Henry Ford famously (or infamously) said car buyers could have any color they wanted as long as it was black. This short statement implied that the distributors of products and services held all the power and the final say. Conversely, the consumer, the receiver of products and services, were powerless and had no say. My, my, my – how the world has changed since then!
Today, the Voice of the Customer applies to a vast field of research into customer feedback as it relates to their customer experience (CX) with brands. It digs deep to unearth customer needs, the degree to which brands met expectations, how they understand brand presentations, and their suggestions for product improvement.
VoC programs, driven in most cases by digital apps and Saas innovations, are on a tear in C-suites of organizations everywhere as they develop their strategic plans. Management recognizes that customers demand nothing less than close engagement with the brand and that mapping the entire CX journey with feedback is an essential part of marketing initiatives. Perhaps the well-known fact that disappointing CX (recurring) hitting the country’s enterprises with approximately $83 billion loss every year (and growing) is a motivator. Bad news travels twice as fast as good news. In short, people jump at the chance to talk about a negative experience.
Voice of Customer techniques do work.
One great example is 1-800 Contacts, a predominantly digital service business. It embarked on an intense program to enhance the CX of its customer base by responding to direct feedback. Their MO was to send small gifts that customers identified to create a personal touch. The strategy improved the company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 13 points very quickly, boosted the reorder rate by nearly 4%, and converted customers into ambassadors who promote the brand as affiliates.
There is little doubt that if customers believe they are on the receiving end of superior service, it has a massive impact on the bottom line and revenues. The more you allow your customers to talk to you directly, with their own voice, online, directly by phone, and in many other ways, the more they expect you to listen to them. It goes further than that. They expect you to do something with the imparted information that translates into better brand quality. Moreover, they hope to see fast results. Turning new prospects into new customers, and bolstering existing customer loyalty, sprouts from the root of the voice of the customer techniques applied religiously.
Voice of Customer programs respond to methodical processes.
Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread. Make sure that you cover all the bases to ensure that you address CX effectively from end-to-end. There are many moving parts, and the resultant customer feedback and customer retention are only as good as the weakest in the line-up.
Looking for a realistic and CX-centric route to follow? Start here:
1. Customer Experience Leadership
Unless the executive suite buys into the idea that a voice of the customer program is the key to the kingdom, it’s unlikely to see the light of day. If the old Henry Ford outlook still lingers, as it does – amazingly – in many businesses, CX as a business driver will be lost.
2. Fast employee agreement to the voice of customer initiatives
For any voice of the customer program to create inroads to better customer engagement, the CEO of the company must harness the support of every team member in the sales enablement arena. There’s no substitute for setting out clear objectives and guidelines, leaving sub-groups, scrums, and teams with the ammunition and leeway to give CX teeth in influencing marketing decisions. Your message and the way you deliver it is all-important.
3. When the employee voice is unheard, credibility for a VoC program will fail.
Why would your workforce buy into a voice of the customer strategy when you don’t listen to them? Indeed, it may create internal turmoil with a “why them before us” reaction. Listening to customers and employees in many ways travels in the same boat because it’s an indication of sensitive management. Lack of HR empathy is poison to any designs on creating a better CX. To gauge the employee sentiment in your business, conduct an eNPS to see if ambassadors outnumber detractors. If not (i.e., the opposite), it’s unlikely the VoC plans will stay on course. You need, at the very least, a positive eNPS score as a fundamental pillar to be in place.
4. Understand the customer from the first step
Understand that a strong voice of customer program depends first and foremost on the customer communicating with you. Therefore, begin the process by connecting in a way that customers are most responsive to in a language they understand. If it’s email or text or direct chat, whatever, zone in on it and squeeze out the value for all it’s worth. Make sure that your communication style and media roster are flexible enough to adjust to customer changes going through the process.
Best VoC techniques for getting to the voice of the customer
Organizations in any industry pay anything from five to twenty-five times more to convert a prospect into a new customer than it does to hold onto an existing one. Against this backdrop, we recommend the following techniques to make the most headway with the Voice of Customer research. It takes some customer understanding and insight to work out which of them work best for you, and when.
Customer Interviews – a great CX tool
It’s the most personal method and the best way to build customer trust. It resonates strongly with respondents interviewed in small groups or one-on-one. The downside is that it is the most costly technique even though phone and email are used a lot more than personal face-to-face.
On-Site Customer Surveys
Popular in restaurants, for example, as the customer is leaving. The problem is that this type of VoC survey has to be concise and zone in on crucial pain areas without creating a feeling of “inconvenience.” If you don’t ask the right questions under time pressure, you’ll get misleading answers. In many ways, that is worse than no feedback at all. There are specialized voice of the customer survey platforms like SoGoCX offering optional templates that include:
- Yes/no type surveys
- Multiple choice
- Text boxes for expanded answers.
It’s commonly known in marketing circles that 44% of online shoppers love live chat. It provides a wonderful opportunity to gather information directly from “the horse’s mouth,” so to speak. Many marketers believe that live chat is a complaint forum, but far from it. Most customers coming through on live chat have a legitimate interest in buying and want to know more about brand functionality. Use apps like HubSpot Messages to get live chat up-and-running on your website in no time at all. This is a prime vehicle connecting to the voice of the customer goals.
If ever there was a place to hear the voice of the customer, it’s here. Social media is a phenomenal way to create a two-way conversation with your customers. The most popular are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Moreover, it’s a dynamic method, allowing you to participate in real-time discussions, or just listen in on them. Also, the content around these interactions is likely to be very brand-centric and brutally honest.
- Capturing the voice of the customer on your website through chat and survey landing pages are becoming increasingly popular.
- Then, by using various tools, you can collect data to see how they navigated your site. Indeed, one integrative app like CrazyEgg will do all the analysis for you.
- You could engage customers with an NPS survey. Answered thoroughly and anonymously, they help you to understand to see how likely the customer is to recommend the brand to friends and family.
- Provide a dedicated feedback form with your contact information and access portal. You’ll be surprised how much feedback comes at you through that channel.
Recorded calls for a window into the voice of the customer
It’s not unusual to make a phone call and hear “This call is being recorded for training purposes,” or a similar message. Whatever the reason, the recordings can be an open sesame to a whole world of customer thoughts you never knew existed. You’ll pick up frustration, complaints, confusion, compliments, anxiety, elation – the whole ten yards, and then some. It’s also what it claims to be – a great training tool for customer support.
Online Customer Reviews
You’ll derive a lot of feedback value when looking at customer reviews, but it can be quite sobering sometimes. There are so many review sites these days it’s unlikely any brand that’s been around the block a couple of times isn’t on one of them – at least. The better-known ones are G2 Crowd, Finances Online, TrustRadius, TrustPilot, Capterra, and Angie’s List. Appreciate this before you skip through this message: bad reviews materially affect the decision of close to 86% of your customers. Learn from your negative reviews, and rely on them as an objective guide to make changes to your offer. It is an entrenched research method when it comes to hearing the voice of the customer.
Other techniques worth considering
Although not all that popular these days because they’re either too expensive, limited in probing capability or bordering on impractical. Still, they do feature in research from time to time:
- Off-site surveys
- Focus Groups – usually used in combination with other techniques where customers are willing respondents.
Putting all of it together
Smart thinking around methodical processes and applying the latest most penetrating techniques converge on a strong voice of the customer program. It’s an end-to-end strategy built around CX that makes the difference between a groundbreaking enterprise and an also-ran. If you want to be the former, we advise connecting with SoGoCX to smooth the way and minimize your errors in getting to the end. They have the resources, the experience, and are known as the voice of the customer leaders in this new research field.