Updated February 27, 2023
As businesses work to deliver ever-greater service quality to their customers, new technologies continue to grow and develop to better accommodate their efforts. Voice of the Customer (VoC) tools are a powerful category of such offerings designed to help companies make sense of the feedback they regularly receive.
Although business practices in the digital age often involve more feedback from customers than ever before, it is still vitally important to sort through the noise and find the nuggets of actionable gold buried beneath the surface.
What is Voice of the Customer?
Voice of the customer is a broad term that encompasses the collective feedback your company receives from its customers that reveal their experiences interacting with your brand and what customers expect from your company. In other words, it’s a collection of data indicating what customers think and say about your products, services, or your brand.
Collecting and assessing your customers’ collective preferences and expectations surrounding your industry as well as your business in particular is what VoC is all about. It is a research methodology that can be bolstered by purpose-built programs and processes to derive greater benefit from feedback.
VoC research strategies
According to Gartner, traditional VoC research strategies include focus groups, customer surveys, and customer interviews. Modern approaches recognize the need to gather customer feedback in the moment and across a variety of channels, including email, social media, third-party review sites, mobile apps, and in-app kiosks.
Types of VoC data
Gartner describes three types of VoC data (three types of customer feedback), including:
- Direct feedback, which includes VoC surveys, market research, customer complaints, and panels, forums, or other in-person interviews.
- Indirect feedback, which includes conversations taking place over email and chat platforms, call recording, customer service agent notes, and social media posts.
- Inferred feedback, which includes transaction and operational data such as website usage data (heatmaps, etc.), customer location data collected via mobile apps, purchase history, and other call center data.
VoC tools come in multiple forms and serve a growing variety of specific functions, collecting customer feedback in one or more of these categories, across one or more customer feedback channels, and through one or more data collection methodologies. Let’s take a look at the common types of VoC tools. Today’s robust VoC tools, such as CallMiner Eureka, offer broad capabilities enabling companies to capture, analyze, and derive actionable insights across touchpoints, channels, and types of data.
Types of VoC Tools
Voice of the customer tools can be classified under the following main categories:
Reporting and analytics tools
Voice of customer analytics tools capture important data such as user effort and satisfaction, then help in analyzing it with useful metrics. Conversation analytics solutions like CallMiner, for instance, capture data from customer support interactions (phone calls) using automated scoring and sentiment and emotion analysis combined with data from chat, surveys, email, and social media to provide a comprehensive view of the customer.
These tools allow companies to automatically trigger actions in response to consumer feedback. This encompasses anything from appointment scheduling for customers who have expressed difficulties to full-blown marketing campaign control based on direct feedback.
Customer journey tools
Customer journey tools document and help in assessing your customers’ movements between services, products and interactions with your business in general. Some solutions combine customer journey mapping and reporting and analytics capabilities. For example, CallMiner helps you drive better experiences with customer journey analytics while also improving contact center efficiency and operations.
Voice of the customer tools represent a unique opportunity for organizations to capture valuable customer feedback. Here are the most effective best practices you can incorporate into your company’s use of VoC tech and techniques.
Expert VoC best practices
1. Listen to your customers in context.
“Customer feedback doesn’t just happen at one point in time during a single conversation. Imagine a customer starts on a self-service chat option and then moves to a call center agent. Analyze those interactions across channels for the most comprehensive VoC.” - Understanding and Leveraging Voice of the Customer, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner
2. Choose a VoC tool by what you need, not what it can do.
“As attractive as many of these tools appear, it is important to look behind the marketing curtain and really understand if the VoC solution you are considering will benefit your business. Many VoC tools are great at gathering mass amounts of descriptive information, but do not help a company understand how to make the data actionable. Other tools can be hard to implement and use with little customer support. It is important to be prudent when choosing a VoC provider.” – Gretchen Jezerc, What are Voice of the Customer (VoC) Tools?, First Insight; Twitter: @firstinsight
3. Try in-person interviews for better relationships with customers.
“While the cost of in-person interviews is the highest among all forms of interview, it is still considered to be the most useful form for building trusting customer relationships. This is because customers perceive this type of interaction as more personal.” – Ruchika Sharma, 12 Voice of the Customer Methodologies To Generate a Goldmine of Customer Feedback, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot
4. Tune into social media as well for greater consumer insight.
“Social Media is a powerful time in this tech age. A single tweet or post is all that it takes to make a brand an instant hit or send it tumbling down. Most of the consumers take to social media to be vocal about their opinions. Thus, one can safely say social media is a goldmine of the voice of customer data where you can quickly understand customer trends, resolve their queries and address their opinions.” – Voice of Customer Tools, Survey Sparrow; Twitter: @surveysparrow
5. Keep channels connected for deeper insights.
“Many organizations rely on one or two channels to measure and optimize their interactions with customers, which limits the accuracy and depth of customer insights. Without an omni-channel feedback tool, voice of the customer programs offer incomplete information about customer preference, behavior, and satisfaction. Additionally, leading brands and organizations want to collect customer feedback everywhere their customers are so they can create a more seamless customer experience.” – What is Voice of The Customer (VoC)?, Qualtrics; Twitter: @Qualtrics
6. Start by learning who your customers are.
“Not every VOC process (survey, questionnaire or interview) will work for every product or service because those ‘voices’ are different depending on the product or service. For example, a top video game for tweens will have a different voice than the latest washing machine on the market.
