January 20, 2021

Five Secrets to Understanding Voice of Customer (VoC)

Now, more than ever, customers have high expectations. Gone are the days of unconditional, relationship-based loyalty. The modern customer is demanding, empowered and experience centered. In order to be successful, customer interactions with your business must be collected, analyzed and acted on. Voice of Customer (VoC) is a term used to describe the data gathered from a customer’s experience with your brand. Good VoC enables you to make smart decisions about marketing, sales, product development, planning and critical pieces of strategy.

VoC uses market research techniques to identify, organize and understand the priorities and perceptions of your customers. Customer experience data can be requested (Net Promoter Score (NPS), surveys, forms, focus groups, etc.) or it can be unsolicited, such as purchase behaviors and reviews on social media sites. (Yes, even B2B customer feedback can be found on social media.) For person-to-person interactions, tone of voice and body language can indicate positive or negative VoC. This aggregated data is used to inform the design and implementation of strategies to meet needs and exceed customer expectations.

"One of the most important things we can do as leaders is understand what matters to our customers and how they view us versus the competition. It is the foundation of continuous improvement and strategy."

- Lane Wiggers, Managing Director, Operating Partner Program, Argosy Private Equity

Social Sentiment is the attitude towards your brand that your customer expresses on social media. It is important, whether or not your company is active on social media, because your users likely are. Negative reviews, posts or comments about your business can be harmful to your brand, so staying on top of your social network mentions and working to address any dissatisfaction is critical to maintaining positive VoC.

Utilizing VoC in your business strategy is critical to gaining – and maintaining – brand loyalty. Here are five insider tips on how to harness the power of VoC data to create a loyal customer base and grow your business.

1. Start Now.

If you aren’t using VoC data to inform your business strategy, start now. In today’s environment, competition is fierce and information travels fast thanks to industry connections, smartphones and social media, so time is truly of the essence. Acquiring customer experience data enables you to make informed decisions about what’s working (and what’s not) for your business.

The benefits of collecting and analyzing VoC data are many. An excellent customer experience typically translates into an engaged and retained customer. A finger on the pulse of your brand reputation can help you stay ahead of potential crises. And a comprehensive understanding of your customer’s needs and expectations can inform your business strategy and enable you to make improvements where needed.

2. Make Sure Your VoC is Continuous and Comprehensive.

Many companies collect and analyze customer feedback for a new product. While this should always be done, it is only a small example of what VoC can do for your business.

Use VOC across your organization to assess quality, pricing, service levels, billing, speed of delivery, and anything else that is customer facing. This will give you a more precise picture of your customers’ overall perceptions.

Establishing clear and cogent VoC best practices in your organization will ensure that your strategy is optimized to deliver actionable information with practical value.

  • Develop metrics to help you track your customer experience improvement.
  • Define your customers. Who is going to inform your VoC? Users, distributors, buyers, suppliers, repair techs, specifiers, influencers and market research reports will provide the bulk of the data.
  • Listen to your customers. Use a multi-channel approach, including inperson, written, phone and digital interactions, to give you the most robust picture of your customer experience.
  • Collect VOC data often and compare trendlines in various priority categories.
  • Create visual tools like customer journey maps from the data you collect to help empathize and identify with your customer’s wants and needs.
  • Identify your priority targets and the obstacles you need to overcome in order to meet the goals for those targets.
  • Share the results across your organization to maintain a unified and strategic approach to improving VoC sentiment.

Incorporating a comprehensive VoC strategy into your business plan keeps you aware of your reputation and ranking among industry peers and affords you the opportunity to improve your products, elevate your customer experience and maintain a respected brand so you remain competitive in your industry.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions.

When it comes to VoC, don’t assume you know what your customer thinks of your business based on one channel of feedback or your internal viewpoints.

You cannot rely on one source of data, like a salesperson who is incentivized to collect positive data. A robust, multi-channel examination of customer experience is the only way to capture true VoC. Oftentimes, an independent third party is the best way to acquire this information.

4. Compare Yourself to Others and Drive Perception.

Another important datapoint to consider is the way customers view your business in relation to your peers. Industry benchmarking data and competitor assessment are great tools to help paint a picture of where you stand among your competition.

A positive perception of your business is critical to good VoC and can be managed by strategic positioning. Positioning is forging an image in a customer’s mind to shape how you want them to perceive your brand, product or service. Positioning can benefit your VoC results by improving perception of your business in the follow key areas:

  • Relative Perception – how a customer compares your products and services with other ways they might spend the same money. You must know how you stand relative to competitors for the customer’s spending.
  • Market Perception – it doesn’t matter that you have the best product unless the customers in the market perceive that you have the best product.
  • Value – the ratio of benefit to cost, where “cost” means everything the customer must give to gain your product or service. This includes money, but also other important factors such as time, convenience and life-of-use cost.

Taking an independent and comprehensive look at brand perceptions and competitor data can improve your customer experience and increase market share.

5. Mind the Gap.

The line between customer expectations and customer experience can significantly affect your brand. When there is a disconnect between a customer’s anticipated and actual experience, your business suffers. The goal of VoC is to bridge this gap so that expectations are always met or exceeded.

Collecting and analyzing VoC data is important. But it will do nothing for your organization unless you act on it. Finding the gaps in your customer’s experience and improving these conditions so they meet your targets is the end game of VoC. From idea to execution, VoC is a critical tool to inform and optimize your business strategy.

Business Partner Takeaway

How do I get started? Begin with a comprehensive assessment across a broad range of customers. This will allow you to understand what is important to your customer base, how your company is performing in those categories and how you stack up against the competition in these key areas.

Outsource your first assessment. There are firms that can do this affordably. At some point, you will want to internalize the process, but having an expert help you with the first assessment increases your chances of success with high quality, actionable results and a solid baseline for future comparisons.

Read about how ACL Airshop’s VOC validation helped define strategy and guide growth investments.

More questions? Connect with us on how to incorporate VoC into your business strategy.