Voice of Customer programs help companies harness the feedback, expectations and ideas from their customer base to increase revenue and retention.
Before we get into the details, let’s start from the beginning…
When you first start a business, everything is new and exciting. You feel like you can take on the world. As you begin to experience growth, however, it’s important to remember where that growth is coming from. After all, when it comes to increasing sales, your existing customers are your biggest asset.
Making your customers happy gives you a much better shot at achieving long-term success. Of course you need a great product or service, as well as great customer support, but what about giving your customers a voice? Are you listening to what they have to say about your business?
“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.” – Chip Bell
As a business owner, you’ve more than likely heard the term VoC (Voice of Customer) before. If so, you know that collecting customer feedback is a critical part of a smart growth strategy. If you don’t value what your customers have to say then you’ll find it hard to keep them buying from you over and over again.
No matter the size of your business, evolution and change are both inevitable. If you don’t listen and improve based on customer feedback, you’ll quickly lose those customers to competitors who will.
Being a small business owner means that you can often have 50 different priorities, because let’s be honest – you’re always so busy. That’s why a VoC program is so critical to maintaining and accelerating your growth.
Your VoC program can provide you with a regular stream of helpful feedback, allowing you to make smarter, more informed decisions, dramatically increasing your chances of success and reducing the number of mistakes you make.
We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. – Jeff Bezos
OK, so let’s start with the basics – why a VoC program makes sense and some of the benefits you can expect when you start collecting and acting on customer feedback.
Why Launch A Voice of Customer Program?
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates
Listening to your customers, no matter how uncomfortable it might be at times, is something all great business owners do. Their feedback will tell you what to change, how they’d like you to support them and most importantly, which additional products or services they need to help them.
Before you take any action, you’ll want to understand the true benefits of launching your own VoC program.
Put simply, a Voice of the Customer program is a process that effectively captures your customer’s overall experience, as well as their expectations when dealing with your company. By analyzing their preferences and feedback, you’ll be able to directly improve products and services, which mean happier customers and more revenue.
At the end of the day, business is tough, so you’ll need to come at this with thick skin. Some days you’ll have unhappy customers who make you feel as though you’ve failed. You might even feel like what you’re doing isn’t worth it and want to give up. But the key is to take all feedback on board and focus on continual improvements.
Once you open yourself up to the power of this process, you’ll truly evolve as a business owner. Build a program that’s customer-centric and you’ll create an opportunity to learn and grow – both as a person and for your business.
Here are some of the many benefits associated with launching your very own VoC program:
1. Remain Relevant
Whether you’ve been in business for 2 months or 10 years, customers continuously change their habits and behaviors. If you don’t adapt to these changes, then you’ll no longer be as relevant to them, potentially losing their loyalty. As you gain start to collect feedback from your customers, you can implement their suggestions, remaining both relevant and top of mind for them.
What once worked when you were starting your business may no longer be relevant. When you’ve got a structured program in place, it takes the guess work out of your growing business, allowing you to make more informed decisions.
2. Crush Your Competition
No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re experiencing some level of success then competition will follow. In a study conducted by Oracle, most businesses see the value in creating a VoC program, yet very few have actually done it.
In fact, a whopping 93% of executives said that improving the customer experience is within their top three priorities to be addressed in the next two years. Based on these stats, however, it appears that they’re falling short in terms of execution. According to the information collected, only 37% have implemented any sort of VoC program.
For the most part, your competition is underestimating the impact that a VoC program can have – and you can (and should) use that to your advantage. In a world when great customer service is the exception not the rule, you can use your competitors’ weaknesses here to create a competitive edge.
3. Increase Sales
A Voice of the Customer program helps you hear about small issues before they become a big deal, giving you the feedback you need to make changes quickly. If you act on the feedback you receive, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with increased sales.
According to the same Oracle study, brands can lose up to 20% of their revenue based on poor customer experiences. This means that if you don’t take the opportunity to listen, you’ll be the one missing out. Customer loyalty is a huge driver of ongoing sales, as we’ve written about previously on our blog.
All Customer Feedback is Not Created Equally
If you are ready to launch an effective Voice of the Customer program, then you need to understand which feedback to act on and which to ignore. As your business grows, you’ll hear many opinions from your customers, and although each comment or complaint is valuable, not all of them should be immediately acted upon.
So, when receiving a wide variety of feedback, how do you know what’s relevant?
At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their opinion, however when it comes to customer feedback, you should keep these points in mind:
- Leverage your customer support team – Your customer support team will be one of your best sources of feedback, because they’re always talking to customers and hearing their opinions and ideas. Go to them regularly and give them a way to share that feedback with you. Not only will you get great feedback, but your customer support folks will feel valued too, which will increase their motivation to help your customers.
