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?
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. These same tools, however, come in multiple forms and serve a growing variety of specific functions.
Types of VoC Tools
Voice of the customer tools can be classified under the following main categories:
Reporting and Analytics
These tools capture important data such as user effort and satisfaction, then help in analyzing it with useful metrics. Speech analytics, for example, captures data from customer support interactions (phone calls) using automated scoring and sentiment analysis and combines it with data from chat, surveys, email, and tweets 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.
These tools document and help in assessing your customers’ movements between services, products and interactions with your business in general.
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. Great VoC applications depend on collection, analysis and action.
“A well-rounded VoC program includes three different stages:
- Collection – capture feedback in the moment with short, simple, and relevant questions with satisfaction ratings, NPS surveys, and VOIP apps through digital channels like SMS or Chat
- Analysis – organize feedback to identify trends and observe patterns with analytics to measure and understand the entire customer experience
- Take Action – take any necessary action from customer feedback and analytics data reporting to put the right process in place” – Voice of the customer tools, Zendesk; Twitter: @zendesk
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.
7. For better VoC results, identify a question first and act last.
“Data-driven Voice of Customer analytics is proven to increase lifecycle value and reduce churn by delivering the insights companies need to dramatically improve brand and product experiences. There are six steps involved in building an effective VoC analytics program:
- Identify a question
- Gather and prepare data
- Choose your tools
- Analyze and troubleshoot
- Draw conclusions
- Take action” – Noah Blier, Voice of Customer Analytics: What it Is and How to Do It, Lexalytics; Twitter: @noahblier
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: @SuperOfficeAS
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: @lucidchart
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: @eVisionMedia
12. Link VoC tools to your Customer Experience systems for a more complete perspective.
“Today, most companies’ voice of customer efforts are closely linked to their broader Customer Experience Management (CX or CXM) programs. An effective CX implementation typically includes all of the feedback collection, analysis, and distribution capabilities required to manage a comprehensive VoC solution.” – Voice of the Customer, Maritzcx; Twitter: @maritzcx
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. Your ultimate aim should be to find out what customer needs are most profitable to accommodate.
“Following the standards set by Lean Six Sigma, Voice of Customer research has three main purposes:
- To figure out what customers care about
- To set priorities and goals consistent with the needs of your customers
- To determine what customer needs you can profitably meet” – A Voice of Customer Solution, Usabilla; Twitter: @usabilla
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 more and better questions for more useful results than basic metrics provide.
“If you broaden your definition of VoC to include 100% of the customer AND collect more than scores, the data will become inherently actionable. For example: Getting a NPS Score of 17 tells you how you are doing overall, but it doesn’t give most individual managers much about what they should do next. Instead, if you learn what customers want you to build next on a certain page or application, the data is inherently actionable. All you had to do was ask!” – Jeremy B., Making Voice of Customer Actionable, Pulse Insights; Twitter: @pulse_insights
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 Customer: Why VoC should lead your product development process, 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.
“It’s imperative to operationalize customer CTQs, because this is what feeds into subsequent phases such as gathering baseline measures, identifying root causes, and developing Control Plan metrics. Many times, initial verbatim comments are not themselves specific or actionable enough. For example, suppose a customer says he/she wants ‘good customer service’: what does this really mean? You need to either probe the customer on what he/she means, or translate this statement in some other way, such as brainstorming with your project team.” – Chuck Intrieri, Voice of The Customer: 4 Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them, Cerasis; Twitter: @Cerasis
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 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
How does your business leverage VoC technology?