If you're not getting good feedback from your customers, you’re growing your brand in the dark. And unless your brand is a mushroom, it's probably not the best growth strategy to stick with. This is where voice of customer (VoC) analytics can really come in handy.
We’re about to get into the weeds on voice of customer analysis—how to do it, what it's good for, and most importantly, how to build it out into a real action plan you can use to keep your customers coming back. If you want to get solid feedback on how your business is doing and what your customers are saying, your options are either to perform voice of customer analysis or resort to guesswork.
What Is Voice of Customer Analytics?
Voice of customer analysis is a method for pulling together and analyzing customers' comments about their experience with your brand. In its simplest form, you send out contact requests to recent customers and ask them various questions about their experience to gather feedback. You can sort through their responses to find out, among other things:
- Why they sought out your brand
- What they needed from you
- How they expected you to help them
- Whether they got what they were looking for
- Who they are and what their habits are likely to be
Of course, businesses have always tried to get this kind of feedback from their customers. What makes VoC different is the much more systematic way it goes about the process. When you invest in VoC software, you can structure a full-spectrum approach that captures all of the relevant data you're looking for, sorts through it for key points, and delivers actionable insights on what to do to keep customers coming back.
Here's a scenario: imagine you sell handmade leather wallets. As part of the sales process, you have to gather your customers' email addresses, delivery addresses, phone numbers, and other stuff. After the delivery is made and the transaction is finished, you email a link to your customer with a friendly request to share their feedback.
Based on what they say, you learn that a lot of your customers came to your site looking for custom monogrammed wallets, but they settled for something less because you didn't have them. On a very simple level, that points toward a service you can add that would probably be successful.
Walmart does this extremely well. After every sale the company makes through its shopping app, the W+ member gets an email like this. The motivation for taking the survey is a chance to win a $1,000 shopping credit through the app.
In order to enter the drawing, recent customers work through a brief survey and answer well-structured questions with a 1-5 star rating. Questions touch on the ease of app navigation, the speed and reliability of the delivery, whether the items were what was ordered, and other customer-relevant factors.
What Is Multichannel Voice of Customer Analytics?
The wallet salesperson example is a simple VoC analysis, but you can go bigger. A multichannel voice of customer analysis does all of the same things as a simple VoC, but it also scours other sources of information for customers' unsolicited feedback. These can be comments left on social media, reviews on Yelp or Google, or any other source where people talk about your brand.
Food delivery brand Just Eat makes for a great case study in voice of customer analytics. Just Eat takes charge of customer feedback across multiple channels to tailor its services. The brand is technically a B2C company that partners with British restaurants to deliver meals all over the country. Of course, it's just the go-between for restaurants and their customers, but customer experience is a key element of their business model. For this reason, the brand has a dedicated position called the Improvement Special Project Manager, whose job is to collect customer feedback on Just Eat's partner restaurants.
When the company sees a negative review online somewhere, it engages with the reviewer and tries to resolve the problem. If it can't, then the customers' concerns get folded together and delivered to restaurants with suggestions for improvement. Just Eat is so serious about this initiative that it reports making contact with 97% of detractors within 48 hours of the reviews going live.
Tesla takes the prize for this kind of responsiveness, though they're borderline sneaky about how they do it. When you buy a Tesla, you can customize it with all sorts of adjustments to the equipment and software. When you do this, the car covertly monitors your adjustments and transmits the data to Tesla servers, which collate the revealed preferences of real customers that inform future design choices. Tesla also solicits direct feedback, with gentle reminders for nonresponders, and scours social media with bots to see what people are saying.
All of this gets folded together to generate actionable data Tesla engineers can look at while they're developing the next generation of absurd features. (If you own a Tesla, tap the logo three times. It brings up Sketchpad. You can doodle on it and send it to Tesla for feedback on your art.)
How Important Is This to the Customer Experience?
Okay, so Tesla art contests are a bit esoteric as VoC-informed features go, but the principle holds true across anything you want to do to improve your customer retention. Knowing what your typical customer journey is like from doing an advanced sentiment analysis is obviously helpful as a part of the new product development cycle, but it's also a winner for a lot of other areas of growing your brand. These are some of the valuable insights you can get from voice of the customer analytics.
Improving Customer Loyalty
A happy customer is a repeat customer, and they're never happier than when you're anticipating their needs. Knowing which way customer sentiment is trending helps you identify pain points and meet customer needs, at least on average. Meeting your customers' expectations before they have to tell you boosts customer satisfaction overall and might make the difference between a bad review and a personal referral.
Improving Customer Support
Customer service is one of the main touchpoints between you and your public. Integrate a solid voice of the customer program into your full-spectrum customer support network, and you've got an almost automatic training focus for the reps in your call center or online support center. That turns into shorter wait times, more efficient processing, and a lower churn rate.
Improving New Customer Experience Management
First-time customers are sizing you up for how well you treat them. You might pride yourself on always taking a customer-centric approach to people who are trying you out for the first time, but without the solid customer insights of a voice of the customer feedback system, you're blindfolded. By gathering relevant data on a continuing basis, you can develop a real-time picture of what new people are looking to achieve by interacting with your brand, informed by what customers from 2 days ago have already told you.
Ways To Collect Voice of Customer Data
Okay, so voice of the customer analytics are great, but how do you get them? We've already touched on some of the customer surveys companies use to do their market research, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some mind-blowing ways to do advanced sentiment analysis to make up a full-spectrum VoC strategy.
