Level up your strategy by listening to the voice of the customer Customer by TAYLOR COTTER June 17, 2021 Marketers tend to be heads-down. Many of us are running a dozen programs, managing teams, and trying to keep up with a changing industry. When we’re underwater, it’s tough to remember to come up for air and ask: what do our customers actually want from us? Understanding the voice of your customer can help you answer this question. What does ‘voice of the customer’ mean? The voice of the customer is what your customer wants and needs. It’s how your customers share their experiences with your product and services to inform your product and marketing. It may seem like a simple concept. Of course, we listen to our customers. Yet, as companies and the number of stakeholders grow, what the customer wants and needs can sometimes get lost. The customer’s voice can include negative and positive feedback, and it can be delivered in a variety of ways. Understanding your customers’ wants and needs can inform any number of programs across your company. The benefits of listening to your customers All companies have the best intentions when listening to customer feedback. In many industries, ‘the customer is always right.’ In others, customers must raise issues many times to feel heard. When you’re listening to the voice of your customer, you learn what your customers value the most in your product and how they use it. You can use this feedback as market research to inform your marketing programs, product development, and customer success programs. Understanding the voice of the customer is the first step to becoming a customer-centric company. How to create a customer voice strategy Listening to your customers should be baked into your marketing strategy. Consider implementing consistent feedback mechanisms that can influence your programs. Different kinds of customers can provide valuable feedback. Here are some ways each kind of customer can inform your strategy: Loyal customers Loyal customers are often the easiest to identify and to request feedback from. They are excited to share their feedback. Even though you have the strongest customer relationships with them, they are often the people to turn to for specific critical feedback about your product. They will also let you know how you can engage them better and keep them as a customer. Their familiarity and dedication make them a great sounding board. Churned customers It’s never fun to have a conversation with your ex. But your churned customers—especially those that may have been with you for a while—can often provide some of the best customer feedback. They will be more critical of your product than your loyal customers, but they also tend to be more straightforward. They may even be able to give you insight into your competitors. “Lazy” customers Some customers might stop by and buy your product whenever they feel like it. They may have an unpredictable buying pattern, but still appear to enjoy using your product. These customers can give you a lot of insight into customer motivation and how your product fits into the market. Best practices for your customer voice initiative Here are some of the methods to hear the voice of your customer: Interviews or focus groups There’s no replacing a face-to-face (or face-to-Zoom) conversation. By speaking with your customers one-on-one or in small groups, you not only hear their feedback, but you can understand how they feel. In these situations, you can read body language, hear intonation, and capture emotions. This can give you a human look into how your customers feel about your product. Surveys and net promoter score Post-service surveys are—unsurprisingly—one of the most popular ways to collect customer feedback. They’re simple to administer and inherently quantitative. You can aggregate your surveys into a net promoter score, a key metric in measuring customer satisfaction. Customer feedback on site A comment field or feedback email address allows for unbridled criticism, but perhaps that’s exactly what your company needs to grow. An open form for anonymous customer feedback can encourage trolling or spam. Yet, it also encourages feedback that your customers don’t know how to give otherwise. Customer service data Your customer service team is the frontline of the customer voice—they hear it every day. Ask your team for service tickets, recorded phone conversations, chatbots, and email conversations. You can uncover a buried treasure of what your customers are trying to tell you. Sales data Your sales team is having dozens of conversations with potential customers. They are hearing their concerns and hopes for a new solution from your target market. Aggregate the recordings, notes, and data from sales calls for more insights into your customer voice. Social media It’s quite possible your customers are already talking about you. They might use LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to share their thoughts on your company and recommend it, or not, to other people in their peer group. Use social media listening tools to scrape brand mentions and related conversations. How do you determine the most effective way to collect customer feedback? Consider a mix of strategies. Some customers may be more comfortable with one method than another. By using a few methods, you can ensure that one method doesn’t show a bias over another. How to measure and understand your customer voice So, you’ve collected all your customer feedback. You’ve got a spreadsheet, a folder full of sales calls, notes from a focus group and a smattering of net promoter scores. How do you make this feedback actionable? Here are the steps to organize and measure your customer data: Aggregate the data using one common method Your customer voice should be singular and consistent. In order for the customer feedback to be actionable, it must be standardized. Streamline your customer data using one or more of the following tools: An integrated CRM that can mirror your feedback directly with your customer data A dedicated customer experience tool, like GetFeedback, to collect feedback across channels A qualitative research tool, like FocusVision, to run focus groups and collect customer data Determine if there are any gaps or issues with the data Once you’ve aggregated your data, it’s your job to look for holes. Did you leave out feedback from a certain age bracket or demographic group? Was all your feedback collected during a busy season, or a slow season? Did you forget to ask a key question? If a mistake was made, now is the time to correct it. The customer voice relies on complete and full data. Without it, we don’t know if we are representing our customers. Identify trends It may be tempting to pick out a juicy data point. Maybe you have one customer who has been with your company for 20 years. Maybe you have one customer who churned and came back a year later, Or, maybe you have a customer that said something really cruel or untrue. When understanding your customer voice, trends are more important than outliers. Take time to understand the commonalities. Your customer voice will never represent all customers, but it should represent most of them. Don’t fall into data analysis traps Data analysis is not a perfect science. There are a number of biases and common analysis blunders that come into play, and can impact how you present your final data. These include: Errors. Does your data meet quality standards? Too small of a sample size. Did you survey enough people to have meaningful results? Confirmation bias. Did you ask open-ended questions, or did you use the data to confirm an already-held belief? Misinterpretation of results. Did you explore every possible reason for the results that you received? What if your market research and analysis show no meaningful results? This does not mean your experiment was a failure. It could mean that you need to do more research, or that you need to ask questions that reveal customer similarities, rather than differences. It might also mean that your customers are not ready to give feedback in the way that you asked for it. In the case that trends do not come to light, be sure to use this as fodder for your next customer feedback round. Report on trends and determine action items It’s crucial to communicate the trends you uncover to product leaders and decision-makers. The voice of the customer can become a litmus test for new product decisions and marketing programs. It is your responsibility to speak on behalf of the customer using their voice. You can present the voice of the customer in a brief presentation, a detailed report, or a series of recommendations. Some immediate action items you can take with customer voice include: A webinar to educate customers on relevant product features Improvement of your customer relationship management (CRM) system with integrated and updated customer data A re-engagement campaign for churned customers, with a renewed understanding of their priorities Development of your ideal customer profile A ‘surprise and delight’ campaign for loyal customers who have expressed what they value Conclusion The voice of the customer is something marketers always think about, but rarely go through the exercise of quantifying. By going through this process, marketers can better understand who they are selling to. This will create stronger products and marketing programs to help their company grow. Sources: 8 types of bias in data analysis and how to avoid them George Lawton. TechTarget. October 26, 2020 What is voice of the customer (VoC)? Qualtrics Customer Data Management | Customer Relationships | Startups TAYLOR COTTER Taylor Cotter is a content marketer and social media strategist who has worked with leading B2B software companies to increase their reach and exceed their customer acquisition goals. Taylor is passionate about marketing that sits at the intersection of creativity and functionality. You can learn more about her at taylorcotter.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.