Traditionally, communication between customers and businesses was a one-way street. Businesses would tell customers about their products and services through outbound marketing, and the only feedback they’d get was through sales figures.
After the advent of the digital age, this dynamic has shifted into more of a two-way conversation. Customers are more likely to give feedback about their experiences on social media or review sites, and word of mouth is significantly more powerful than traditional advertising. Customers now have a voice, and businesses need to listen.
Recent studies by Bain and Company show that there’s a significant disconnect between how customer-friendly companies perceive themselves and how their customers perceive them. Approximately 80% of companies believe they offer superior customer service, but only 8% of customers agree. This delivery gap is mostly because companies assume they know what their customers want, but they don’t ask their customers.
Voice of the Customer, or VoC, is the marketing term that describes how your customers feel about your business, your products, and your services. It’s a strategy that focuses on digging deep into customer expectations and needs, and determining how well your company is meeting those to provide a superior customer experience.
By speaking to your current customers, you can find out what they like and dislike, what they want and need, and their expectations for trust, value, digital, and virtual engagement. Listening to customer insights can offer fresh perspectives and help you tailor your products, services, and marketing more strategically.
It costs almost five times as much to obtain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, making it more affordable to maintain a loyal customer base than to deal with constant customer churn.
Most companies tend to assume that their existing clients are a sealed deal, but just because someone buys a product from you doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy about it. While you may have the best price or most convenient service, these resigned customers will probably jump ship at the earliest opportunity if a competitor can offer a better customer experience.
A strong VoC strategy can help you find out what your existing customers think of your products, services, or customer experience. They can provide you with a good idea of how loyal they are and what you can do to ensure you retain them in the long run.
A key component of market research is understanding your customer. While you can get demographic information from a large number of sources, getting a full picture can be more difficult.
VoC surveys are an excellent opportunity to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and get a more comprehensive picture of your current customer base. Not only will you find out what your weaknesses are, but you’ll also get a lot more information about customer trends, profiles, and tendencies.
This holistic customer landscape is an invaluable tool for marketers, as it gives them plenty of data to work with to create more appealing and targeted content for their marketing tools. Not only will these targeting strategies help attract new clients, but they’ll also assist with customer retention.
Most of the feedback companies receive on social media is negative. People are far more likely to post a negative review than a positive one, and to complain about a company to others before they praise a company. Negative feedback can do damage to your brand and significantly affect your bottom line.
VoC strategies allow you to source this feedback earlier in the process, which allows you to proactively address concerns before they escalate. Focus groups are a staple in product development because they help companies identify and fix problems with a product or service before it hits the shelves.
There are three main ways in which you can find out what the voice of the customers is saying. Any good VoC program will try to integrate all three methods to get a comprehensive and honest picture of what your customer experience is like for ordinary clients.
Direct feedback is the most common form of customer VoC feedback. In this method, customers communicate directly with the company, giving their thoughts on the customer experience, product, or service.
Direct feedback methods vary and can include:
Indirect feedback refers to feedback from customers not aimed directly at you. A rating on a review site is an example of indirect feedback, as are social media conversations.
By its very nature, indirect feedback is less structured than direct feedback, but it can still offer valuable insights into customer expectations and customer satisfaction. Most people will tend to post either extremely critical or extremely happy feedback with very little in between, so you’ll have to use your discretion and judgment to analyze indirect feedback.
Inferred feedback relies on secondary data on how your clients use your products and services. The two most common sources of inferred feedback are call centers and live chat, where customers call in with issues or problems, and those sources can help companies identify weak points in the customer experience, products, or services.
CRM platforms also offer a wealth of unrelated information, such as how many customers made repeat purchases, how often they buy from your company, and other indicators of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
While being customer-centric is a good aspiration to have, it’s not a default recipe for success. Instead of saying “We want to hear the Voice of the Customer,” formulate a concrete objective of what you want your VoC strategy to achieve. Do you want to improve and streamline your services and products? Do you want to retain existing customers?
Having a clear goal from the start will ensure you use the data you gather effectively and efficiently.
Customers interact with a wide variety of departments in an organization, which means that you can get VoC feedback from multiple departments. If you let each department handle its own VoC, you’ll quickly find that the entire strategy gets siloed and becomes significantly less effective.
By assigning a dedicated business-wide VoC team, you’ll still gather information about customers from different spaces. You’ll also be able to collate it into a comprehensive global picture of your customers. The one cohesive team will quickly identify company-wide solutions and implement them wherever necessary to get the best results.