- Share known issues – If there are known issues with your products or services, then make sure your customer support folks know about them – and make sure they know how to communicate those issues with your customers, including what’s being done to fix the issues ASAP.
- Stay organized – Without a system in place to collect and organize customer feedback, it will fall through the cracks. Use a tool such as Trello to keep customer feedback in a single place that all of your employees can access and contribute to.
“Wonder what your customer really wants? Ask. Don’t tell.” – Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer
Before you build your VoC program, you’ll want to understand what makes these programs so effective. What is it that successful businesses have in common when implementing their own strategies? Regardless of your approach, make sure you:
- Collect information from a variety of channels – The best VoC program don’t just focus on direct forms of feedback, but also indirect channels. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about where they’d be most likely to share feedback in a way that’s convenient for them. When planning your strategy, consider sources such as customer feedback surveys, social media, feedback forms on your web site (or perhaps you’ve a blog) and a customer service line.
- Keep it simple – The ultimate goal of your VoC program is to use feedback to grow your business, but you should always put your customer’s needs first. That means designing your VoC program in a way that’s simple for them to understand and easy for them to participate in. For example, go for 3 questions over 25. Don’t use confusing terminology and don’t make them jump through hoops to share feedback.
- Have an end-goal in mind – Before you start, you should ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve by launching a VoC program. In order for your program to be effective, your objective needs to be clear from the get-go. You should think about which metrics you’re trying to improve (such as Net Promoter Score) and how you’ll measure the success of the feedback you receive – both in terms of quantity and quality.
- Track the impact of changes -As you start to collect and act on customer feedback, make sure you can measure the impact along the way. You might choose to focus on customer retention or lifetime value (LTV), but make sure you’ve got a way to continually assess whether the changes you’re making are having a positive or negative effect on your business.
- Give yourself enough time – A great VoC program is something that can take a few months to bare fruit. You need to collect feedback, decide which feedback you’ll act on, actually make the changes and then take some time to see results in the metrics you’re tracking. Realistically, it will take 3-6 months to notice a positive change in your metrics, so be patient and realize a VoC program is a long-term commitment.
Things to Consider Before Launching Your Voice of Customer Program
Here are some basic tips to get you started on launching your own Voice of the Customer program:
1. Create a Strategy
Before you get started, give your VoC program some thought. What is it that you hope to achieve? How would you like to collect feedback? At the end of the day, remember why you’re creating this program.
Your goal should be to extract valuable feedback from your customers so you can focus on creating measurable improvements in your business.
Are you trying to improve customer acquisition? Perhaps you’ve noticed a spike in customer complaints and want to identify the source of the issues?
Whatever the case may be, you need to construct a well-planned, supportive program that’s measurable. After all, what good is a VoC program if you can’t measure improvements over time?
2. Choose the Right Feedback Channel
There are plenty of options available when it comes to collecting customer feedback, but it’s important to decide on which channel is best for your business. Do you want send regular surveys? Would you prefer to collect feedback on your web site? Or do you want a dedicated customer-only portal where they can share their ideas privately? If you want to send customer feedback surveys or add feedback forms on your web site, take a look at Fieldboom.
3. Ask At The Right Time
If you have a product that takes a few days to setup or install, don’t email customers asking for feedback a few hours after they purchase. Think about when it’s appropriate to ask for feedback. You want to reach out at the right time to make sure you receive feedback that’s useful and most importantly actionable.
Reactive Or Proactive Data?
When building a VoC program, there are typically two kinds of data you can collect. Reactive and proactive data. Let’s look at each of them below.
As you’d expect, reactive data is when a customer offers their feedback after they’ve used your product or service. Common forms of reactive data include customer feedback surveys, complaints, support tickets, tweets and return requests.
The first thing to ask yourself when you receive reactive data is “what’s the root cause of the issue my customer is experiencing?”. Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can determine if/how to fix the problem and take the appropriate action.
The key thing to look for with reactive data are patterns or problems that keep occurring across your customer base.
For example, if hundreds of customers tell you they’re sitting on hold too long waiting to talk to your customer support team, then you can have a huge impact on a lot of customers by reducing phone wait times.
If you uncover issues that can’t be fixed straight away, help your customer service team understand the issues so they can communicate with customers. In most cases, if the issue isn’t critical, your customers will be happy knowing it’s currently being addressed – even if it’s not yet fixed.
- Reactive data comes in once a customer has used your product or service
- It comes from complaints, returns, warranty claims, sales figures or surveys
- Its purpose is to document a customer’s experience
- It’s easy to collect and is direct in nature
- Since the issue has already occurred, damage control needs to be a part of your plan in some cases where the issue is critical in the eyes of your customers
In comparison, proactive data is collected before a potential customer actually uses your product or service. Proactive data can help you plan more effectively, since it will be based on your potential customers’ expectations not experiences.
