfied or not but also looks at customer needs and expectations, as well as potential product and experience improvements. VoC provides an understanding of the human needs, expectations, emotions, and specific actionsnecessary to transform the value you provide to your customers.

A data-driven VoC strategy can increase customer life-cycle value and prevent customer churn. Voice of Customer research is a key component of marketing strategies that rely on customer engagement, as it helps companies understand how people interact with a particular brand, service, or product. 

Why Is Voice of the Customer Important?

Voice of Customer forms the core of most customer experience programs. If you don’t understand how the customer feels about your current product, service, or experience, you won’t have a clear idea of how to improve it. 

While most companies believe they’re customer-centric, a surprising number of customers disagree. According to a Bain and Company study, only 8% of customers agree that companies care about their needs and experiences. This delivery gap can cost businesses billions of dollars and lead to distrust of a particular brand.

There are plenty of demonstrable benefits to listening to the Voice of a Customer, including:

  • Companies that provide better customer experiences can charge up to 16% more on goods and services.
  • 67% of customers will pay more for better customer experience.
  • Happy customers are less likely to cancel a service and are more likely to upgrade or add new services.
  • 77% of satisfied customers will refer that product to a friend.

Capturing the Voice of the Customer

There are three typical ways that you can collect VoC data from your customers: directly, indirectly, or inference.

Direct feedback

Direct VoC refers to any time a customer will share their feedback directly with you, either through social media, a VoC survey, or even traditional call center feedback. 

Direct feedback is great because the customer is giving their own thoughts and feelings about your products or services. The most important aspect of getting value out of direct VoC tools is to hear what people really think. 

Feedback forms and surveys are two of the most common direct VoC techniques. Surveys allow for consistent and reliable data collection, but you need to be very careful about how you formulate your questions and answers. 

A customer feedback program will allow for more free-form thinking and responses, but it can be difficult to extract standardized VoC data without additional work. 

Indirect feedback

Indirect VoC is all about what customers are saying about you to other people. The most common method of indirect VoC is through social media, especially platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media has a wealth of information that you can collect and analyze to identify current customer sentiments and trends. 

Social listening can also provide insight into the voice of the market and warn you about potential negative trends on the horizon. However, you should also note that since 80% of customer service-related tweets are negative, indirect feedback doesn’t present the whole picture. 

Inferred feedback

Inferred feedback uses customer data to make assumptions about how your customers feel about your products and services. For instance, if customers buy your products frequently, you can assume that they like them. If you notice sales dropping, it may point to a decline in quality or customer experience. 

Inferred feedback is typically the most difficult type of data to capture since it requires plenty of transactional, behavioral, and operational data to analyze. 

However, a truly holistic view of the Voice of the Customers will utilize all three feedback types. 

Setting the Stage

Before rushing into the details of a Voice of the Customer program, it’s vital to align your company with this new customer-centric focus. There are six factors that you should consider before diving into various Voice of the Customer methods:

  • Use strong leadership: if your top level doesn’t display customer-centric behavior, it’s unlikely that the rest of the company will. Leaders set the tone, so make sure you have buy-in from the very top down to team leaders. 
  • Target clarity: while it’s easy to say “Let’s focus on the customer,” it’s much harder to implement. Be specific in your goals and draw up a short vision statement to promote buy-in at all levels of the organization.
  • Enable employee engagement: consider implementing a formal employee experience program and Voice of the Customer training to engage your entire workforce to foster cross-functional collaboration. 
  • Formulate a listening plan: make sure you have several methods for collecting feedback that makes sense for your industry.
  • Align action with the vision: consistently evaluate that the steps you’re taking are truly hearing your customers and their feedback.
  • Commit: to implement a world-class customer satisfaction program, you need to foster a customer-centric culture. Doing so will take time, constant evaluation, and iterative improvements. To truly succeed, upper management needs to be committed and patient throughout the process. 

The Specifics of a Voice of the Customer Strategy

There are plenty of VoC techniques that can help you truly connect with your customer voice. When designing your VoC data collection strategy, focus on techniques that make sense for your business. For instance, live chat works great for retail but may be unsuitable for service-related feedback. 

Here are some of the most common sources of valuable VoC data:

  • Customer interviews: interviews form the cornerstone of many VoC business strategies. An interview is a great way to understand the customer’s thoughts on a particular product, service, or company performance. Interviews can be held in-person, over the phone, or even by email.
  • Surveys: these tend to be more structured than interviews and can provide valuable on-site information. However, poorly designed Voice of Customer surveys can fail to identify relevant issues, so it’s vital to spend a lot of time designing an informative and easy-to-complete survey. 
  • Social media: sites like Twitter and Facebook are excellent for both direct and indirect feedback. You can assess current conversations to find the Voice of today’s consumer, or you can interact directly with existing customers to find out what they think. It’s a significantly more free-flowing conversation than surveys or interviews, which may make it more difficult to quantify any information you get.
  • Website behavior: VoC analytics and research rely on website data to identify trends of customer engagement. They can identify returning customers, tap into how long customers stay on the site, and even quantify factors like cart abandonment, which may indicate a poor customer experience.
  • Net Promoter Score: The NPS is a customer loyalty metric originally designed by Satmetrix Systems, Bain and Company, and Fred Reichheld. The NPS measures customer loyalty by evaluating how likely a customer is to recommend your company to a friend, colleague, or relative. It’s a simple, direct method of getting feedback on your customer service and brand as a whole.
  • Focus groups: these are a staple in most marketing circles, especially in product development and testing. A moderator will lead a small group of customers in a feedback session, where the customers discuss their perceptions of products, services, or even the company itself. While focus groups may have some drawbacks, they’re a useful addition in a Voice of Customer program focused on product development.