1. Survey Responses
Sending out surveys might be the least intensive approach to getting voice of the customer feedback, which is perfect for the majority of your post-sale market research. You can do like Walmart and send out a friendly email request for people's honest reactions, or you can do the automated equivalent of that like Tesla and not bother anybody with direct contact. Either way, you're getting a daily stream of nearly free analytics that will inform your brand development process going forward.
2. Customer Reviews
Reviews from reputable sites are a godsend to responsive brands like yours. If you want to know what people are thinking and you can handle a dose of unvarnished truth about the way your customers feel, these are great. Using a fairly simple VoC program, you can scour reviews for helpful insights and see what your past customers are telling your potential future customers.
To see how this works, imagine all your customers are leaving reviews of their experience with you on Google and Yelp. A VoC program with off-the-shelf analytics can read through thousands of comments in a snap and spit out some impressive metrics. And because people have a very. . . interesting way of communicating in brief internet comments, you can add in a widget for natural language processing, so your bot knows what it's looking at. Automating the data collection this way is as easy as setting up a Google search alert and waiting for the crawler's results to stream in.
3. Focus Groups
Focus groups are a time- and resource-intensive way to get the authentic voice of your customers into your data set, but sometimes it's necessary. There just isn't a better way to make sure you're answering the right questions since groups like this are directed, while random online reviews aren't. While it's probably not feasible to work focus groups into your regular VoC program, they should turn up once a year or so or when you're working up to a product launch.
How To Create a Voice of Customer Analytics Program With a VoC Platform
Getting accurate insights is a good first step, but the payoff happens when you start turning those insights into real operational changes. Here's a step-by-step approach for turning your analysis into initiatives that can recruit and retain customers better than ever before.
Decide What You Want To Know
Asking the right questions is the first step to building an effective VoC program. Depending on how you want to assess your customers' feedback, there's a lot you can ask—from how they found the process at large, to what they think of the specific items they bought. Here are some suggestions for questions you can plug into your feedback templates.
Product Questions to Ask:
- Did you get the item you were hoping for?
- Was the item in good shape when you got it?
- Are you still happy with your purchase?
The quality of the product is possibly the single most important factor in customer satisfaction. This should be the first thing you focus on in your voice of the customer analytics.
Customer Service Questions:
- Was it easy to reach customer support?
- Would you have preferred a different contact method (phone, online chat, contact form)?
- Was your issue resolved?
How people interact with your brand makes a difference in how you're perceived. Pay extra-close attention to the initiatives you develop from this information.
Price Satisfaction Questions:
- Were you happy with the value of your purchase?
- Did you expect the price you were quoted?
- How much more would you be willing to pay to buy the same item again?
Price is the major factor in most customers' decisions to buy or not buy. If you're consistently getting feedback that your products are underpriced, consider raising the tag to widen the margins.
Dispute Resolution Questions:
- Did you have any issues that needed resolution?
- How do you rate the return/refund/replacement policy?
- Did you have any trouble during the process?
It's unavoidable that disputes will arise from time to time, and handling it badly can cost you a customer. Learning how your customers interpret your solutions is the key to building a successful process.
Lost Sales Questions:
- Did you get everything you wanted?
- Was there anything you thought about buying but didn't?
- Were you looking at any competing products?
- If you looked at an item and didn't buy it, why not?
In this category, you're trying to figure out what went into the customers' decisions to buy or not buy an item. The VoC program doesn't have to be overt for this. You might be able to get most of what you need from an analysis of site visitors' browsing habits, as tracked on your site.
Gather Your VoC Data
Once you know what you're looking for, it's time to go and find it. Decide what kinds of sources are most likely to have the information you need for your analysis, and make a plan for efficiently interpreting them.
If you want casual and unsolicited feedback, look through customer reviews. If you're interested in marketing data, look at, for example, social media conversion numbers cross-referenced with customers' comments on the brand's Twitter account. The sky's the limit here in the era of unlimited customer tools for leaving feedback and tracking movement.
Choose the Right Tools for the Job
You have a ton of options for collecting VoC data. At the lowest level, you can just leave feedback cards for customers at your brick-and-mortar location. The digital version of this is a single contact form on your website. These aren't great for voluntary participation, so you might want to move up a level into email surveys and direct contact from a call center you've partnered with to make satisfaction inquiries.
Commercial voice of customer software lets you scan through thousands of reviews and other online feedback, usually with templates for common data sets and customizable dashboards for data display. If you're clever enough, you can maybe monitor customers' revealed preferences the way Tesla tries to.
Analyze the Results You Get
Don't skimp on the analysis. Hire an economist, a professional analyst, or an all-around smart person to do a professional read-through of your collected data. The effectiveness of your process overall hinges on whether you're making sense of the raw numbers at this stage.
Draw Some Informed Conclusions
Once you have the data, you have to do some thinking about what you're looking at. Say you've been looking over returning customer numbers, and it jumps out at you that customers who had a return on a previous item rarely come back for a second visit, while numbers elsewhere are high. In that case, you might have an issue with dispute resolution that you need to look at. If, on the other hand, you actually have a higher percentage of returning customers after disputes or chargebacks, it could be a sign your dispute policy is working really well.
Translate What You've Learned Into Action
This is where the rubber meets the road. The best VoC program in the world is wasted if you're not turning your insights into improved products and experiences. Think about building a working group tasked with analyzing VoC data and brainstorming improvements for everything from products to processes. Remember to solicit ongoing feedback to assess how well the changes are shaping up.
Listen, and learn.
Voice of the customer analytics is one of the most exciting old ideas to have caught on in recent years. While there's nothing new about soliciting feedback from customers, the tools available to even midsize brands these days make the process faster and more informative than ever before.
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Related read: Best Survey Analysis Software