- Voice of the Customer is the process of gathering feedback from customers to improve your business.
- Analyzing Voice of the Customer data helps you to communicate with your audience more effectively.
- There are numerous ways to capture Voice of the Customer, including search data, customer surveys, online reviews, social monitoring, interviews, and more.
Marketing technology has exploded over the last two decades providing brands with an unprecedented amount of customer data. These insights have fueled a revolution in customer-centric marketing that’s much more targeted and precise than previously possible.
Unfortunately, most of this information focuses on demographics and behavior rather than your customers’ experiences and expectations. In response, brands are turning to Voice of the Customer programs to fill in the gaps.
Read on to learn what VoC is, why it matters, and how you can capture it.
What is Voice of the Customer (VoC)?
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a market research process that’s used to gather customer feedback. It reveals important qualitative metrics such as your customers’ expectations, preferences, and aversions, as well as your customers’ needs, and pain points.
Marketers use VoC programs to improve customer experience, product development, services, and customer retention.
Why is voice of the customer important?
An effective VoC strategy significantly improves all areas of your marketing, including buyer personas, website content, social media posts, emails, and more.
It allows you to speak directly to your customers’ deepest feelings and pain points. As a result, your messaging will resonate better with customers, appeal to their aspirations, and address their concerns. You can also use VoC to tailor your messaging specifically for each audience segment, or to reach new customers. This enables brand touchpoints that match their desires in a customized, targeted manner.
Additionally, VoC helps you create a superior customer experience. In return, you’ll earn more word-of-mouth referrals, improve customer loyalty, and reduce churn. When a customer has a great experience with your brand, they’re much more likely to tell their friends about it or to otherwise give the brand a shoutout on social media.
87% of customers who have a good experience with a company will make another purchaseNETCONOMY
More loyalty and referrals translates into more revenue. In fact, 87% of customers who have a good experience with a company will make another purchase from that company. Conversely, just 18% who had a poor experience will buy again.
Voice of the customer process & methodology
Now that you know the marketing benefits of Voice of the Customer feedback, let’s look at the data collection methodology you’ll need to use in your framework. You should also have a spreadsheet or template to keep track of your data. And, it’s a good idea to outline your goals and objectives before you get started.
Because this type of information is highly qualitative, we’ll examine 15 different ways to capture feedback from customers.
1. Search data
Search data is one of the most effective ways to see what your audience thinks throughout the funnel. Do keyword research to uncover the words and phrases people use when they search. Those queries are like a window into your customers’ minds at each stage of the funnel.
Armed with search data, you can create relevant content that helps your audience at each step in the customer journey. For example, say that you sell productivity software. Keyword research might show that at the top of the funnel your audience searches terms like “productivity tips” or “how to be more efficient”.
2. Online content
Look at online content like blog posts, videos, and social media posts to find out what your audience loves. What topics do they read, watch and share the most? Are your stakeholders on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Where are your detractors?
Publishers are keen to feed their audiences what they enjoy and will spend time consuming. It’s therefore an indication of the topics and themes you might want to explore when engaging with them.
A useful tool for identifying popular content is BuzzSumo.
Online content that’s specific to your brand is just as useful. If you watch a YouTube video where a person reviews your product, for example, you’ll get the good, bad, and ugly about their experience.
When reviewing this type of content, it’s more helpful to look at trends rather than a single piece of content. If one video mentions something positive or negative, that may not be particularly significant. However, if the same things keep coming up again and again, you need to pay attention. It indicates a common experience among your customers and should be incorporated into your VoC data.
3. Online questions
Online forums, like Quora and Reddit, are an excellent place to uncover the questions your audience is asking. You can see the problems they’re facing, as well as the language they’re using to articulate their thoughts.
Useful tools for identifying the questions your audience is asking are Answer the Public and AnswerSocrates. In addition, Google launched the Google Question Hub for the U.S. earlier this year. The Hub reveals questions people are asking online that are as of yet unanswered. This is a way for your brand to be the first to answer new questions by your audience and to break out from the pack.
