What is Voice of the Customer? A comprehensive guide to VoC.

What is Voice of the Customer (VoC) research and why is it important? This guide will help you make Voice of the Customer part of your overall business strategy.

Introduction

It’s difficult to build a thriving business without the trust and loyalty of your customers. More often than not, businesses struggle with customer retention more than with customer acquisition and some of the fastest growing businesses out there depend heavily on customer advocacy. Turning your customers into ‘true fans’ -as Kevin kelly would put it- is a surefire way to building a successful business. In order to do all this, it is crucial to understand your customers’ behavior and their needs so that you can make decisions that positively impact your relationship with them.

There are countless ways to get to know your customers better, but ultimately you will likely rely on a combination of insights from customer research and feedback. One way to truly understand your customers is a concept known as The Voice of Customer (VoC). In this guide we will define voice of the customer, explore how it works and explain the steps needed to implement a successful VoC strategy.

What is the voice of the customer?

The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is one of many customer research methods that companies can employ to learn more about their customers and their needs. In simple terms, VoC encompasses all of the feedback that you receive from customers regarding their needs, their expectations and their feelings towards your products and services. It is a data-driven feedback loop that helps business owners understand what customers want, how they feel, and why they make certain choices. As the name suggests, VoC is all about focusing on what customers say and the opinions they share. It overlaps with many other forms of research but distinguishes itself in that it is focused on feedback, which can be more easily streamlined than some other, more intensive research methods. 

Voice of the customer was developed to help teams better meet their consumers’ needs. Though largely known to be used by marketing teams, VoC has also been employed by other teams, ranging from customer success to UX. In fact, teams can benefit greatly from collaborating on voice of the customer research. 

In essence, VoC is a continuous process that allows companies to capture consumer voices and opinions on an ongoing basis - both online and offline. It was initially started to help businesses understand current customers' feedback, but it has been extended for use with prospective customers.

Technically-speaking, VoC falls under qualitative research due to its focus on customer opinions that are usually collected through surveys and interviews. It is one of the most effective ways for companies to learn more about their customers to address any issues or concerns that need to be addressed.

Why is the voice of the customer important?

“More than 50% of the innovation comes from the voice of the customer”

Lou Rossi

The digital age has facilitated a number of research methods as online tools make research projects easier, and the voice of the customer is a prominent example.

VoC has become a crucial tool for businesses to build a customer-centric strategy and maintain a competitive advantage in the market. With markets for digital products becoming increasingly competitive and the tools for online research becoming increasingly accessible, voice of the customer has become a go-to methodology for many teams that want to decode their customers’ needs in order to build trust and loyalty and foster advocacy. 

Though applications of voice of the customer in top-of-the-funnel awareness adn acquisition is becoming increasingly common, it’s in activating and retaining customers that it can be applied most effectively. Gathering customer feedback, suggestions, complaints and opinions can help companies differentiate themselves in their positioning, better onboard new customers, develop a better user experience and build better products. 

Benefits of Implementing a VoC Strategy

Even though the process for VoC can be more easily streamlined as an ongoing practice, analyzing the customer's voice still takes time and resources. That said, it can yield many valuable results that are definitely worth the investment.

1. It helps companies build stronger relationships with customers.

With 74% of consumers these days expecting companies to understand their needs, it’s important to listen to gather and act on customer feedback effectively. Not only can a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs help you better support them, but offering customers an easy and effective way to voice their opinions and be heard goes a long way in building trust and showing you as a company care.

2. It reveals opportunities to improve customer experiences.

Some teams go to extreme lengths to track user actions and collect complex data to understand how users are behaving within their product. These analytics can be very useful, but they require a decent sample of data and a fair bit of expertise to derive truly actionable insights. Meanwhile, a lot of the questions you may be asking yourself about your customers’ experience are best answered by the customers themselves. VoC reports can provide a clear view of what consumers like and dislike about certain products, services or even user paths, which in turn can be used to better prioritize tasks and projects to improve the overall customer experience.

