“Feedback,” former SurveyMonkey CMO Leela Srinivasan explains, “has become a global currency in a transparent world where people share their experiences.”
This isn’t just true for the growing feedback economy. In any business, good customer feedback benefits marketing, product development, customer satisfaction, and more. The results? Better marketing, better products, and more customer—and business—success.
Listening to customers and taking action on their feedback has become a major differentiator. In fact, research by Gartner suggests that two-thirds of companies now compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.
How do you create a seamless customer experience? You ask customers about it, and incorporate how they speak about what you do, into how you speak about what you do.
Voice of the customer, also called ‘voice of customer’ or VoC, refers to a particular type of customer feedback. Reaching beyond customer behavior, customer analytics, or web analytics data, VoC data refers to verbatim customer interviews, reviews, and other sources of insight.
While customer research is important, gathering feedback directly from the people using your products and services has many benefits. Among other things, it tells you exactly how customers feel. This helps identify unhappy customers and opportunities to boost customer retention, which makes for high customer lifetime value.
It also can affect everything from customer loyalty to sales. According to research by Qualtrics, good customer experiences make consumers extremely likely to:
What’s more, 94% of the Qualtrics survey respondents said they would purchase more from a company based on customer experience. Ninety percent said emotion plays a major role in their purchasing decisions.
Using direct feedback to zero in on customer pain points and streamline the customer journey makes a huge difference in customer satisfaction and retention.
Let’s illustrate this concept with an example of voice of customer in action.
Say you’ve developed an app that alerts customers to potential weather-related changes to their calendar events. If conditions are expected to impact flights, outdoor event locations, or road conditions, customers get a notification they can tap for more information.
A simple voice of customer program in this case might be an automated prompt to rate and review the app after customers’ tenth alert. Any online reviews left would provide verbatim accounts about your app from the customer perspective.
Another option might be to email customer surveys after a certain number of alerts. This survey might ask questions like:
These questions help uncover how customers perceive your app. The answers customers provide are VoC data revealing how customers feel about the product in their own words. These words can be used to improve marketing communications with more relatable language, while the overall insights can be passed on to product development and customer success.
Importantly, gathering information about the customer experience from customers is not where voice of customer efforts end. In fact, collecting feedback is just the beginning. To leverage your VoC data and see benefits, you’ll need to develop a voice of the customer program.
According to SurveyMonkey, “A VoC program captures, analyzes and reports on all customer feedback—expectations, likes, and dislikes—that is associated with your company.”
Understanding customer expectations can be the difference between long-term company success and being the business equivalent of a one-hit wonder.
If customers are buying your product or service because it’s their only option, that innovation will only get you so far. Once competitors enter the space, you’ll need loyal customers and a detailed understanding of their needs to keep delivering on expectations.
An ongoing VoC program ensures that your customer data gets put to use. This keeps you tuned into the customer experience so that your company can adapt as your customers expectations change.
Let’s go over how to create a VoC program step-by-step.
What is your goal in implementing a voice of customer program? Often, the answer to this question comes from what drew you to the VoC concept in the first place. Perhaps you want to:
Once you know your objective, it will be easier to collect customer feedback that you can use to benefit your company.
A VoC program is dead in the water without investment. Because so many departments contribute to and benefit from customer data, it’s important to garner employee engagement in VoC across the company.
Start with the executive team. Once they understand the value of VoC data and how it can be leveraged, they can pass their understanding on to department leaders.
Voice of the customer programs thrive on interdepartmental collaboration. Success ultimately will lean on both input by and efforts from the product development process to customer relationship management. Garner enthusiasm before diving into implementation
You don’t want to expend resources to collect VoC data you don’t need. If you’re collecting customer feedback on a recent update, asking what future customers might want to know about your business won’t get you the key input you’re looking for.
Refer to your objective and ask yourself what you need to know in order to meet it. Recruit team members from different departments to help with brainstorming. We’ll go over different ways to collect data further down.
Of course, knowing what VoC data you want to collect is different than knowing how to collect feedback.
How you collect feedback depends on:
Once those things are in place, you’ll have a better idea of the technology and customer methodology available to get the valuable feedback you need from your customers.
Based on the above factors, you’ll need to choose technology that helps you achieve your voice for the customer program goal.
A solid VoC analytics program can help gather, organize, and even report on customer feedback. Insights to the customer experience should be easy to understand and accessible to all relevant team members.
VoC data software that links feedback to other customer data can be especially helpful in organizing information and planning action items. Be sure to check a platform’s integrations as part of your selection process.
There are a number of ways to go about collecting customer feedback. Some of these include:
Companies can combine input from these sources with things like their net promoter score as part of a broader customer analytics program. The net promoter score is based on a simple 1-10 rating made by customers. It isn’t verbatim feedback, but is an important part of analyzing data in VoC programs.
Together, customer experience insights and metrics like net promoter score paint a clear picture of customer loyalty and ways to work towards retaining customers.
You’ve collected data from your voice of the customer program—that’s great! However, without making use of that customer data, it’s practically useless.
To improve your customer experience and make the most of your VoC program, you’ll need to analyze all that valuable feedback. That way, you can apply it towards meeting customer expectations and creating business value.
Here are some things to consider:
Once you’ve conducted a review and analysis, report on your findings and create an action plan with your team.
Actionable insights circle back to knowing your objective and collecting customer feedback that helps meet that goal. This information closes the feedback loop, showing customers that you are both listening and taking action on their valuable insights.
It’s important to keep in mind that these insights can be positive, neutral, or negative. In any case, they all provide valuable feedback.
Negative feedback is extremely valuable. If acted upon quickly and appropriately, it can save customers considering churning out and improve your offerings for future customers. Be sure to remain open to this constructive criticism.
With the right data and action plan, you can create a customer experience strategy that boosts loyalty and retention. Try to iterate on your VoC data collection frequently. An ongoing voice of the customer program means you always have fresh customer data to build from.
Voice of the customer is about more than focus groups, customer research, and gathering feedback. It’s also about leveraging that feedback to identify trends, create better customer tools, and improve your brand reputation.
With a strong VoC program in place, you secure customers and their loyalty for whatever competition arises.
Creating an excellent handoff plan between your Sales and Customer Success teams makes the transition seamless. Use these meeting and email templates to get started.
The right rapport-building questions give others permission to take the emotional space needed for trust to deepen.