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What is the voice of the customer?

Voice of the customer, or VoC, describes a process where your company seeks customer feedback about their experiences with your products and services, then transforms that feedback into actionable insights.

When asking, “what is the VoC?”, the answer is largely about comprehensive research. In other words, VoC research is intended to capture what customers really think about your brand—and help you close the gap between customer expectations and their actual experiences.

Creating an effective VoC process is at the core of any successful customer experience programme. Think of it this way—customer experiences are what you deliver. Voice of the customer tells you how those experiences actually land.

A well run voice of the customer programme your organisation to create great experiences when customers engage with your brand. By deeply listening to customers and acting on the insights you gain, you can build a truly customer-centric business.

What is a voice of the customer programme?

Implementing a voice of the customer programme is critical to the success of your business. Not only does it provide insights that can help you improve customer engagement and retention, but it also demonstrates to customers that you’re listening and acting on their needs and expectations.

Let’s dig a little deeper into how a voice of the customer programme adds value to your company and benefits customers.

Benefits to your business

  • Identify customer needs and preferences ahead of competitors.

  • Spot early warning signs and take corrective action.

  • Build customer loyalty.

  • Increase engagement and retention.

Benefits to customers

  • Find products and services tailored to needs and preferences.

  • Feel engaged and invested in the brand.

  • Easily share feedback in real-time.

  • Know that customer experiences are valued.

How to build a voice of the customer programme

The decision to create a voice of the customer programme starts at the top. Senior leadership sets the example for your entire organisation and should act as programme sponsors when developing and implementing a voice of the customer programme. Once the programme is launched, a senior leader may no longer be involved in its day-to-day management, but they remain in the loop and continue to mentor others who run it.

Customer service, sales teams, and call centre employees play a key role at all phases of the programme as well. They are typically the ones who are closest to current and potential customers. They know their needs and expectations, and they are usually the first to know when things go awry.

Communication and brand/marketing teams play a critical role in implementing and managing the programme. The more they understand who your customers are, what they need, and how they communicate, the better your staff can reflect that understanding back to customers.

When building out your VoC programme, you’ll want to include product development teams. They play a key role in incorporating customer feedback into innovative solutions.

Any successful VoC programme includes four key elements:

  1. Solicit customer feedback. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, from direct and indirect feedback to inferred feedback. Some ways to gather feedback are through customer interviews, online surveys, live chat, website reviews, net promoter scores, and focus group.

  2. Share feedback across your company. After feedback is gathered, it should be shared with stakeholders across your company—not just among leadership, but as far as wide as possible, helping teammates from all parts of your business understand your customers better.

  3. Identify actionable insights based on data. Since VoC processes are data-driven, not based on assumptions, it’s easier to find actionable insights that can be measured and evaluated once implemented.

  4. Respond to customers to build stronger relationships. Now that teammates from all parts of your business understand their customers better, it’s critical to act quickly and efficiently to address customer feedback and create meaningful changes.

Overcoming common voice of the customer challenges

Here are some common challenges businesses can encounter when implementing a VoC solution.

  • Lack of engagement or support from senior leadership. Companies say they want to create a customer-centric business, but when push comes to shove, it can be difficult to keep senior leadership engaged in an ongoing effort. Speak up if you see that happening. Identify and assign a senior level person who will champion the programme.

  • Not speaking to customers in ways they understand. You value the voice of the customer, but you’re still not speaking to them on the channels or platforms they prefer. Or perhaps the way you’re speaking to them isn’t how they hear it best. Make sure you know your customers, including where and how they like to interact with your brand. Your marketing team should include those preferences in their buyer personas and journey maps.

  • Employees lack decision-making power to act on feedback. Frontline staff, such as call centre workers, customer service, or salespeople, must be empowered to make decisions when they talk with customers. They are the first to hear when something goes wrong, and they can advocate for customers in ways that add immediate value to your brand. Make sure they have the power to act on feedback.

Understanding voice of the customer metrics

How can you measure the success of your voice of the customer programme?

Before creating your voice of the customer programme, consider how you want to evaluate its impact. You’ll want to include these key stakeholders when deciding how you’ll measurement its success.

Product development

  • Have VoC insights helped product teams create or prioritise feature requests?
  • Has VoC feedback reduced complaints when using a specific product?

Marketing

  • Have VoC insights helped create effective, highly targeted campaigns?
  • Has VoC data been incorporated into buyer personas or buyer journey maps?

Sales

  • Has VoC data helped sales teams identify high-value customers?
  • Have VoC insights helped sales anticipate and respond to potential objections?

Customer support

  • Have VoC insights reduced the number of negative customer interactions?
  • Has the VoC programme helped support teams to better assist unhappy customers?

Collecting and interpreting voice of the customer metrics

  • Direct feedback. The are several ways to solicit direct feedback from customers in real time. Direct feedback is important because it tells customers that your company is actively listening to them and interested in their experiences. Methods for direct feedback include website surveys or reviews, live chat surveys, and customer interviews.

  • Indirect feedback. You can gather indirect feedback by tracking what customers are saying about your company, products, or services via other channels and platforms. You can collect these insights through customers’ tweets or third-party reviews on a website. Unlike direct feedback, this method of collecting VoC happens behind the scenes.

  • Inferred feedback. This method of collecting feedback looks at how customers use your products and services. You can look at how long and how often they use your platform, how often they make purchases, whether they schedule recurring payments, the number of times they contact customer service or other support, and so on.

Voice of the customer metrics

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS measures the likelihood of a customer recommending your product or service to others, such as a family member, friend, or colleague. These types of recommendations are gold.

    Here’s an example of an NPS question:

    “Based on your experience, on a scale of 0 to 6 (with 6 being the highest score and extremely likely), how likely are you to recommend our service/product/company to a colleague?”

  • Customer Effort Score (CES). CES is based on how much effort a customer must expend to complete an action, such as making a payment, getting an issue resolved, and so on. The less effort and time required, the better the score. An abandoned shopping basket is an example where the customer decided it was too much effort to complete a purchase. The CES metric tells you if any point along the customer journey needs to be fixed. Here’s an example of a CES question:

    “To what extent do you agree with the following: ‘[Company] made the [purchase/return] process easy for me.’ “

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) or Overall Customer Satisfaction (OCS). This metric tells you how satisfied a customer is with their overall experience interacting with your brand. You can frame it in a way to determine if there’s an issue with your website, an app, or customer service process. Companies typically ask these questions at the end of an interaction. Note: A CSAT score lower than 3 indicates an issue that needs to be addressed.

    Here’s an example of a CSAT question:

    “On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being extremely satisfied), how satisfied were you with your experience?”

  • Customer Loyalty Index (CLI). CLI is calculated by taking the average across a number of questions, including an NPS question and two CLI questions (shown below). This metric indicates someone’s loyalty to your brand and tells you how likely they are to become a repeat customer.

    Here’s an NPS question you might use:

    “How likely are you to recommend?”

    Here are two CLI questions you might use:

    “How likely are you to buy from us again?”

    “How likely are you to try our other products or services?”

How to choose the right voice of the customer solution

You already know that advancing your company’s competitive edge requires a sense of urgency. That’s why the option you choose must closely align your sales and marketing teams. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Voice connects you to what your customers care about most while giving your sales and marketing teams a unified, real-time view of customer feedback.

Learn how you can connect with your customers and build better responses to increase customer satisfaction.