3. It allows companies to learn from their mistakes

If a business has already made a mistake or encountered an issue, VoC can determine the cause of the problem and find a solution. The data gathered will show what customers think about certain issues and help contextualize, prioritize and decide on how these should be addressed in future. If certain difficulties or complaints recur across customer opinions, it can draw attention to issues so that teams can act on them, with the support of their stakeholders.

4. It helps companies provide exceptional service to customers

VoC is commonly used to gauge customer satisfaction levels. It helps them understand if they are providing the kind of service that people expect and need so that they can maintain positive customer relationships. It also provides direct insight into how they can improve customer service in the long run. 

5. It can be used to extend the length of customer relationships

Through VoC, businesses can better understand what products and services their customers value and what factors are most important in their success. This sort of data provides information on how these customers are best served on both the product and customer success side of things, which is crucial for improving customer retention. 

Having a solid VoC strategy in place has been shown to help companies decrease their customer retention costs by up to 25%.

Voice of the customer methodologies

The voice of customer methodology encompasses the strategy and tools a business will use to gather feedback from its customer base. This data can determine what problems are occurring and the root causes behind these issues. There are different techniques that companies can use to collect data from their customers so they can see things from their perspective.

1. Online surveys

Online surveys are a great way for companies to reach out to their customers and obtain feedback from them. They can be used by businesses to get an idea of customer needs, expectations, and satisfaction levels.

Pros

  • They are quick and easy to set up since the survey only needs to be created once and there are plenty of templates out there. Once created, they can be sent out with the click of a button.
  • They do not take up too much of users’ time as it only takes a few minutes to complete an online survey.
  • They are cost-effective since they do not require very sophisticated or expensive tools to be set up.

Cons:

  • They need to be regularly updated in order for the collected data to remain relevant.
  • Finding respondents and incentivizing responses can be challenging. 
  • If there is not enough customer participation, it can lead to inaccurate results, which will make them less effective.

2. Customer calls

  • This VoC strategy allows businesses to learn about their customers through phone calls with them. This strategy can be paired with other VoC techniques to better understand what your consumers want. It also overlaps heavily with other research methods such as interviews and focus groups

Pros

  • It provides businesses with a personal interaction that helps them connect more with their customers.
  • Data gathered is from the direct viewpoint of an actual customer, which helps you get a better idea of what they want.
  • You gain more unexpected insights as well as context due to the in-depth format.

Cons

  • Not all customers will speak freely, which can make it harder to get accurate data about what they want. Biases are always a possible issue.
  • It takes more time and effort on both sides, meaning that you are always dealing with a smaller sample size.

3. Social Media

  • Over the past years, social media platforms have become a forum for consumers to share suggestions, advocate for products and share feedback directly with companies. With social listening tools such as Mention and Brand24, it is easier than ever to keep track of what others are saying about your brand. 

Pros:

  • Many customers spend a lot of time on social media, which makes it a natural and convenient place to reach them and gather feedback.
  • Social networks have a public-factor meaning that you don’t just collect feedback that they give directly to your business, but have the option to see what they say about your products and services to others. 
  • Social listening tools make it easy and affordable to keep track of the voice of the customer without too much effort. 

Cons:

  • Social media has its own biases and often is a place where stronger opinions (both positive and negative) get voiced. Furthermore, different networks can have different customer segments which need to be accounted for when assessing feedback. 

4. Online Reviews

Encouraging your customers to leave a review is not only a solid way to gauge how they feel about your product or service, but it can also serve as strong social proof for your business. Many companies have processes in place for collecting reviews, which is a great source for voice of the customer insights.

Pros

  • The process of requesting reviews can be automated. 
  • Reviews create social proof, which helps with conversions.
  • It offers customers a legitimate way to voice their opinions and shar either experience.

Cons

  • Reviews can sometimes be vague and lack important detail. 
  • Reviews usually attract stronger opinions than the average user. 
  • Negative reviews are public and can damage your brand reputation.

