“The customer is always right”. Okay, this motto is not exactly foolproof. There are certainly times when the customer is wrong. However, there is no discounting the value of your customers, and that is not restricted exclusively to them adding to your sales numbers. This is where understanding the voice of customer best practices (VoC) comes in handy.
When a company utilizes VoC, they can better understand the wants, needs, and expectations of their customers. The result: they can further refine their products and services, upgrading them to something their customers truly want. This leads to more sales, greater customer retention rates, better reviews, and many other benefits.
To get the most out of VoC, however, you must follow best practices when using this methodology. These best practices, which include using the right tools and ensuring data accuracy, help you to hit all the right notes with your VoC campaign. It keeps mistakes to a minimum, allowing you to get the most out of this process.
For assistance, this guide details Voice of Customer best practices to incorporate into your strategy.
Understanding the voice of the customer.
Before anything else, it is important you have a full understanding of Voice of Customer. This process is built around how a company collects customer feedback. They can use everything from online reviews to customer interviews to gather valuable insights from their audience.
Feedback comes in different forms and covers different aspects, whether it is about the products, services, or brand in general. The VoC then takes all of this feedback, summarizes the general sentiment, and pinpoints the current wants and needs of their customer base.
For example, a business could decide to analyze the customer reviews for one of their products. With the right VoC strategy, they discover a number of valid criticisms about the product. Using this data, the business irons out these criticisms with their product refinement efforts.
The benefits of using VoC.
A Voice of Customer strategy delivers ample benefits. That should not come as a surprise. Yet what benefits are up for grabs for those that want to incorporate VoC into their plans? Here is a quick rundown of what we consider the most enticing benefits:
- By incorporating product or service changes based on feedback, this naturally ups customer satisfaction levels
- Less guesswork is required when it comes to product development. VoC gives you plenty of guidance on which direction to take
- Customers are generally happier, and this helps you to improve customer retention rates
- Better products and services, along with happier customers, leads to your brand reputation being seen in a more positive light
- All of these positives lead to an improvement in sales, which in turn causes a healthy increase in revenue numbers
Types of VoC data.
There are three general sources when it comes to VoC data types: direct, indirect, and inferred.
- Direct VoC data: A direct data source is when you directly interact with and encourage responses from customers. An example is a focus group.
- Indirect VoC data: Indirect data is feedback from customers you do not directly elicit. An example is a product review on a third-party platform.
- Inferred VoC data: Although a more ambiguous form of data collection, it is possible to infer certain customer behavior patterns based on extractable data from your website and databases.
Sources of VoC data, the critical component when using voice of customer best practices.
There are numerous sources to capture VoC data. Understandably, the more sources you use, the more data you can collect. Although, a word of warning: some sources are more suitable than others, depending on your business. This is one of the most important voice of customer best practices because without data, you are unable to make informed decisions. Here are some main sources of VoC data:
Reaching out to previous and current customers with surveys is always a worthwhile VoC method. This is an excellent method to generate direct responses to questions you want to be answered. They are also designed in such a way that it is easy to collect and measure response data.
A lot of valuable information can be extracted from customer reviews. When someone takes the time to write a review, they often go beyond a simple summary. They will detail what they liked and/or disliked about a product, service, or brand and that supplies juicy data for your VoC campaign.
Known in the VoC world as social listening, customers will regularly turn to their social media accounts to voice their opinions about brands. With social listening, you can discover when your business is mentioned across different platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
A customer interview is similar in a way to a survey. However, it differs in that you are able to introduce follow-up questions more naturally, interpret the manner of respondents more clearly, and gain more in-depth answers. The tradeoff is that interviews require a lot more time and resources compared to surveys.
Extending from customer interviews, you could also decide to go with focus groups. A focus group is great for acquiring multiple viewpoints at the same time, along with being suitable for something like hands-on impressions of prototype products.
A call center, even when handled by a third party, is not suitable for every business. Yet, for those that do utilize this function, it offers a savvy source for VoC data. Calls typically supply unfiltered insights, often critical, that can give a company valuable information.
Similarly, customer service emails offer another opportunity to grab useful insights from your audience. Plus, because they are text-based rather than audio recordings like with calls, it is quicker to interpret and gain actionable data from emails.
Your website is a bigger goldmine for VoC data than you may initially realize. Yes, customers are not providing information directly or verbalizing their thoughts, but stats such as their average time on pages, specific interactions, and overall session duration can tell you a lot about their behavior and what appeals to them with your content.
Implementing voice of customer best practices.