As for questions about your brand online, if a person talks specifically about your brand in a forum, you have the opportunity to respond. This creates a personal connection with that person, giving you the opportunity to learn from them.
4. Social media monitoring
When capturing Voice of Customer, social media should be one of your primary sources. Social platforms are where your customers share their immediate reactions regarding their experiences with your brand, your competitors, and your types of products and services in general. These immediate, gut reactions from customers give you actionable insights into their emotions, both good and bad.
You should respond to individual posts and address any problems or questions that arise. But focus on the trends. Positive or negative trends give you a better picture of what the majority of your audience feels.
For example, if there is an entire social media parody account that makes fun of your terrible customer service (as was the case for Comcast), then it’s probably a sign you need to take serious corrective action.
5. Industry voice of the customer surveys
Industry-wide voice of the customer surveys can give you a broad overview of important trends in your industry. They can help you understand the high-level priorities of your audience and identify opportunities for growth. Armed with this information, you can then ensure that your brand is properly aligned with your audience’s preferences and desires.
For surveys like these, you’ll acquire data not just from your customers but from the industry at large. Target, for example, wouldn’t just want to hear from their own customers. They’d also want to hear from regular shoppers at Kroger, TJX, Macy’s, Costco, and Walmart. What do those customers care about? Why aren’t they shopping with us? What are they looking for?
6. Online reviews
Online reviews are a gold mine when it comes to capturing Voice of the Customer. They also have a huge impact brand reputation, so it’s essential that you monitor and respond to reviews as appropriate.
In addition to sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Google, monitor other relevant review sites like Capterra, G2, Trustpilot, TrustRadius, OpenTable, Tripadvisor, and Angi. When reading reviews, pay attention to the specific language used by the customers, not just the general sentiment. What are they saying about your customer service, pricing, or products? What do they like and what customer needs to be improved? Do you notice any common themes?
You can use this information both to shape your marketing messaging and to make appropriate changes to the way you do business.
7. Focus groups
Focus groups allow you to gain a more nuanced understanding of VoC than some of the other methods we talked about. Because they happen in a neutral environment (as opposed to an upset customer leaving a review), you can get clear feedback regarding what people like or don’t like about a particular aspect of your brand, product, or service. Focus groups can be especially useful when exploring the launch of new products and services.
An additional plus that comes with focus groups is that you can guide the conversation. You can ask for further clarification, probe deeper, ask follow-up questions, etc. Just make sure you give all participants the freedom to be totally honest with their feedback.
One drawback with focus groups is that if there’s an alpha personality in the room, they may overly influence the discussion. Be careful to manage the situation appropriately.
8. Live chat
Having live chat on your site is a fantastic way to hear what’s on the minds of your site visitors. It also allows you to respond to questions, problems, and complaints in real-time, which can go a long way in keeping your site visitors happy.
There are two really simple ways you can use live chat to capture Voice of the Customer and to extract corresponding customer insights.
First, go through all your chat logs and identify common issues that come up repeatedly, as well as the way those issues are described by the customers.
Second, after every live chat, have a survey sent to the customer inviting them to share their feedback regarding the experience, along with any other comments they would like to make.
9. Onsite search
The things that visitors search for on your website can give you further understanding into the Voice of the Customer. For example, if visitors regularly search for instructions on how to use a particular feature of your product, it suggests that the feature is not intuitive and may be frustrating your customers. If they are looking for a particular color that you actually don’t offer among your tops, dresses, skirts, blazers, and sweaters, you can add the color to your collections.
Look at the most common onsite search phrases and questions on your website and incorporate that information into your VoC database.
10. Website behavior
Seeing how visitors interact with your website is another powerful way to understand Voice of the Customer. By using behavioral analytics, you can view heat maps, click maps, scroll maps, and attention maps of the individuals on your website. In reviewing video recordings of their visits, you can see exactly what people do when they come to your website.
