The way customers interact with companies has changed dramatically in the digital age. Whereas customers used to be passive consumers of products and services, they’re now an integral part of any corporate discussion.
Surprisingly, even with so much information out there about what clients want, most companies aren’t listening to their customers authentically and are making assumptions based on target groups and marketing demographics. While 80% of companies think they’re customer-centric, only 8% of customers agree.
So what’s the reason for this disconnect? Building a good relationship with your customers is harder and more resource-intensive than it looks. Not only do you have to find out what your customers really want, but you also have to keep track of initiatives and promises you’ve made. Many companies start out wanting to be truly customer-centric but find that doing so requires too much effort in the long term.
Closing this delivery gap involves more than just assuming you know what your customer base wants. You have to listen, really listen, to what your customers have to say and keep their interests in mind. Moving to a more customer-centric culture starts with listening to the Voice of the Customer.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a marketing term that emcompasses various tools to find out what your customers want and expect from your business. It spans the entire company/client relationship, from how your customers feel about your company and brand down to individual customer experiences.
As more and more brands engage directly with customers in real time, VoC research is going to become increasingly important. Customers have a wealth of options, and you need to listen to the voices of customers to find the insights that will set you apart from your competition.
Your company can’t thrive without understanding how your customers define their heightened expectations for trust, value, digital, and virtual engagement, and the detailed actions necessary to improve their customer experience.
An inherent benefit of listening to customers and what they want is an improvement in your service delivery or process. By improving the customer experience, you can streamline service delivery and provide the customer with exactly the type of services or support they want.
Even large, established companies like Amazon and McDonalds rely on customer feedback to take their offerings to the next level. Amazon has consistently used customer feedback and information to hone the customer service experience, which has made Amazon the highest-earning company in the world.
VoC research can help you avoid costly mistakes during product development. Focus groups are an integral part of most modern product development since they can show companies if they’re on the right track with new products.
A good example of a VoC success story in product development is the Porsche Cayenne, which came out in 2003. Porsche invested heavily in focus groups and customer surveys, not only on what features the Cayenne should have, but also on how much they’d pay for those desired features. The result was the most profitable car in Porsche’s lineup.
VoC analytics do more than just find out what your customers want; they also pick up a lot of other important marketing information that you can leverage into attracting new customers.
A good Voice of the Customer strategy will identify buying patterns, define trends, gather information about how the current climate affects customers’ buying habits, and even how they feel about your competitors. These insights will help your company become more targeted and efficient in your marketing outreach efforts.
Since VoC helps companies understand what their customers think about their brand, it’s an invaluable tool for brand managers. A VoC program provides insight into what people honestly think about a brand and their frustrations with it. It’s a great way to identify trends and measure whether brand management interventions are working as expected.
VoC helps brand managers be proactive with their strategies while also providing feedback on how well each strategy works.
It’s tempting for many companies to assume that they know what their customers want based on previous sales figures or marketing campaigns. It’s even easier to dismiss negative feedback as “whining” or “failing to understand what we’re offering.”
The first step of any Voice of a Customer program is to figure out ways to find out what customers think, even if what they think isn’t particularly positive. It’s vital to use several different VoC methods to get a realistic, global picture of what your customer experience looks like in real life.
If you just rely on a survey or review sites, you’ll get a skewed picture of what your customers think. Most social media posts about companies are negative, and people are much more likely to post a negative review than a positive one. By using multiple methods, you can target different client demographics and get honest answers about what your customers think.
The most common way to get customer feedback is to simply ask customers what they think. There are plenty of ways to get in touch with clients, including interviews, surveys, focus groups, and feedback forms.
The most challenging part of obtaining direct customer feedback is structuring your questions correctly to get valuable information. Leading questions – interviewer pressure or social pressure – can lead customers to give answers they think are right instead of saying what they truly feel. However, open-ended questions that are properly phrased can entice thoughtful and detailed feedback, both positive and negative.
Similarly, VoC surveys need to be carefully constructed to gather enough data without driving clients away with multiple-page forms that take half an hour to fill out. A good Voice of Customer questionnaire will have both qualitative and quantitative feedback to give you an idea of where you stand and why customers think the way they do.
Companies that use surveys quickly learn to use them strategically. Instead of having a large Voice of Customer survey that tackles the entire customer experience, most will use smaller surveys that address individual issues. Keeping the surveys shorter also increases participation.