To enjoy the benefits listed above, it is essential you incorporate Voice of Customer best practices into your strategy. Doing this ensures your VoC strategy is firing on all cylinders, which maximizes performance and extracts more valuable information from your customers.
Fortunately, there are the VoC best practices to keep in mind.
1. Choose the right methodology for collecting VoC data.
You have seen the multiple ways you can collect VoC data in the previous section. However, this does not mean you should try and integrate all of them into your strategy. Yes, it is recommended you use multiple channels, but too many can create confusion and provide you with data overload.
Aside from the channels you select, using voice of customer best practices, you also have to decide on which approach to take with each one. Along with knowing which employees will manage your VoC channels, you need to think about which tools to use. Specialist tools help to save time, avoid human error, improve results, and so on.
For instance, say you want to analyze customer reviews for your VoC strategy. When you need to go through these with a fine-tooth comb to pull out valuable data, it is far from easy to do this task manually.
A tool like GapScout takes all the effort and work out of the process. Simply feed it a collection of reviews, and it does the rest. GapScout identifies common themes in reviews, presents these in easy-to-consume reports, and does it in a fraction of the time it would take when done manually.
2. Identify the right stakeholders to involve in VoC.
For a VoC strategy to function at its best, you need to ensure all of the data, engagements, conversations, etc., is available in some form across your company. If you operate a large organization, this also includes ensuring the right stakeholders are directly involved with your VoC efforts.
When a company has stakeholders, making any sweeping changes to products or services can be a difficult, laborious task. At least, this is the case if they are not informed about possible issues and how they can be corrected. When they are linked with your VoC, and they see the signals regarding actionable recommendations, stakeholders are more likely to approve changes.
3. Ensure data quality and accuracy.
Your VoC strategy can quickly crumble if the data quality is not up to scratch. If the data is not accurate, and it tells you things that are not the reality – such as a product fault that does not actually exist – this can lead to costly mistakes.
With this in mind, you should take the necessary steps to ensure data quality and accuracy throughout your VoC strategy. One way can be to cross-verify data across different channels. As an example, you might discover a potential fault with a product through customer reviews. You could then run a focus group to see if participants agree that a problem exists with your product.
4. Use VoC data to drive change.
There is no point in collecting VoC data if you do not intend to use it to improve your business offerings. The data you uncover should be at the forefront of any future decisions you make about your products, services, and brand in general. After all, this is actionable feedback, the type that comes from the best source – your customer base – to grow your company.
5. Incorporate VoC data into decision-making processes.
Extending on from the previous point, VoC data should be incorporated into the heart of your decision-making processes. Making a business-related decision always carries an element of risk. Yet this risk can be mitigated to a large degree with the right level of research.
Rather than try to guess your way to the top, use the data you have gathered from your VoC strategy. It can effectively supply the signposts that point you to success.
Measuring effectiveness of programs that use voice of customer best practices.
You have followed the Voice of Customer best practices listed in the aforementioned section. Your work is done, right? Not quite. Even if you seemingly make all the right moves, this does not guarantee your VoC programs are reaching their full potential.
To see if more work is required, you must measure the effectiveness of your VoC strategy.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) for VoC.
Key performance indicators are helpful for many parts of your business – VoC included. Here is a quick list of the KPIs and metrics to use with your VoC in mind:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Churn rate
- Retention rate
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
Analyzing VoC information to make data-driven decisions.
By paying attention to the previously mentioned KPIs, you can measure the performance of your VoC efforts. Then, based on the figures over time, you can judge where continued improvements can be made.
Data-driven decisions should always be the priority when it comes to improving the effectiveness of your VoC strategy.
Continuous improvement of VoC programs.
There is no standing still with VoC. Like with any other area of your business, it should be something you continuously strive to improve. There are always changes to data collection methods being made. There are always new, innovative tools being introduced that can refine your entire VoC processes.
By staying on top of changes and making continuous improvements, this ensures your VoC programs are refined and achieving the best results.
Summarizing voice of customer best practices.
VoC best practices include the selection of the right methodology for data collection, identifying and incorporating stakeholders, ensuring data quality and accuracy, and using data to drive change and business decisions. This might all sound like a lot of work, but it is vital you continually improve your VoC strategy.
Continuous improvement is necessary to maximize performance and acquire the best data for your business to use. As this data can be crucial to the growth of your business, you cannot overlook this aspect.
By incorporating VoC best practices into your programs, this will ultimately lead to better products and services, happier customers, and more sales.
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