Hearing the voice of the customer

When you want to evaluate your relationship with your customers, big KPIs (like revenue or traffic numbers) may give you a general idea of whether customers are happy, but they hardly tell you anything about what customers really want. Did you meet their expectations? Will they buy from you again? What could you have done better?

There’s no way to really know unless you give your customers a voice. That’s what voice of the customer (VOC) research is all about.

Your customers know the secrets to your success—all you have to do is ask them. Voice of the customer is an increasingly popular way to use customers’ opinions and market research to improve products and services. Through a combination of surveys, focus groups, interviews, and observations, voice of the customer research gives your customers an opportunity to share quantitative and qualitative feedback at many different touchpoints.

Learn more about our customer experience management software.

By giving customers a voice, you open yourself up to an array of insights that wouldn’t otherwise be available. Those insights, in turn, can be the key to reaching all your big goals:

Many marketers tend to think of a company’s existing customers as a sure thing. But not every customer who spends money with you is necessarily a cheerleader for your brand. While a customer may buy from you, they may view you as a necessary evil because you offer the best price or the most convenient service. What if all it would take to lose a customer is a competitor?

Listening to the voice of the customer is one of the best ways to determine whether customers feel they are getting the service they deserve, where the mark is being missed, and how loyal they are likely to be.

With so many review sites available, dissatisfied customers have many ways to express the issues they have with your products or service. Negative reviews and comments on social media can cause immeasurable damage to the integrity of a brand. Proactively offering feedback surveys provides a way for customers to share negative feedback without telling the world.

On a similar note, testing new products and concepts before rolling them out (or even starting to develop them) offers a way to anticipate problem areas and deliver on customer expectations.

How well do you really know your customers? Capturing the voice of the customer at multiple touchpoints allows you to draw a much more complete picture of both your customer base and their experience than a random sampling. It allows you to see where you’re doing well and where you should focus more effort. It allows you to create customer profiles and identify tendencies. Most of all, it gives you a better sense of what customers really want.

Giving your customers a louder voice can start with something as simple as searching for yourself on social media, reading online reviews, or making a contact us form readily available on your website. But when you’re really serious, here are a few important ways to reach out at different touchpoints:

Why make your customers look for an opportunity to give feedback? Pop up surveys will make it easy for aggrieved customers to get in touch with you, and it also gives anyone who’s interested in improving your products an opportunity to chime in. In fact, a recent study showed that asking for feedback (even if you don’t listen to it) tends to improve customer loyalty. Website feedback surveys can be a simple way to start listening.

Even a casual conversation with customers can yield big discoveries. Make a point of spending time talking to customers. Whether that means inviting customers in for a formal focus group, pulling someone aside while they’re shopping, or having candid followups when you complete a project (obviously, customer touchpoints vary for different businesses), a direct conversation allows things to surface that you might not hear otherwise.

Learn more about when and where focus groups and surveys can be most effective.

When you send emails, give customers a chance to chime in. Often emails come at transitions in your relationship (transactional emails, for example), so asking for feedback in email surveys can be really important. You can use your CRM system (like Salesforce) to automate feedback requests, or add a link to a feedback survey in the footer of all your emails.

In addition to focusing on specific touchpoints, getting feedback on a regular basis is key to hearing the voice of the customer. It will allow you to establish customer satisfaction performance metrics that you can use to measure your progress over time, identify changes, and respond to negative trends.

On their own, Net Promoter scores or customer satisfaction ratings might not tell you a lot. For example, what does it mean if 60% of your customers are “very satisfied”? Is that OK—or does it mean that 40% are dissatisfied and you’re likely to lose their business?

If you compare your results over time, you’ll give your customer feedback scores a lot more context. You can also get context by comparing yourself with your competitors in your industry. To help you get benchmark data, we offer SurveyMonkey Benchmarks and the ability to view trended data over time. See where you stand by checking out benchmark data reports for NPS, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement.

Net Promoter scores are an increasingly popular way for marketers to measure customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Our NPS template lays out all of the questions you need to ask to capture this powerful data. Research has even shown that companies who measure NPS as part of their voice of the customer research are three times more likely to grow by 10% or more in a 12 month period!

However you choose to do it, listening to the voice of the customer may be an important key to getting ahead. To help you come up with voice of the customer survey questions, check out these templates:

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