Questions to Ask

The best way to get viable results from your VoC research is to make sure you’re asking the right questions. A poorly constructed Voice of Customer questionnaire will never provide you with the information you need, and it may even muddy the water further. 

If you’re struggling to get valuable data from your customer VoC research, try asking the following questions:

  • What do you look for in a product or service? By focusing on the customer’s interests, you move away from the company and on to the customer’s expectations. This question often generates short, simple answers that are easy to analyze at a later stage.
  • How can we improve your customer experience? You can always rely on a customer to point out flaws in your company, product, or service, although you shouldn’t expect insightful answers to this question. Instead, it’s a great starting place to identify exactly what the pain points in your customer plan are.
  • Would you choose a competitor over us, and why? This question not only serves to identify who your customers think your competition is but also what they perceive your shortcomings are. You can use this information to come up with customer programs aimed at shoring up weaknesses and taking on perceived competitors. 

Voice of the Customer Best Practices

Connect the Various Forms of Feedback

To get the most out of your VoC research, you need to get a holistic picture of the situation. Having one or two sources of VoC data isn’t enough, and it can lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of customer preferences, satisfaction, and behavior. 

If you want true voice customer service, you need to listen to a variety of channels. While direct feedback is very useful, it’s only a small portion of the customer research you need to do. Make inferences from website statistics, and monitor review sites or social media pages to come up with comprehensive Voice of the Customer solutions. 

Collaboration Is Key

Customer service isn’t limited to one department, so neither should your VoC program. Multiple departments can gather customer VoC from various perspectives, from product development up to managing the customer experience. Communication between these departments is key to ensure that the information collected is viewed holistically.

Don’t Forget ROI

In chasing the voice of customers, don’t forget to listen to the voice of business. If you wantto maintain the commitment of stakeholders, you need to have evidence of customer success, ideally in the form of ROI. While you can provide metrics like NPS or satisfaction scores, you also should include more compelling metrics, for example:

  • Market share: VoC can optimize market generation by increasing what customers spend and also improving loyalty to your brand. Listening to customer feedback can even draw new customers away from the competition, further increasing your market share.
  • Costs: estimates show that it costs almost 5 times as much to attract new customers as it does to retain old ones. By cultivating loyalty through VoC research, you can save dramatically on attracting new buyers. 

One of the most useful financial metrics is CLV, which combines various individual metrics into a comprehensive whole. While one metric isn’t enough to show the value of the VoC approach, it can reassure stakeholders that you’re on the right track. 

How Can You Improve Your Voice of the Customer Feedback?

The point of VoC research is to identify potential problem areas with your interactions with customers and how they view your products and services. What this means is that poor initial VoC feedback during the research phase isn’t a complete disaster. 

The main way in which you can improve your VoC score is relatively simple: listen to your customers. Don’t assume that you know what they want or that they’re satisfied simply because your sales haven’t dropped.

VoC is a data-driven strategy that allows decision-makers to get a handle on what clients truly want, need, and expect. By understanding client needs, you can make the changes necessary to improve brand loyalty, increase retention, and send your revenues soaring.

After your first round of VoC information gathering, you can apply several simple strategies to maximize the value of the research. 

Share the Results

Employees want to know how well they’re doing their jobs, and sharing the results of a VoC study is a great way of doing this. If the results are good, you’re reinforcing good work, and if they aren’t, then you’ve identified areas of improvement. 

Survey results can be a great motivator, especially for your top teams. If they’ve exceeded client expectations, let them know. 

Identify and Internalize Top Improvement Areas

VoC research will often point out areas of improvement. Don’t try to take on all of them at once; instead, prioritize the ones that seem most urgent. Some client concerns may be highly visible but easily addressable, which makes them an easy win to get the ball rolling. Others may need months of intense work, so schedule your plan of attack accordingly. 

Track Your Progress

Becoming more client-centric requires iterative change. While changes take time, it’s a goodidea to reassess every six months or so and identify new targets. Tracking progress can be a great motivator, as well as a good indicator of how far you still need to go.

Conclusion

If you’re still wondering about the basic goal of the marketing concept of VoC, and you’re feeling a bit lost, don’t worry. At PossibleNOW, we have a dedicated team of VoC experts waiting to kick-start your customer-centric approach, conducting uniquely deep and qualitative Voice of Customer research interviews to help clients understand how your customers define their needs, articulate their feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment, and the specific actions they want for improved customer experiences. We use those insights to develop exceptionally detailed strategies and action plans for our clients.

 Give us a call to schedule a consultation today!

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