One of the most common VoC techniques is a VoC survey. Once you’ve developed a customer survey, you can apply it to your entire customer base via email or in-person and get usable results relatively quickly.
The main advantage of a survey is that it produces quantifiable results. Unlike interviews, where customers have to answer open-ended questions, most surveys use multiple-choice questions that are clear and concise. These answers are much easier to interpret and gain valuable data from, as long as the Voice of Customer survey questions are well-designed and well-thought-out.
With so much hinging on successful Voice of Customer surveys, it’s a good idea to take the time and consider questions that provide valuable qualitative and quantitative results.
While you can refer to sample customer surveys as a starting point, you should also implement a few best practices to create customer surveys that truly reflect the voice of customers you want to retain.
When it comes to your Voice of Customer questionnaire, start from the end goal and work your way back. Ask yourself how you’ll use the answers from the survey and then formulate your questions based on the end goal. For instance, if you want to know where your customers come from, you can start with a “how did you hear about us” survey template that asks about your visitors’ surfing and social media habits.
If, on the other hand, you want to find out what you can do to improve, you can start with process improvement survey template questions and flesh it out for your particular needs.
Ideally, your Voice of the Customer survey should address one aspect of the Voice of the Customer. Most customers don’t want to spend more than several minutes filling out a form and won’t complete a long and involved questionnaire.
Instead, focus on one survey question and goal at a time. You’ll get a significantly higher customer feedback response rate and better-quality data.
Once you’ve decided on a goal, it’s tempting to try and get as much information as possible. However, it’s a good idea to rein in the questions and keep them pertinent to the goal at hand. If you want to ask brand perception survey questions, don’t ask customers to discuss products they bought or how they found your site.
Your first survey question should always be to have the customer give your company an overall rating. There are two main reasons to do this before diving into the nitty-gritty part of the questionnaire.
The first reason is that even if the customer doesn’t complete the rest of the survey voice questions, you’ll have a bit of an idea of what customers think of your service or products.
The second is that you don’t want to influence your customer’s responses. A good customer voice question will force the client to think critically about your company, which may retroactively change their perception. Asking for a rating upfront gives you a good view of untainted customer feedback.
The most difficult part of a questionnaire is to keep it simple, insightful, and valuable. Quantitative questions with number ratings are a great way to get an overall picture of the voice of the customer and are simple to answer.
It’s a good idea to use quantitative questions for customer service questionnaires or one-question surveys simply to get an estimate of how happy or unhappy your clients are with your service.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid qualitative questions completely. Often, the qualitative voice of the customer questions will help identify the reasons behind numerical ratings. For example, open-ended sales questions for bankers after a quantitative question can help the bankers qualify and elaborate upon their rating.
There are two main types of VoC questions and surveys: those that measure how your clients feel about your overall brand (relationship) and those that measure how they feel about a specific interaction (transactional).
Each questionnaire has its place in a comprehensive VoC strategy. Relationship surveys help you see the “big picture” of how well you’re doing overall in terms of customer loyalty and satisfaction. Making customers feel heard in this area builds trust with your brand, a good foundation of a long-term customer relationship. Transactional surveys focus more on the nitty-gritty aspects, which can help you identify your problem areas and specific issues that could be present with a product, service, or process.
Leading questions in surveys can be disastrous – skewing and contaminating your data and resulting in incorrect conclusions. How you phrase a question can have a huge impact on the answer you get. When working out questions to ask about customer service, avoid using emotive or persuasive language. For instance, asking “Would you prefer speaking to a native speaker?” will produce a different answer than “Do you want to avoid hearing accents when dealing with customer service?”
If you’re not sure whether a question is leading to a specific answer or not, ask a neutral third-party the question. If everyone provides the same answer or can guess the type of answer you want, consider rewriting the question.
There are plenty of successful voice of the customer examples that show the level of impact that listening to customers can have on a company. Customer loyalty is becoming increasingly rare as competition drives customers from one product to the next.
One cornerstone of a VoC strategy is direct feedback, especially through methods like interviews and questionnaires. Unfortunately, many companies will struggle to formulate questions that provide valuable insights into the thoughts and feelings of customers, leading to wasted time and resources.
If you’re a company that wants to understand your customers better but needs some expert advice, get in touch with PossibleNOW. Our team of strategists can help you plan, design, and execute a VoC process to help you understand your customers like never before, and begin building trust to enhance your customer relationships.