Some VoC solutions will use Voice of the Customer template questions to get an overview of an issue, and then formulate their own to dig deeper. With so many potential Voice of Customer questions to ask, using a template can provide a useful baseline.
Feedback forms can be considered goldmine tools in the world of VoC. Many customers will prefer to leave feedback via a voice feedback app or a form on your website rather than heading to a review site.
Not only do feedback forms help you control some of the reputation loss from poor reviews, but the forms also provide invaluable insights into what people think about your products, services,or experiences.
As with many other feedback collection mechanisms, these forms need to be easy to fill out while still gathering the data you need.
Indirect feedback involves finding out what customers think by examining conversations about your company and your products. The most common way of getting indirect feedback is looking at sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Not only do social media sites provide you with a wealth of ongoing conversations, but they also provide a great space for engaging in two-way communication with your customers. People tend to be more honest when talking to their friends and family about your products and services, making indirect feedback an excellent way to get honest, uncompromising feedback.
Inferred feedback gets information from customer activities without speaking to the customers themselves. Live chat and website behavior analytics are excellent ways to get unspoken information about your customers’ voice.
Live chat, recorded call data, and support tickets can all identify areas in which customers are struggling with your products or services. If multiple people call saying they have an issue, it may be worth investigating further.
Website behavior can also say a lot about your customer experience. Apart from traditional metrics like time on page and bounce rate, you can also record how many recurring visitors you have, their spending habits, and what they buy.
A good VoC strategy takes time, commitment, and investment to bear fruit. It relies on continuous improvement and small steps that lead to a more customer-centric organization. As such, it’s a program that benefits from applying best practices to get consistent and repeatable results.
A VoC program will gather data from any department that interacts with customers, from sales to product development, marketing to customer support. A significant danger to the success of a Voice of the Customer program is that the information stays with one department, resulting in silos that are ineffective and may actively work against each other.
Ensuring that the customer insights collected are viewed holistically is critical to the success of a VoC strategy and implementation.
Related to the point above, having a dedicated VoC team is essential to ensure that departments work together. By obtaining information from all the various sources across different departments, this team can form a reliable and comprehensive view of the customer’s voice across the company’s products and services.
A dedicated team can also implement solutions across multiple departments, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. They’ll even be able to get employee feedback, which can help contextualize the customer experience and identify process hurdles that can impact customer programs.
While there are plenty of ways to show stakeholders a customer analysis example and metrics like the Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score, what everyone wants to really see is how profitable the program is.
There are three main metrics to focus on when tying a Voice of the Customer solution to business success. These include:
Undertaking a VoC project can be intimidating, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. The process is long enough that stakeholders may wonder about the value of customer insights and customer satisfaction to the bottom line. If you’re still not 100% convinced that you should invest in a VoC project, here are some real-world examples of customer success stories to whet your appetite.
Plainview offers resource management and strategic planning software. When the company started in 2006, it had a strong focus on listening to the voice of the customer. The company regularly hosted “Inner Circles,” or customer-based feedback sessions, and met with over 1,000 customers over several years.
While most customers offered only minor criticisms, a common thread through these Inner Circles was that the software’s navigational design wasn’t working well. Plainview decided to take action based on the feedback, and while the move lengthened the development process, the result is a product that works better for the customer.
1-800 is a contact lens delivery service, with over 80% of its business happening online. When the company noticed that sales were lagging, it offered a voluntary online survey asking customers what would make their experience better.
One customer jokingly said that they wanted a candy bar, which 1-800 promptly did. The company continued giving customers small gifts with their orders, which raised the reorder rate by 3.8% and considerably boosted brand reputation.
There are plenty of customer success stories that show off the power of listening to the Voice of the Customer. As the relationship between brands and consumers becomes closer, you must have a realistic and comprehensive picture of your target market and existing customers.
While VoC isn’t a quick fix, it offers long-lasting results. Loyal customers do so much more than just buy your product. They become brand ambassadors and help promote your company, product, or service via word of mouth. In an increasingly jaded world, authentically listening to your customers will make you stand out from the crowd.
When customers feel heard and valued, it builds trust in your brand. Gathering and utilizing their feedback shows that you value their opinions and insights, and this fosters a stronger customer relationship.
If you’re not sure where to get started with a VoC strategy, get in touch with PossibleNOW today. We’re the industry-leading VoC consulting firm that will offer you solutions tailored to your business. Our expert team will help you identify the best ways to gather VoC data and how to use it to drive tangible results.