“Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him.”
- White Men Can’t Jump
To believe anyone who works in CX, the Voice of the Customer (VOC) is everywhere.
Everyone is talking about it, investing in dedicated VOC tools and software, all to plug into what the customer says and wants.
But if on your end, both upstream and downstream, you’re simply not prepared to engage with the customer in the right way, however hard you say you’re listening and demonstrate it by showing off a fancy customer feedback platform, none of what the customer tells you will make any kind of impact on the way you are doing things. And this for two reasons:
Feeling assaulted by too many poorly run Voice of the Customer surveys, the customer won’t want to tell you anything or won’t know how.
Overrun by too much feedback, you won’t know how to distinguish the customer’s voice from just plain noise.
Because to hear your customers, you first have to get them to talk to you in a way that is both meaningful for them and for you, then you have to be able to actually do something with this information.
In short, hearing – not just listening to – the Voice of the Customer, i.e., extracting actionable insights from the feedback you receive, provided you even receive it, is no slam dunk.
The good news? At Hello Customer we’ve made it our business to help you open and close this conversational loop with your customers. More than just an AI powered end-to-end VOC tool to collect and analyze feedback (which is already a good start), this involves a methodological approach to build a tailored VOC Analytics program; one that will engage both your customers and your employees, giving them each a voice not only to improve your product and service, but the entire conversation around your brand as well.
Besides yours truly, there are some other noteworthy players out there. So, we’ve compiled a list of who we think is our top competition and why, so you can decide for yourself how we measure up.
But before deep diving into the specifications of today’s standout VOC tools and methodologies, let’s understand what these are effectively designed to do.
The term can be traced back to a 1993 MIT Marketing Science paper, penned by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hause, titled “The Voice of Customer” thus coining the phrase:
“[VOC] provides a detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements, a common language for the team going forward in the product development process, key input for the setting of appropriate design specifications for the new product or service, and a highly useful springboard for product innovation.”
There are therefore two key components to keep in mind that make up what we now call Voice of the Customer:
A “Detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements” i.e., unique insights into your customers’ wants, needs, expectations, and preferences when it comes to interacting with your business
A “common language for the team going forward.” i.e., a means through which your company can improve its business (in terms of people, processes or product) based on these insights.
Concretely, Voice of the Customer is defined by collecting data on what your customers are saying, thinking, and feeling about your products, services, business model, then sifting through and parsing this data to uncover recurring motifs. This data can be gathered using actual voices of your customers (customer service calls, interviews, focus groups, etc.), or through what’s called “lower friction channels” like feedback surveys, social listening or website data.
The ultimate goal of defining your Voice of the Customer must always be to enhance the interactions you have with them to deliver a consistently seamless customer experience. However, VOC proves to do much more than just upgrade customer service.
By analyzing all this valuable data and information, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about business strategies at every corporate level, which will increase your value as a company both in the eyes of your customers and of your employees. By fostering conversational ties between your internal teams and your customers, you’re making it easier for the former to help the latter. This is bound to improve employee engagement and customer loyalty, in turn boosting satisfaction rates and other tangible outcomes such as increased sales, referrals, and retention.
But to create these meaningful conversations that will yield such positive outcomes, you’re going to have to first make sure everyone across the company speaks a “common language” and knows how to use it to engage with the customer in the right way and for the right purpose.
This is your company’s toolbox. You absolutely need to have several Voice of the Customer templates ready for a variety of scenarios. AND you should be updating these constantly to reflect the changes in the market and your customers’ needs.
In other words, to make your data intelligible and distribute your findings and learnings to the rest of the company, you’re going to have to rely on easily readable and accessible charts, tables, dashboards and graphs.
Once your data is intelligible, it’s a matter of looking for trends and patterns. However, manually sifting through and parsing hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews, interview transcripts, comments, etc., wastes massive amounts of time better spent elsewhere. Manual feedback analysis just goes so far and once you reach a certain scale you won’t be able to make actionable decisions. The best VOC programs use AI to power qualitative data analysis, assigning sentiments and topics with human-level accuracy.
Leveraging AI-backed VOC tools, you can unify all your feedback from all your sources into a globally accessible platform. AI tools can perform what’s called “aspect-based” data analysis, processing qualitative feedback as inputs, then outputting all the topics that are present in the comment along with the sentiment attached for each topic. Aggregated at scale, this technology provides you with the amazing capacity to literally slice and dice data into actionable insights about the Voice of the Customer.
You love your customers, of course you do. But when did you last stop and ask yourself whether that feeling was mutual? More importantly, when did you last stop to ask them? Because the hard truth is that for many customers, it’s not. In fact, a whopping 77% of brands could disappear overnight, and consumers wouldn’t care… They’ll move on to another brand that offers a very similar product, price and quality (because let’s face it, today customers are faced with plenty of options). However, 76% of consumers expect brands to share their values and contribute in some way to their quality of life and well-being. Basically, what you need is for them to genuinely like you.
According to the Harvard Business Review, it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more to try and acquire new customers rather than keep the old ones. The days of blowing a huge budget on massive marketing campaigns aimed to coax new customers are gone. Todays, it’s about nurturing your current customer base, making sure to delight them with terrific customer experience, at every single touchpoint of their customer journey.
And the payoff is worth it since 73% of all consumers point to experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Why has it become so crucial for a brand to tune in to CX, even more so than product or service quality, pricing or content marketing? Because it is all-encompassing: Customer Experience tells you about every aspect of your business as it is reflected through the whole customer journey, from before a consumer even interacts with your brand, to long after a customer has purchased from it.
And all the knowledge you gain, every step of the way, allows you to make significant changes - not small, localized ones – but holistic ones that impact your business growth.
So, what makes the difference between successful and unsuccessful businesses? The successful ones don’t just listen to the Voice of the Customer, they hear it - leveraging an end-to-end VOC analytics program to do so. They realize business metrics such as revenue, acquisition cost, conversion and churn only tell a portion of the story. They know that to make informed decisions that will improve their business, it's critical to fully grasp the customer's perspective.
By capturing VOC data, you’re connecting with customers at every touchpoint in the customer journey and programmatically enhancing their experience with your company. This helps you:
Detect early warning signals and defuse potential crises
Evaluate your brand image
Assess new ideas for development
Customize your products and services with add-ons and features that match the needs of your customers
Increase customer retention
Serve your customers with what they really want
In other words, you have to make it all about them: It’s what they need and want, and how you’ve delivered on that expectation that will form a customer’s perception of a good or bad experience. But how do you go about doing that? Start simply by asking them.
If customers feel you truly care about what they have to say and will adapt your strategy accordingly, they will become more engaged with your company and reward you with their trust, loyalty and potentially even praise you to those around them.
This is what it means and why it matters to be customer centric. And the Voice of the Customer is the absolute cornerstone. There are of course dos and don’ts, best practices and pitfalls both in terms of tools and methodology, which is why we’ve made it our mandate at Hello Customer to help brands build the VOC program and leverage the VOC platform that are right for them.
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