Topic(s): Metrics & Methodologie Customer Experience CX & Business Strategy

Voice of the Customer vs market research: common goal, other methods

Voice of the Customer and market research are two ways to collect input from your customers about your business, products, services, and processes. Both methods can give you useful insights, but the purpose, design, analysis, and results for both disciplines are not the same. However, when you combine the Voice of the Customer and market research, you get the best of both worlds.  


Voice of the Customer 

The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is the process of collecting your customer’s feedback on their experience and expectations about your products or services. It helps you better understand your customers' behavior, frustrations, and preferences. And it allows you to uncover process issues, to map your people performance, and understand how customers perceive your products and services.

The process is a closed loop: you collect customer feedback, analyze it, prioritize your improvements and implement them. Then the cycle starts again, and your customers can give feedback on the improvements that you have implemented. 

There are different methods to capture customer feedback data, such as customer surveys, social listening, online reviews, in-depth interviews, customer panels, and focus groups. One of the most used methods is undeniably customer surveys. If you haven’t implemented a survey strategy as a company, you’ve surely seen them as a customer. Maybe the terms NPS, CSAT or CES ring a bell?

 

Market research  

It’s not unusual to confuse VoC and market research. So, where exactly lies the difference? Market research tries to find answers to a specific strategic question and insights into specific predetermined hypotheses around a product or service. The feedback usually is gathered from a small sample of customers, whose responses are then combined to uncover general results and trends. Whereas the VoC typically gathers customer feedback continuously after any interaction, market research is limited in time and space.  

Just like there are different ways to capture the Voice of the Customer, you can choose how to conduct market research: through focus groups, personal interviews, field observations, surveys, and so on. The surveys in market research are typically very long and filled with detailed questions because researchers want to gather as much very specific and targeted information from one survey. After all, there is no continuous flow of follow-up surveys.  

The two disciplines put together side by side, show us the differences: 

voice of the customer vs market research

 

Even though a Voice of the Customer program and market research share some methodology, the results, and design are unique to each discipline. One isn’t particularly better than the other, they just share a common purpose. Both disciplines aim to understand customers, but they come from different perspectives. VoC is the continuous pulse of day-to-day business, whereas market research deepens findings, gut feeling, and internal hypotheses. And you really do need both. Our suggestion? A perfect blend of the two in your surveys where your market research benefits from the advantages VoC offers.

Joining forces to avoid survey fatigue

In all of our efforts, we need to think customer-first. And customers tend to be tired of long surveys. So, it's no surprise that survey fatigue is a common frustration for market researchers. Customers are overwhelmed with inboxes full of survey requests, sometimes just from one company. This results in low response rates and statistical invalidity. Survey fatigue can also happen when companies send large, impersonal surveys from which respondents never hear again. This creates a vicious cycle: customers don’t see the changes that you’ve implemented based on their survey input, so they’ll be less inclined to respond to other survey requests.  

That is why at Hello Customer, we recommend a different approach to collect Voice of the Customer data. Our golden standard: every NPS, CSAT, or CES question is followed by an open feedback question. The first question is simple and straightforward, leaving no space for confusion. This gives you a score, which can then be clarified and put into context in a follow-up open-ended question.  

Open-feedback-NPS-1


How do you analyze these open-ended feedback questions? Unless you’re planning on analyzing every response manually, you’ll need some technology to help you.
Our platform does not only collect feedback data but also uses AI technology such as text analytics and sentiment analysis to interpret the incoming feedback. This way, you can really understand the true meaning behind all your customer feedback and implement strategic improvements based on this data.

If you do want to quantify a specific hypothesis for a market research question, you can add one to three questions to your surveys. Only do this for a short period of time, until you can formulate a response to your hypothesis. Remove the question when your hypothesis is quantified because the longer your survey, the lower the response rate.  

The benefits of combining VoC and market research

Market researchers aren't only faced with survey fatigue, there are other pitfalls that can skew the results of your survey: sample bias and question bias

  • Sample bias

Since researchers only collect feedback from a small sample that should represent the customer base, chances are high that these results are skewed. That's when you get sample bias. In a perfect world, respondents in market research are chosen randomly, while matching the study’s criteria at the same time. But if that’s not the case, the study’s validity is at risk. For example, if you want to know what your customers think about a new feature on your website, you’re not going to send surveys to customers who only buy your products in-store.  

You don’t have to worry about sample bias in VoC: since you target any customer and usually receive high response rates, you can safely assume that your results are representative of your customer base.

  • Question bias

Another form of bias that can occur in surveys, is question or question order bias. This speaks for itself: the way a question is phrased can influence the answer. Just think of questions that are vague, redundant, ambiguous, selective, or misleading: “How can we improve?” or “Would you be worried if we discontinued this product line?” Questions like these are bound to provoke biased results. The question order can also manipulate your respondents. This happens often in “assimilation” questions: a respondent uses their reply to the first question as a basis for a reply to the next question. The bottom line is to phrase your question as neutral as possible, for example: “How would you rate your customer experience while shopping at store X, on a scale from 1 to 10?".

Plus, as we previously mentioned, there is one secret ingredient to getting the most out of your survey responses: open feedback. An open-ended question gives the customer some space to clarify their answers and give more context. This eliminates question bias and allows the respondent to elaborate on the reason behind the given score. This increases the response rates, providing you with more context and quality insights to improve your company, product or service, and ultimately your customer experience.

To wrap it up

So, what do you get when you decide to combine the VoC and market research? When you start by listening to your customers, you create a continuous feedback flow after any interaction in the customer journey. This allows you to spot trends, gather new insights into your operations and confirm or refute your expectations. 

If you want to outsmart question bias in your surveys, start by double-checking your questions and include an open feedback text field. And since the Voice of Customer program bypasses any sample problems you may encounter in market research, your risk of sample bias lowers significantly. The result: no more misleading responses that influence your strategic action taking.