Voice of the customer template

Once you've gathered the voices of your customers, you can use a VoC template to turn those comments and opinions into actionable insights. A great way to do this if through a voice of the customer matrix, where you outline the comments, what the underlying issues and needs are and how you are going to act upon the feedback. 

We’ve created a simple voice of the customer matrix template for you. Just click here and once on the Google Sheets file click  ‘File’ and then ‘Make a copy’ to create your own version that you can edit.

Even better, create an account on Reveall and get all of that voice of the customer data into one place where you can more effectively streamline, organize and act on it with your team!

Voice of the customer questions & examples

“To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem”

Carl Jung

Sometimes, voice of the customer insights will come to you in the form of feedback, without you having to actively ask customers for it. Other times, you need to reach out to them through surveys, calls or other communication channels. When you do so, it’s important to ask good questions that will yield useful and actionable responses. Below are a few examples of questions you can ask your customers.

Q: What kind of discounts would make you reconsider / more interested in buying?

Example: An airline company can ask its customers if they would buy a plane ticket with a lower price or extra perks, if they feel that price-sensitivity is something they need to be more competitive on.

Q: What surprised you the most when you bought from us?

Example: An ecommerce store can try to gauge whether customers were surprised with how fast the delivery was or whether the purchasing experience was positive or not. 

Q: What can we do to make sure we keep you as a customer long-term?

Example: A SaaS company can find out what customers value most and what factors might be key to retaining them long-term. It’s a broad question, but it can illicit a whole range of responses

Q: How would you feel if we added this or removed that?

Example: A software company can ask users which features they would like to see added or prioritized within the product roadmap.

Q: What would keep you from recommending us to your friends?

Example: A department store can ask whether there are any blockers in the customer’s purchasing experience and what they can do to ensure an experience that is worth telling other about.

Q: Why did you choose our product / service over others on the market?

Example: Any company can ask their customers what led them to choosing their product or services over others in order to clearly define differentiators that they should focus on. 


The questions above are some easy examples to get the ball rolling. However, when asking customers for their opinion, it’s important to keep in mind the biases that come with the questions you ask. Asking unbiased questions is almost an artform and comes with practice. The more specific and complex the issues you’re trying to resolve, the more important it is to ask unbiased questions. 

Voice of the customer Tools

There are many tools you can use to collect, organize and act on voice of the customer data. Below are some of our favourite tools for making sure you get the most out of your voice of the customer research.

Customer Thermometer

Not only do we love their content, but Customer Thermometer is a great tool for collecting customer feedback in real time. Whether general surveys or NPS questionnaires, you can easily build surveys that require minimum friction for customers to complete. 

Google Forms

On a budget and can’t invest in new tools right away? No problem. Even If you're a startup with a limited budget and customer base, VoC should be a top priority for you. Luckily with Google Forms you have a great survey tool that is free to use! 

Hotjar

If you’re doing any sort of UX work there’s a chance you’re using Hotjar already. Even though Hotjar is mostly known for its heatmaps and screen recordings, it has some great features for collecting feedback directly from within your product. 

Reveall

Reveall helps companies turn unstructured data from customer research and feedback into actionable insights for you and your team. Once you collect your voice of the customer data, you need to make sure it doesn’t get lost in heaps of other research findings. With Reveall, you can import, tag, manage and contextualize your voice of the customer data so that you can effectively act on it.


Conclusion

The Voice of the Customer is a fundamental part of customer research that can hugely benefit small and large businesses alike. Given its broad nature, VoC is a great research methodology for bridging gaps between departments and sharing customer opinions across teams.

VoC is about helping businesses gain a deeper understanding into the needs and preferences of their customers and can go a long way to validate and drive costumer-centric projects that help build a strong brand, activate more users, boost retention and turn customers into loyal advocates.

If you're already doing voice of the customer research and are looking for a way to make sense of all that unstructured customer data, you can check out Reveall

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