The Essential Voice of Customer Guide

man with a megaphone representing voice of customer

Remember when you received service that was so outstanding, you were shocked? 

You experienced a small paradigm shift. But it can go either way, and since word-of-mouth became digitized, a new online chorus starts every second.

SoAndSo Airlines lose their market position because they don’t understand how to respond on Twitter. Another enterprise ruins decades of hard work. It happens every day. Excellent voice of customer (VoC) data handling is your insurance policy against these issues, and it’s critical that you take control of them.

What is Voice of Customer?

On a basic level, VoC programs help your business to benefit from listening to and engaging with what your customers say about your brand.

At an advanced level, VoC is the bridge to knowing your customers’ future needs in the present. It is more than just customer feedback; it can catalyze infinite ideas, concepts, and progressive content. Online marketing has been completely transformed by current events. In the U.S. alone, September 2020 saw an increase of 43% in online sales according to Adobe Analytics

Gaining a competitive advantage has never been more challenging, so use this guide to benefit from the latest VoC techniques.

How to Analyze Voice of Customer

AI-powered solutions are the key to analyzing VoC. The 110% boost in US ecommerce orders alone since the beginning of 2019 has led to new customer behaviors, and the 96% increase in associated revenues has created the need for more actionable data. The best voice of the customer tools are required, and they must be tailored to the needs of your business.

Online surveys and customer-facing approaches have one main problem: they cannot be expected to understand the full story of your customers before, during, and after the engagement. AI makes this possible. According to Microsoft, around 95% of all customer interactions will be AI-controlled by 2025. 

voice of customer ai conversations

The biggest challenge is to offer a personalized service. The issue: unstructured data.

This is the qualitative information that your customers share online. It’s on the rise and currently stands at around 80-90% in the digital data universe. Progressive virtual customer assistants (VCAs), chatbots, and virtual agents are the solution. You have a wide range of software available, but only automated services that provide the VIP experience your customers expect will lead you to outperform in your industry.

How Social Listening and VoC Data Form Matchless CX

Social listening is not just about capturing data. It’s about gaining insights into real-time reactions that reveal patterns across channels and industries. It’s also important to understand the difference between social listening and voice of the customer programs:

  • Social listening – Social data collected through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as other social forums like news outlets, blogs, and Reddit. It’s also important to understand the difference between social listening and social monitoring.
  • VoC programs – Data collected beyond social: net promoter scores (NPS), online surveys, website feedback, market research, chat message conversations, and other internal customer service engagements. 

Social data and VoC must validate each other. For example, if someone leaves a negative sentiment on one of your social pages, they may not be a customer. Conversely, data collected from an online survey is usually from a customer.

So, when you receive any negative feedback in surveys, this can be cross-analyzed with social. Correlations indicate the extent of the issue and create a broader perspective.  

Let’s look at your new product or service launches. You may receive immediate feedback through social media that points out an important issue. Online and customer-facing surveys have a retrospective effect in this context. They wouldn’t be able to communicate the issue until it’s already too late to avoid any fallout. VoC catches what social listening can miss, and vice versa.

Know Your Customer

How well do you know your customer personas? Purchasing data alone will only tell you your customers’ buying patterns. A deep understanding of their persona will give you insights into why they purchase.

Similarly, asking which characteristics a customer looks for in a product will reveal more than just asking which features they like. These approaches and questions form a part of your voice of the customer analysis. This analysis begins retrospectively using the tools already mentioned – so you can work prospectively, both predicting as well as reacting.

A quick way to understand more about your customers’ personas is by finding which influencers lead specific industries. By learning the vocabulary these marketing professionals use, you can inform your customer engagement scripts used in your automated messaging and B2C surveys.

influencers for voice of customer research

The goal is to find out what’s behind the most recent successful customer journeys so you can incorporate these factors into your own VoC research. Knowing which voices lead your market show you how closely your campaigns align. 

By retracing the steps from influencers to your audience personas, you can benefit from VoC research that has already taken place in your industry. 

Know Your Channels

Relying solely on surveys only provides a minimal percentage of VoC data. The combination of active listening across multiple channels results in a broader range of actionable insights.

  • Social listening – Check what customers are asking your competitors as well as your own brand. You can learn about their VoC approaches and gain new perspectives.
  • Surveys and emails – The main reason behind low survey engagement is that companies don’t give customers enough reason to sacrifice their time. Consider a tangible reward that can be used immediately. Then make sure that all your open-ended questions – a maximum of five – are linked to your end goal.
  • In-app feedback communities – Allow customers to ask their own questions, which are added to an online forum. This can cover feature requests and creates a customer-centric approach. Updates to the channel should be easy to make and easy to access. 
  • Feedback from support – If there’s a gap between customer support and product development teams, you’re missing out on actionable data. Make sure to use an effective quality function deployment (QFD) strategy (see The Missing Link below).
  • Live and automated messaging – The best voice of customer questions must be asked in your customer’s own language. If natural language processing (NLP) isn’t used, they may feel frustrated by the experience. The ideal automated messaging service prioritizes your users’ intent first and data collection second.

Cross-Channel Responsibility

The best voice of the customer examples come from companies that encourage a strong customer-first mindset throughout all levels. VoC is based on a brand’s willingness to adapt, its desire for feedback, and the ability to exceed service expectations – a “this is not my department” attitude simply won’t survive.

A Salesforce study found that “84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services” and this trend was confirmed by 2020’s events. Providing omni-channel customer care is a much-needed piece of meeting customer expectations wherever they are communicating or talking about you.

omnichannel customer care

The challenge arises from the number of channels that need to be monitored. Dispersed feedback across help desks, third-party review sites, and social media channels require unified cross-channel management.

Many companies monitor multiple channels, but NTT’s Benchmarking Report revealed that two-thirds have no specific cross-channel strategy in place. VoC methodology requires the monitoring of feedback on public channels before they go private, and the best way to do this is with a single platform solution.  

The Missing Link

What often prevents VoC programs from outperforming is a lack of QFD (Quality Function Deployment). This is how VoC data should be implemented in your business.

QFD has been around since the 1960s, when it grew in popularity and was used to update supply chains in multiple industries. In short, it is a process that translates customer requirements into detailed product specifications and concepts. 

When a brand fails, it’s often because VoC isn’t effectively partnered with QFD. It provides a structured way to transition from research into implementation. Here’s a summary of the method’s benefits:

  • Customer focus – The emphasis is on what the customer needs, not what the company believes they need.
  • Competitor analysis – Specific VoC benchmarks are used to compare your level of understanding with your competitors’ efforts.
  • Shorter development time – QFD reduces the likelihood of unnecessary updates by focusing on requirement insights taken from VoC analysis.
  • Structure – A historical timeline of product development is created so you can record and learn lessons from previous updates. This creates a knowledge base and a holistic approach to your brand’s evolution.  

The Takeaway

Why is voice of the customer important? Because beyond best practice necessities, it also symbolizes the dynamism that is required by all businesses to adapt to a changing digital market. The companies that will benefit most from 2020 are those that understand the huge increase in customer expectations.

Hours of research and reporting can reveal trends, but being able to find this information in an instant is the game changer. This is why businesses are turning to powerful, unified social media analysis platforms to deliver actionable insights.

Your audience is speaking in a new multi-channel language – the solution is to listen to them all on one platform.

This article originally appeared on socialbakers.com.