It’s critical for businesses to understand the wants, needs and expectations of customers in order to produce the right products and provide the right services – and to focus R&D on what customer value the most. But how do you “tune in” to customer needs in order to keep your finger on the pulse?
If you continually work to understand your customers and deliver what they value most, you stand a better chance of keeping them happy – and keeping them as customers. More happy customers means more brand advocates and more advocates means more new customers enlisted by loyal customers. It’s about being proactive; not just waiting for the customer to call with a complaint.
Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) is an ongoing program of research, data collection and analysis that helps you better understand your customers, their needs, their expectations, and how they use your products or services. By taking a pro-active approach, you can design and adapt your products/services based on data – not just instinct – and solve the problems that are most important to your customers.
Customers expect companies to be open, engaged and responsive to their needs. They want to know that when they talk, you listen.
Invite your customers to join the community and create their own user profiles – including who they are, what they do, their knowledge, skills, interests – anything that will help you to help them.
These rich profiles not only help you target feedback surveys to the right people, they also help you get to know your customer profiles better.
“Our customer marketing function was working from a spreadsheet of customer contacts. It was painful to keep up to date and the data wasn’t deep enough to support our marketing processes. Now our customers complete their own profiles in exchange for points and we have rich information to work from – supporting a much broader set of customer marketing activities.”
Step one of a Voice-of-the-Customer program is to find out who are your happy and unhappy customers. Happy customers are candidates for your Advocate Marketing program.
Unhappy customers have issues you need to solve in order to retain them as customers and turn them into advocates. Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys let you to quickly identify which customers are which.
“Prior to implementing our VOC program, we only found out if a customer was unhappy when the complaints came in. Now we track each customer’s NPS score so we can tell how their perception is changing - and fix issues before they think about moving their business to a competitor.”
Advocate marketing is about recruiting your happy customers into your brand advocacy program, but Voice-of-the-Customer is about engaging all of your customers. In a VOC program, engagement starts by asking broad questions about the customers experience and then focusing in on specific challenges and issues. Surveys are the first step in a VOC program cycle, followed by deeper interaction on a personal level to focus in on specific problems.
By issuing feedback challenges you can start the engagement process on a broad scale – with gamified rewards driving higher response rates and data samples that are statistically valid.
“We’ve brought the voice of the customer into our R&D process because they’re the best people to tell us what they want to see next, and at each decision point we consult with them to determine the real needs and priorities.”