Is the customer always right? Maybe not, but their thoughts will always be an integral part of improving customer experiences. The Voice of the Customer (VoC) refers to feedback from customers on “their experiences with and expectations for your products or services”, according to survey software company Qualtrics. Feedback is more than just a survey—collecting VoC data is an in-depth process that compiles detailed information that companies can use to improve processes successfully.

What components make up VoC?

An MIT paper defines the following four crucial aspects to a good VoC program:

  • Customer needs: Gathering feedback from customers on their user experience.
  • Hierarchical structure: Restructuring feedback into a clean structure by classifying goals according to relevance and urgency.
  • Priorities: Analyzing the value of customer need in comparison to cost
  • Customer perceptions of performance: Using industry benchmarks to measure your business’ success.

Most VoC programs are built with those factors in mind: a method to translate the wide swath of consumer opinions, objectives and expectations into actionable items for a company. Instead of just looking at random customer surveys or checking to see how consumers tweet about your company, VoC makes companies listen to customers strategically. Here are some important tactics for listening to VoC:

  • Think creatively about data collection: At its core, VoC aims to understand a customer’s needs from a particular product/service. But customers often have difficulty correctly stating their needs, according the MIT authors. Instead, experiential interviews or observations offer better insights.
  • Track all feedback: Instead of having to pull feedback from various online forms across different departments and different platforms, strong VoC programs will integrate feedback into one easily found place. Surveys are a common way to collect feedback because companies can listen to a wide array of information in one place, according to Qualtrics.
  • Conduct competitive research: When looking at customer’s needs, it’s likely that your product isn’t meeting every requirement that a customer would want—but to which competitor are they going to fill that need? Market research will answer that question and better inform marketing decisions made from VoC.
  • Monitor data: Whether that’s through a dashboard or a report, VoC programs are always analyzing customer behavior to keep a “real-time pulse on your customers”.

Why Does it Matter?

Businesses that regularly utilize VoC feedback tend to do better on every scale, from revenue growth to customer retention. A recent study from the Aberdeen Group shows that companies using VoC data have almost 10 times as much annual company revenue growth compared to others. According to the same study, they also have much higher employee engagement and customer retention rates. Getting feedback from customers is one thing, but having the systematic approach of VoC makes consistently exceeding customer expectations more attainable.

On top of that, iPerceptions reports that companies using VoC also lowered their customer care costs by 6.3 percent year over year – while companies without VoC programs saw a 2 percent rise. Companies leveraging VoC also boast Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that are three times higher than businesses without VoC programs. Top CEOs like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook areknown for listening to and incorporating customer feedback; the value of listening to customers strategically cannot be ignored.

Putting VoC Methods In Place

Through VoC programs, companies can build surveys, analyze trends through different dashboards, and have responses in place right away based on data. For example, a good VoC program will have an automatic email blast each week if sales fall below a set target. But before considering how to collect VoC insights, consider what insights your company hopes to gain from the data collected. How will this data be different from what the company already collects? Who can benefit from this information? How will this data be used? Companies that are most successful with VoC are ones that adapt their business based on results. As such, it’s helpful to have a cross-functional team that can strategically think across various business units.

Adapting VoC to a Digital World

Social media is becoming increasingly important from a marketing perspective, but it’s also an important factor of VoC. Understanding a customer’s expectations of a product can be as easy as finding the right tweets—in fact, companies like UPS have Twitter accounts specifically designated to responding to frustrated customers. Good VoC programs will integrate information from these sources and translate them into insights that can be organized by priority and hierarchical structures.

VoC is an important part factor in building stronger relationships with customers, yet building and capitalizing on a program is a big financial and time investment. However, the impact of listening to customers through this systematic approach is overwhelming. You may think you’ve identified the correct growth areas for your company, but VoC data could shift your perspective and help pinpoint problems.

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