All of this allows you to uncover the digital body language of your site visitors, revealing whether their visits were intuitive (or frustrating).
For example, you may see that on one particular page, first-time visitors are scrolling down only a small percentage of the page prior to abandoning the site. This suggests that the product or service may not be framed in a way that engages them. Or if it’s a content page, perhaps you need a more compelling introduction.
Armed with this information, it will be easier for you to understand what types of messaging connect most effectively with your customers. You can then start using this messaging throughout your website and your marketing campaigns.
11. Customer interviews
Like focus groups, customer interviews allow you to see things from the customer’s point of view. Interviews are often more in-depth than focus groups and give you the opportunity to get the customer’s perspective on any number of things, from your product or service, to their experience with the customer support team, to their general impression of your brand.
Interviews are great for capturing customer stories, testimonials, and specific anecdotes.
These interviews can be done in person, by phone, or via email and can last for a set period of time (such as 15 minutes) or they can be open-ended. If you’re having trouble getting customers to agree to being interviewed, consider offering them an incentive for their time.
12. Voice of the Customer surveys
Customer surveys are an effective way to get feedback on specific topics such as customer satisfaction with your service, product quality, website experience, recent purchase, etc.
It’s important to be careful and thoughtful when you design your survey questions if you want to effectively capture VoC. On the one hand, if you make the questions too open-ended, the feedback you get might not be specific enough. On the other hand, if things are too narrow, you won’t get meaningful data.
Try to be specific enough that you guide the customer in the right direction while also leaving enough room for them to share helpful feedback.
13. Net promoter score (NPS)
A Net Promoter Score is a relatively simple measurement that can be used to gauge long-term customer loyalty. Another useful metric to measure short-term customer satisfaction is a CSAT score.
To measure NPS, the customer is asked one simple question: “How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service?”
Customers respond on a scale from 0-10, with 10 representing very likely and 0 being never. Net Promoter Score is the percentage of people who answered 9 or 10, minus the percentage who answered between 0 and 6.
The higher your NPS, the greater the overall levels of satisfaction among your customers. If your score is low, it’s a sign that you need to dig into your Voice of the Customer data to figure out why.
14. Talk with your sales team
To secure VoC direct from your prospects’ mouths, talk with your sales team. Your sales team is on the front line when it comes to talking to prospective customers. They know what questions are being asked the most, which objections they’re hearing, and what pain points are most common.
Take the time to talk to them and find what topics come up most when they talk to prospective customers. Also, ask them if there is any specific language that seems to work most effectively in overcoming objections and converting prospects into paying customers.
15. Talk with customer support
Your customer support representatives lead the way when it comes to customer interactions, and will have a good sense of the common issues customers encounter.
Tap into their experience to identify the struggles and pain points that your existing customers consistently experience. While some of what they say will certainly be anecdotal, it can give you a broad picture of what your customers feel.
Bonus Tip: In addition to customer support, talk to your customer success teams, as well.
Creating a Voice of the Customer program
To collect customer feedback and identify the Voice of the Customer is a critical pillar of marketing. It empowers you to connect with your audience more directly and deeply. This often translates into more customers as well as higher customer lifetime value.
When creating a Voice of the Customer framework, start with the low-hanging fruit. Check search volumes and search intent. Review online content. Monitor social media conversations. And analyze online customer reviews. This will give you an initial sense of customer sentiment regarding your types of offerings in the market in addition to your brand.
From there, you can move onto more labor-intensive actions, like running focus groups, implementing live chat, and conducting customer surveys.
Some VoC activities, such as meeting with your sales teams and extracting common issues brought up with customer support, should be ongoing, continual programs so that you can monitor what’s top-of-mind for prospects and customers at all times.
Voice of the Customer is an investment in your marketing. Your brand will be strengthened, your sales more effective, your customer relationships improved, and your customers happier, and your bottom line fortified.