“Before you delve into voice of the customer techniques, know who your customers are first.” – Jean Scheid, Voice of the Customer Techniques and Tools, Bright Hub; Twitter: @BrightHub_PM
7. For better VoC results, determine what you want to learn.
“Asking the right questions is the first step to building an effective VoC program. Depending on how you want to assess your customers' feedback, there's a lot you can ask—from how they found the process at large, to what they think of the specific items they bought.” - Hannah Clark, Voice Of Customer Analytics: Are You Listening?, CX Lead; Twitter: @CxLead
8. Incorporate gemba visits to reveal more about your clients’ interactions with your products.
“Among the well-known market research methods available, surveys and focus groups can be useful for validating what an organization already presumes to know about customer needs. Questionnaires can help capture new information an organization knows to exist and specifically seeks. These methods are scripted by the organization and typically address questions about a product or service.
“In contrast, customer gemba visits are unique to QFD. A gemba visit involves listening to and observing customers while they are using a product or service to determine what they are doing (or failing to do). During these moments, organizations can uncover information that they did not even know existed and would not know to seek.” – Voice of the Customer Table, ASQ; Twitter: @asq
9. Focus groups can give you a better idea of your ideal prospects.
“Unlike one-to-one interviews, focus groups involve gathering a small group of people with a moderator to discuss a specific issue, product feature or a topic. As Steven Telio, product manager at Build on Purpose points out: ‘Focus groups are used to understand who your ideal prospect is, what features to prioritize when you develop your products, who the competition is and to understand narrative and positioning into how to communicate with potential customers.’” – Steven MacDonald, Voice of Customer: How to 10x Your Business With VOC Data, Super Office; Twitter: @SuperOffice
10. Recorded calls can provide valuable information regarding your customers’ experiences.
“If you record calls with customers, you can leverage that data for your VoC research. Customer calls can provide valuable insights into common customer complaints, questions, or objections to your products and services.” – Understanding the Voice of the Customer, Lucidchart; Twitter: @LucidSoftware
11. Leverage your website to learn more about customer behavior.
“Most marketers look at their site data to gain insights around things like how many people visited in a given time period, what their most popular landing pages are and which keywords people are using to find them.
However, by taking analytics to the next level and capturing behavior, you can learn even more about what your audience is doing. From where they’re scrolling to on a given page to heat maps that show which content they’re interacting with, there are many tools that can show you what your visitors want and need from you.” – Susan Friesen, How to Use Voice of Customer Tools for Your Business, Business 2 Community; Twitter: @B2Community
12. An effective Voice of the Customer program is more than just investing in the right software.
“Customer feedback can transform your CX strategies and accelerate growth, but only if you have an effective Voice of the Customer program in place to capture, consolidate and prioritize it. Creating a VoC program for your organization requires more than an impressive VoC software implementation.
“Your teams must also embrace the value of customer feedback and buy into your VoC program — including your plans for acting on the insights it uncovers.” - How To Build An Effective Voice of the Customer Program, NPS Prism; Twitter: @NPSPrism
13. Take Voice of the Employee into consideration as well.
“A customer feedback program that lacks a connection between employees and customers will eventually weaken your motive. By considering the voice of the employees, you get to understand the challenges faced by them which can be bottlenecks in providing the best CX. Working on their concerns will help them offer the best experience to the customers.” – Adi Bhat, Best practices to strengthen your voice of the customer program, Question Pro; Twitter: @questionpro
14. VoC data should be capturable from all channels and parts of your business.
“Capturing VoC feedback has to start with agreement across all functions that are directly involved with customers. Teams such as Sales, Support, Success, Implementation, and Marketing all need to be able to submit this data into a common process. The data includes essentially any avenue the customer may use to connect with you in both positive and negative contexts.” – Sara Stafforoni, Voice of the Customer (VoC) Feedback: Everything You Need to Know, Get Feedback; Twitter: @getfeedback
15. Schedule your VoC surveys for tailored insights.
“Typically, surveys are executed post-purchase. This is an optimal time to gather feedback, but surveys should not be restricted to just this stage. Well designed and executed surveys can also be scheduled pre-purchase or for service-based businesses within the period that the customer is experiencing the service. An additional option is to schedule a survey that potentially pre-empts a problem, for example, at a stage that other customers have highlighted as a negative part of the customer journey. This proactive move by an organization is a strong CX bonus and can obtain very specific VoC insights.” – Your guide to Voice of the Customer tools, CX Network; Twitter: @CX_Network
16. Match VoC techniques to channels for better results overall.
“Some research methods, such as surveys and interviews, require detailed planning, while others require nothing more than structured eavesdropping. The more research conducted, the better, but for landing page copy most marketers need only use a few of these options. Depending on the project, marketers may employ all the methods or just a few.
