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A voice-of-customer program is the best way to gather, analyze, and act on customer feedback in an organized and effective way. If your team struggles with fulfilling customer needs, this one's for you. Let's dive in and define VoC, break down the benefits, and explain how it can help your CX team measure and improve customer experience.

What Is A VoC Program?

A voice of the customer program is a set of tools and techniques companies use to measure customer satisfaction. Typically, these programs bring together several crucial elements:

  • The company’s guidelines and tactics for gathering feedback and measuring customer expectations
  • Data collection tools (i.e. customer survey tools like CSAT, CES, and NPS)
  • Gathering and interpreting your VoC analytics

Of course, the ultimate goal for every VoC program is to act on available customer data and turn it into actionable insights used to improve the way your company operates. This way, you can create a truly customer-centric business culture and reduce customer churn.

6 Benefits Of A Good Voice Of Customer Program

Undoubtedly, implementing a fully-fledged voice of the customer program takes some time and effort, but if you have access to high-quality VoC data, you can:

  • Improve customer service: Customer service is hard to get right. You have to balance your costs with the quality of service. It helps to ask customers exactly where you need to zone in and up your game. As a result, you invest resources exactly where you need to increase customer retention.
  • Build and offer better products: Your product is obviously helping someone. But what if your customers are using your product not because it’s exactly what they need but because it’s the closest thing they can find? VoC research lets you tailor your product more closely to your customer’s exact needs and receive constructive criticism to iron out any problems. When you collect customer feedback and really listen to it, you have a ready-made list of adjustments and corrections that are necessary to make your product more desirable. With a good VoC program, you can streamline product development and make sure its functionality checks all the right boxes.
  • Spot and deal with pain points: I assume you created your company to solve some specific pain points your target customer has, but do you know all of them? Probably not. And frankly, people change. As time passes, old pain points become redundant, and new pain points crop up. You need to stay up to speed with the market and your customers and implement necessary corrections as needed.
  • Source new ideas: Your most unique and diverse ideas will come from people outside your chosen team. Customers are a prime group of outsiders to ask for input since they’re who you’re trying to serve. And they can come up with suggestions your in-house team never would! If you’re looking for new ideas for your product or company, save yourself some time and ask your customers.
  • Enhance customer journey: Improving customer service is one thing. Understanding and improving the whole purchasing process is the other. Your customers are a goldmine of ideas for better customer experience across the entire customer journey and all the touchpoints along the way. Thanks to a good VoC program, you can see what people think about ordering products and services at your company and what needs to be fixed.
  • A better pricing strategy: Customers are always eager to share their thoughts on your pricing. You can conduct independent research to find out what people think about your pricing plans, product prices, and purchasing models. And don’t forget that prices are essential in building CLV (customer lifetime value).

How To Design A VoC Program That Succeeds 

If you want to design a VoC program for your business from scratch, you need to take four essential elements into account.

Design Your VoC Program With Customer Empathy In Mind

You should never forget your ultimate goal: customer success. You want your customers to be satisfied with your company, products/services, and customer support—so concentrate on making your program effective and unbothersome to your customers.

The two most popular channels used for gathering customer feedback comprise of tools that require a minimal time investment from the customer: email and your website.

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Leverage Competitor Research to Set Benchmarks

Obviously, you need to know your starting point and end goal. There are many ways to gather data about your competitors and their customer relationships. For one thing, you can analyze their online reviews on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, Amazon, and Facebook. These reviews are often true goldmines of information on how your competition is doing.

Secondly, there are reports showing the average level of CX in many industries. They are frequently based on net promoter score (NPS) surveys. It’s a good reference point if you want to set a specific goal for your customer service team. Additionally, it’s a good idea to devise some nice-to-achieve ambitious goals that will enable you to outrun competitors.

For starters, take a look at this chart showing NPS benchmarks in seven B2C industries and sectors:

In general, everything above 30 is a result you can be proud of:

Use Both Relational and Transactional Surveys

Relational surveys ask your customer about their overall impression of your company and get a picture of their relationship with you. NPS is a good example of a relational survey.

On the other hand, transactional surveys are more focused. You target a customer for a transactional survey after a single interaction with you and ask them for feedback on that interaction. For example, you can show a pop-up ad or a push notification with a quick question:

  • Are you satisfied with the payments in our store?
  • How do you rate the last conversation with our agent?
  • Did the parcel arrive on time?

This way, you can gather more in-depth feedback on every single element of the customer journey. Whatever you do, though, don’t flood customers with too many questions. A survey that takes 10 minutes to complete is a badly-designed survey.

Take Time to Find the Best VoC Software

Nowadays, running the voice of the customer program manually is not a good idea. You will never be able to leverage all of the available data this way. You need a VoC tool or platform to keep all the customer data in one neat & tidy place.

Combine All That Together and Create a Strategy

The last step is all about putting all of this together. You need to create a strategy that clearly states:

  1. How CX should be measured
  2. When (and how often) you should measure CX
  3. What communication channels should be involved in the process
  4. Who (what team/department) is responsible for measuring CX and gathering customer feedback
  5. How your company should react to suggestions and ideas revealed through the VoC program (especially concerning negative feedback)
  6. Which tools should be used
  7. What other guidelines should be considered

Based on these seven points, create a transparent PDF file outlining your strategy, and make sure everyone involved in the VoC program has access to the latest version.

Voice of the Customer Program Tactics

There are two ways of gathering customer feedback. A successful VoC program comprises both to get the full view of how customers perceive the company.

Examples of Active VoC Feedback 

Active feedback takes place when you specifically ask for it. The customer knows that they are participating in a project that aims to discover their thoughts concerning a given company. There are three major active VoC feedback techniques:

Customer Surveys 

A customer survey can have many different forms. It can ask about something specifically (pricing, product features, the purchasing process, shipping, etc.) or be more general and refer to the overall experience with the company.