For example, you could survey your market about your pricing or ask for their opinion about a potential new product you’d like to launch.
Once again, this information can be collected in a number of ways, including surveys, focus groups and market research. Although you might prefer to collect feedback in house, many businesses will outsource this type of data collection by hiring a company who specializes in market research.
- Proactive data is collected before someone becomes a customer
- It comes from surveys, focus groups, benchmarking and market research
- Its purpose is to help you plan for launching new products or services and/or entering new markets
- It can be expensive to collect
Using Social Media To Compliment Your VoC Program
If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve got a fairly small budget for your VoC program. That’s where you can really leverage social media to keep costs low.
Twitter, for example, is a great way to find proactive data about your potential customers, your market and also feedback about your competitor’s products and services.
Just use Twitter’s search box to type in a few keywords related to your products or your market. For example, type in the names of your competitors and see what people are tweeting about them.
According to a report by Forrester, only 29% of customer experience professionals use social media feedback within their VoC program. Most rely on traditional channels for feedback, leaving so much valuable feedback on the table as a result.
You’ll no doubt come across a lot of ‘noise’ and useless data on Twitter, but you’ll quite quickly discover some of your (potential) customers’ greatest challenges and concerns.
As you kick off your VoC program, make sure you have a single “source of truth” for all customer feedback that comes from social media. There are a variety of social media monitoring tools available today that will collect all posts about your business from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
On a final note, you should address the most important types of customer feedback first. For example, feedback related to safety issues or legal threats should be addressed before feedback about spelling mistakes on your web site.
A Simple 5 Step Process To Launch Your Voice of Customer Program
Now that we understand the basics of launching your VoC, let’s look at a simple step-by-step process that will allow you to reach your goals. If you’ve never done VoC before, you may be tempted to rush in and start collecting data from every possible source.
Although enthusiasm is great(!!!), your efforts can be futile if you don’t have a good solid plan in place first. The key, as I mentioned earlier, is to start small. As you streamline one or two channels of feedback, you can then expand and add additional channels as you go and when you understand the volume of feedback you’re receiving.
Step #1: Create Your Strategy
Most of the decisions you make within your business will be part of a broader strategy. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is it that you hope to achieve over time?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Why are you creating a VoC program?
- How will you measure your success?
To start, highlight your weaknesses – what would you like to improve? Perhaps your costs are too high, or you’d like to drive cultural change within your business. Whatever your key issues are, you can build a VoC program that focused on those problems and creates better solutions via feedback
Within your strategy, include:
- Business goals
- Metrics you’ll measure
- Customer feedback channels you’ll use
- How you’ll respond to feedback
Step #2: Ask Questions That Give You Actionable Feedback
Vague questions like “How can we improve?” generally lead to poor feedback from your customers. The key to creating a successful VoC program is to ask questions in a way that provide you with actionable feedback.
For example, instead of asking “did you like our customer support?” ask “What can we do to improve our customer support?”. Always word your questions in a way that get your customers thinking of solutions, not simply responding with “yes” or “no”.
Step #3: Ask For Feedback At The Right Time
Ditch the formalities and speak to your customers casually. If you want their feedback on something, tell them why and reassure them you’re listening. Most people are getting way too many emails and way too many surveys, so to cut through the noise, avoid the “corporate speak” and just be yourself.
If you’re sending a survey via email, you should send it during the week at around 10am, according to Mailchimp. That will give you the highest open rates and therefore the best chance of your customers actually completing the survey and sharing their feedback with you.
Step #4: Review and Prioritize
Over time you’re going to receive a lot of feedback from your customers, so make sure you review and prioritize the feedback that will help you improve the metric(s) you initially created your VoC program to improve.
The point here is, you don’t want to hum and haw over possible changes. Identify real issues and rapidly execute a solution to fix them. It’s really that simple.
Step #5: Don’t Over Think It – Just Start
The best way to launch your VoC program is to (in the words of Nike) just do it! Start with a single feedback channel and keep the entire process simple for you and your team. As you collect more feedback, you can start to implement tools and systems that help you manage, review and prioritize the feedback, but you don’t need any of those to get started.
Our advice? Create a simple customer feedback survey that you send to all of your customers once per quarter or twice per year.
Include questions like these:
- What do you like the most about our product/service?
- How likely are you to recommend our product/service to your friends?
- What’s the one thing we can do better as a business?
- How would you rate the quality of our customer support?
- Did we live up to your expectations? If not, why not?
As you kick off your Voice of the Customer program, remember what Robert Allen once said:
“There is no failure. Only feedback.”- Robert Allen
Good luck and get to it!