“It’s best to aggregate all the research sources into a final report for future use. It can also serve as a creative brief for future projects—until the market or the product, service, or company changes.” – Brad Mcmillen, Voice of the Customer: The Secret Weapon For Great Landing Page Copy, WordStream; Twitter: @WordStream
17. Use data science to identify the improvements that offer the most value potential for your business.
“When information is aplenty, the voice of customer methods based on manual data analysis no longer bring the best results.
“The VoC collection tools can produce a multitude of scattered data entries that won’t tell you a comprehensive story. In fact, analyzing data from different angles can lead you to contrarian conclusions.
“Data science can help you ‘weed out’ exactly what kind of improvements are the most in-demand and how they can generate additional value for your business.” - How Does Data-Driven Voice of Customer Reinvent CX and UX?, Infopulse; Twitter: @InfopulseGlobal
18. Remember to look beyond standard surveys and focus groups.
“Today’s voice of the customer is no longer just about customer surveys and focus groups. New technologies can capture solicited and unsolicited customer feedback across many different touchpoints and stages of the customer experience ecosystem. This provides a much more holistic understanding of customer needs and sentiment that can be used to develop superior customer experiences and stronger customer relationships.” – Mike McGuirk, Capturing the Voice of the Customer Extends Well Beyond Surveys, Customer Strategist; Twitter: @tteclife
19. Ask the right questions for more useful results than basic metrics provide.
“Your Voice of Customer (VoC) program and outcomes are only as good as the instrument and questions you ask in your survey.
“Wouldn't we all love to ask our customers 100 questions?
“Unfortunately, they do not have the time, and most aren't willing to spend more than about 3 to 5 minutes answering a survey.
“Therefore, it is crucial to make sure the 15 questions you choose to ask are the right ones.” - Emily Carroll, The Best Voice of Customer (VoC) Questions, Drive Research; Twitter: @DriveResearch
20. Use VoC to fuel your development plans directly.
“Most companies turn to leaders or internal feedback networks in making development decisions. However, taking into consideration what we mentioned above, the customers know what they need best. So, you should really be seeking for their opinions. On every step of the way, ask for validation and confirmation of functionality from customers. Don’t wait until your budget is exhausted.” – Ashley Cheng, Voice of the customer: the best VoC guide, UserSnap; Twitter: @usersnap
21. Ask questions you might not like the answers to for more useful VoC results.
“There’s more to Voice of the Customer than sending out a survey and hoping for a good response. If you have dreams of becoming a champion gymnast and pay a coach top dollar to train you, you’d expect them to tell you when your form is off, right? That’s because constructive criticism is necessary for improvement. VoC best practices stress that you ask probing questions and not just set yourself up to receive positive remarks (which can still be useful, but we’ll touch on that in a sec). Are customers unhappy with the price point? Do they have trouble using your product? Does your service actually make life easier or does it just stress them out? While the responses may not be all smiles, they reveal insights that drive change.” – Nick Mehta, The Essential Guide to Voice of the Customer, Gainsight; Twitter: @GainsightHQ
22. Gauge your VoC needs by the technology you intend to use and the people you intend to engage with.
“The method that is used is determined by the resources, including technology, that are available and the customers who are being evaluated. If a reference laboratory received 85% of their business from five clients, a focus group with representatives from those five clients would work well. For a laboratory with hundreds of ordering physicians, a survey would be preferred since it can reach out to all customers.” – “Define Phase” Tools: Voice of the Customer (VOC), LabCE; Twitter: @labce
23. Convert your gathered VoC data to usable information through deeper questioning or brainstorming.
“To begin with, you need to analyze VOC data and then, categorize the feedback to create an accurate picture of common customer problems, pain points, and improvement suggestions.
“In practical terms, this means looking for patterns in the feedback.
“For example, these could be common phrases your customers have used to describe why they use your product or challenges they face with it.
“Next, you need to prioritize which of those you’re going to act on first.” - Steven Macdonald, Voice of Customer: How to 10X Your Business with VoC Data, SuperOffice; Twitter: @SuperOffice
24. Remember to act on your VoC results.
“If you collect feedback and do nothing about it, then the survey doesn’t make sense. Make sure you take appropriate actions and change your business plans so that your customers know you are listening.” – Voice of the Customer (VoC), Tatvam; Twitter: @tatvaminsights
25. Let users lead the way when it comes to collecting feedback for unique issues.
“If you are looking to collect feedback to help you address specific issues on your website, such as broken links and other technical issues, then you need feedback that is unique to the individual visitor who experiences this issue.
“The best method for collecting tactical feedback is a user-initiated approach which allows your visitors to leave their feedback at any point during their visit by clicking a button that is shown persistently throughout their visit. This is commonly referred to as a Comment Card or a Feedback tab.
“This approach allows you to collect specific feedback relating to unique barriers that this visitor experienced during their visit, which you can then easily relay to key stakeholders in your company, so they can address these issues.” – Voice of the Customer, iPerceptions; Twitter: @iPerceptions