Voice of the Customer Program Setup and Tools

A Voice of the Customer (VOC) program is a research process to capture customer preferences, categorize feedback into a data-driven structure, and prioritize customer needs based on purchase propensity or similar benefit to the customer and company. VOC is often product specific and performed early as part of product or service design. But it can also be related to the broader company as part of a customer strategy, such as a customer experience management strategy.

VOC data collection methods include physical or digital interviews and questionnaires. More often than not, structured forms capture customer goals for products and services, flush out stated and unstated customer desires and extract the feedback into needs statements.

These customer needs statements can then be aligned to R&D efforts, product roadmaps, marketing messaging, sale offers, customer service and virtually every customer facing area of the company in order to accurately respond to what customers most want; not what you think they most want.

Voice of the Customer Data Hierarchy

Other benefits include the ability to identify advocates, intervene with detractors, spot problem areas where staff training can deliver quick improvements, detect the next generation of innovative products, vet customer acceptance of your go-to-market efforts and verify your brand promise is understood by customers.

Advanced VOC adopters create predictive models to show the impact of solving customer needs with company financial measures.

Popular VOC tools include period and event-based surveys, with the later occurring automatically upon completed interactions (i.e., help desk or customer service requests) or transactions (i.e. completed order, invoice, renewal, refund). It's important the surveys are short, structured and extraordinarily easy to complete. It's equally important that survey results are integrated with the CRM software customer profile and acted upon.

A somewhat atypical VOC practice that I have found helpful is to begin with a hypothesis, such as a discrete customer need or product goal, and structure questions to affirm, reject or prioritize the goal. This micro-based approach yields more detail around specific factors that most influence a distinctive outcome, and if the outcome is validated, suggests actions to achieve it.

Common VOC mistakes include failing to capture data by persona or customer segment, failing to cluster the data or structure it into hierarchies, over-reliance on a single VOC data collection technique, inaccurately translating customer feedback to needs statements, and inaccurately correlating customer insights with company performance measures. This last mistake is particularly costly as it implements measures that simply don't impact financial performance.

Can you hear me now?

When customer surveys show positive sentiment, that information can be used to adjust promotional offers, customer segmentation, nurture marketing campaigns and loyalty program engagement. When customer surveys trigger negative sentiment, they need to be immediately escalated for response.

Also, if you ask customers what they want, you need to periodically provide updates that demonstrate you've listened. Surveys can have a counter-productive effect when companies ask customers for their input and do nothing with the data. Nothing infuriates customers like asking them what they want and then ignoring their input. Don't begin a VOC program until you are prepared to act on the data.

Beyond Email Surveys

While email surveys are the most common VOC tool, response rates are low and relying on any single channel tends to skew results. The following tools offer additional VOC input at a source close to the customer interaction and thereby are capable of quickly improving individual customer engagement processes.

Voice of the Customer Survey

The above website survey response form is well suited to test website content.

Customer Effort Score

The above Customer Effort Score (CES) questionnaire can be displayed on websites, self-service sites, mobile devices, social media properties or within email bodies. It's one-click response generates high conversions. CES is particularly effective in measuring the customer's experience or satisfaction with single transaction events (i.e., placing an online order or making a call to the contact center.)

5 Star Survey

The five-star rating scale is often used to follow a sale or service delivery. It's important to provide numeric score definitions.

A solid voice of the customer design will deliver valuable and continuous customer or market research. The purpose is to ensure your planning and CRM design are not done in a vacuum and divorced from reality. Ignore or fail this step and every downstream action thereafter will be negatively impacted.