December 26, 2014

Voice of the Customer Explained

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Customer satisfaction has always mattered.

Traditionally, businesses have relied on purchasing trends to measure product success, and more intricate survey methods have been limited to contact center IVRs. But the landscape is shifting. Customers share their opinions through social media, blogs, review sites, and mobile apps. There are more channels and sources for feedback now than ever before, and businesses are taking a greater interest in mining this data to direct their development strategies.

According to an October report from Econsultancy, 73 percent of companies believe good customer experience is a main driver of brand loyalty, and 64 percent believe it improves customer lifetime value.

Voice of the Customer, or “VoC,” is a term that describes both the stated needs, priorities, and aversions of customers, as well as the process of measuring it all.

What is VoC?

VoC differs from traditional customer satisfaction in that its research is proactive, rather than reactive. Instead of rolling out a new product or service and waiting to “see how it goes” or asking your customers to respond to it, VoC gathers this information before deployment and makes customer needs a key input for new product definition.

The main objective of VoC is to enable development of an excellent, satisfying product or service, which, if you think about it, entails a pretty significant cultural shift. It means the customer’s priorities drive innovation and design, not the business’s presumptions. The customer defines value. And if you can accommodate that definition, the customer will give you value (loyalty) in return.The customer defines value

VoC research is conducted a number of different ways, from online surveys, to focus groups, interviews, and ethnographic techniques. Some IT vendors even offer software tools for analyzing unstructured data through social listening and text analytics. Medallia, Qualtrics, Allegiance, and NICE Systems are a few examples of these products. Typically, research is aimed at constructing a set of quality attributes and need statements to be used in product development.

How Can You Benefit from Voice of the Customer?

The obvious benefit of VoC is keeping your customers happier. A recent Corporate Equality Index report revealed that 86 percent of customers will pay more to receive a better customer experience. Separate data from Aberdeen confirms this, suggesting companies that invest in VoC will take in about 11 percent more in annual revenue.

Happier, more valuable customers are something that every business covets, but VoC isn’t a magic trick. It’s important to establish a framework that takes you all the way from data collection to successful finished product.

  • Conduct research on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of your initiative
  • Incorporate solicited (email, SMS, web, IVR) and unsolicited (social media comments, sentiment) feedback
  • Analyze customer expectations for future products or services and grievances about existing products or services
  • Transform wants, needs, and pain points into insights that directly impact development

Getting all the way through this gambit can be more difficult than you think. The Temkin Group’s “State of VoC Programs, 2013” report revealed that only 4 percent of businesses are “VoC transformers,” meaning they link customer insights to operations, processes, and planning. But businesses able to successfully bridge the gap will gain a strong competitive edge and improve the lifetime value of their customers.       

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