The three most common forms of customer surveys just about every CX team uses are:

  • NPS (Net Promoter Score): This survey is based on one question: “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” This survey can be supplemented with a follow-up question: “Why did you answer this way?” It’s one of the most universal and effective customer surveys. Plus, it takes less than three minutes to complete, even with the additional question.
  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score): The customer satisfaction score is a bit more straightforward than NPS. In the CSAT survey, the customer is only asked whether they are satisfied with the service. There are just three available answers: Satisfied, neutral, or dissatisfied.
  • CES (Customer Effort Score): The last survey measures the customer’s experience regarding how easy it was for them to complete a specific action. The goal of a CES survey is to discover how intuitive and user-friendly your processes are. In most cases, CES is also based on just one question: “How easy was it for you to get your issue resolved today?” This question is provided along with a rating scale from 1 to 7 (from very difficult to very easy).

Customer Interviews 

Today, these initiatives are slightly less popular because they take a lot of time and require a lot of preparation, but if you want to launch a new product, the juice might be worth the squeeze. Customer interviews can be conducted in the store (e.g., during or just after shopping), over the phone, or via email. Typically, they are just a bit longer surveys composed of several questions about different aspects of the company’s offer.

Focus Groups

Customer interviews can also happen in the form of a focus group. A group of selected consumers meets in one place, and participants share their thoughts and opinions on presented products, ads, features, or service ideas. Active interactions between participants are encouraged as they lead to more conclusions and ideas. Focus groups can be done in-house but they're usually outsourced to a market research firm.

Examples of Passive VoC Feedback

This type of customer feedback is referred to as passive feedback because your customers don’t intentionally participate in any project aimed at gathering customer insights. Instead, the company gathers feedback from other customer touchpoints.

Live Chat 

Let’s use a fictional conversation via live chat as an example:

Customer: When can I expect order no. 12345 to arrive?

Agent: I’m sorry, it turns out we don’t have this product in our warehouse. It will be shipped next week.

Customer: Is that a joke? You said on your website the product was available for immediate shipping! This will be my last purchase at your store!

The customer here obviously isn't being asked for this, er, candid feedback. Regardless, their comments can be very constructive for the company. A conversation like this should trigger your company to fix problems with product availability information and improve the order tracking process. So, this short conversation was extremely valuable from a VoC perspective.

Online Reviews  

People share their thoughts because they feel compelled to do so by great (or poor) customer service. Analyzing these reviews can give you a better view of what customers think about you, just like in this example:

Social Listening/Sentiment Analysis   

Social listening is a powerful tool for tracking specific keywords and brand mentions online. Next, you can use text analytics and customer sentiment analysis to understand your customers' moods and opinions about your company. There are many social listening tools out there, and they allow you to track (in real-time) all the mentions in available online channels. These channels include:

  • Social media
  • Internet forums
  • Articles and comments
  • Online review websites

5 Tips for Optimizing Your VoC Program

Suppose you have all that in place. You know what kind of customer surveys to use, when, and using what channels. You’ve already picked a VoC platform to gather and analyze all the information coming from your customers. What’s next?

Think of your VoC program as a living thing that needs to be tailored to the current market situation and customer preferences. I want to share six tips you can use to keep your VoC program up-to-date and optimize it as needed.

  1. Ensure everything is set properly
    Ask yourself a few important questions: Does my VoC program allow me to gather all the information I need to improve CX? Is my program tailored to my company and customer profile? Can I track all the relevant metrics? Your VoC program is truly worth its salt once you can answer all these questions in the affirmative.
  2. Segment customers
    Large companies deal with thousands of customers, and they come from different backgrounds, have different characteristics, and purchase different products. That’s why they need to be segmented. Your customer base is not a uniform mass of people, it’s a set of dozens of smaller customer segments that all need to be acknowledged, as each segment can have different experiences and expectations. For instance, some older or less tech-savvy customers who visit your brick-and-mortar stores may not use the e-commerce channel. Are you taking these voices into consideration?
  3. Don’t forget about employees
    There can never be excellent CX if your employees are not happy or engaged in their work. When conducting online surveys, don’t forget about your employees. Ask them about their satisfaction with work, pressing challenges they face every day, procedures and processes they have to follow, etc. This will give you a whole new point of view on your company’s work. I think it goes without saying that these surveys should be 100% anonymous and that you shouldn’t punish your employees in any way for expressing their concerns or ideas.
  4. Set measurable goals
    The vast majority of CX tools enable you to track specific metrics. Therefore, there should be some specific goals involved in the process. Suppose right now, your NPS score is 25. That’s good, but there is still some room for improvement. You can set a goal for the next quarter to increase NPS to at least 30. You can set similar goals based on the tools that you use and the metrics you track.
  5. Act quickly
    If your VoC program provides you with actionable insights, implement the necessary adjustments ASAP. Of course, in a big company, it will take some time, but that’s just one more reason not to waste time. People don’t want you to get better in a five-year period; they want you to get better NOW. That’s why measuring and analyzing customer feedback is an ongoing job.

Listen To Your Customers

That's why 'voice' is right in the name—listening is what the voice of the customer program is all about. I’m sure you want to provide customers with the best service possible. But to do that, you need to listen to them, their needs, and their expectations. As a result, you will be able to tailor your company’s operations to your customers, and that’s the recipe for a stable, successful business.

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By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. After serving over 12 years working in front-line customer experience for major brands, Hannah pivoted to a career in digital publishing and media production. Having gained a holistic view of the challenges and intricacies of delivering exceptional experiences, Hannah aims to help CX practitioners 'level up' their skills by amplifying the voices of today's thought leaders in the space.