How to implement a voice of the customer program

Voice of the customer, also known as VOC, is used to determine consumers’ thoughts, perceptions and expectations of a brand, product or service. The feedback gathered is analyzed and implemented into future innovations to ensure future product or service releases are functional and effective. The following five tips should be considered when creating a VOC program. 

  1. Use qualitative and quantitative marketing research methodologies.
  2. Collect feedback via social media platforms.
  3. Keep an open line of communication with customers.
  4. Maintain a customer-centric approach.
  5. Understand the differences between marketing research and VOC programs.

What is the voice of the customer?

The voice of the customer is a method that offers marketing researchers a way to gather feedback and insights from their audience. This process of collecting feedback allows customers to share their honest thoughts, opinions and experiences. Businesses can incorporate the information obtained from customers to adjust or improve future offerings.

How is the voice of the customer used?

The voice of the customer offers insight into how people feel about certain products or services. After analyzing the feedback gathered, research teams help companies or brands reassess their products to determine whether any improvements can be made to address issues detected by customers. If a service or product is enjoyed with little to no complaint – few or no adjustments are made. If a product is disliked or has many issues, the team will conduct further research to determine what adjustments are needed to improve the offering.

Most companies have an established VOC program but some overlook closing the feedback loop. In the article “Improving your current customer feedback process,” author Jeannie Zaemes says that while research teams collect and analyze the data received from customers, many have forgotten to properly close the process. Zaemes emphasizes that closing the loop doesn't have to be a grand gesture – an e-mail or message acknowledging a customer's feedback is effective enough. 

Five tips for an effective VOC program

1. Use qualitative and quantitative marketing research methodologies

Incorporating different methodologies when establishing a VOC program can help create a well-rounded view of the customer. Using qualitative methodologies like interviews and focus groups and quantitative methodologies like an NPS or longitudinal research survey can help researchers better understand what consumers think.

2. Collect feedback via social media platforms

It is easier than ever to detect the voice of the customer by using feedback from various platforms. A company's social following can be an advantage. It can be used to recruit repeat customers or individuals who are loyal to a specific brand. Oftentimes, these customers are happy to offer feedback.

3. Keep an open line of communication with customers

In the article “New product development: How and where market research can be used,” author Gina Derickson emphasizes the importance of engaging with customers. “It’s imperative for teams to stay engaged with their customers every step of the way and capture the true voice of the customer to inform every key decision point,” says Derickson. 

Keeping an open line of communication with those offering feedback lets them know their voice matters. In a Quirk’s article titled “How to lead customer experience efforts,” author Jeannie Walters explains how executives can reach out to customers to reestablish a connection to keep the real voice of the customer.

4. Maintain a customer-centric approach

When developing a VOC program, it is crucial to keep the customer at the center throughout the process. This may include adjusting survey phrasing to remove industry-specific terminology or allowing flexibility to accommodate any unexpected issues when customers are offering feedback.

A customer-centric approach must be maintained throughout the entire VOC program process. Zaemes argues that the implied contract between respondent and researcher, where the respondent would receive something for their time, has been broken. “People are rarely compensated for their responses, and even more rare is when a person is acknowledged or responded to for giving feedback. This is because most companies collect, analyze and then act. By the time companies act on the feedback, most people have forgotten that they gave feedback in the first place.” Keeping a customer-centric focus throughout the entire VOC process ensures that those offering feedback end the process feeling accomplished.

5. Understand the differences between marketing research and VOC programs

Marketing research and VOC programs are both needed to positively impact a company's decision-making process and business operations. In the Quirk’s article titled “Is there a difference between market research and voice of the customer programs?,” Eric Smuda says “While market research and VOC share similar techniques, they are different in intent, orientation and usage.”

Smuda explains that market research uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to test products, services and communications and to understand consumers while VOC programs aim to understand consumer needs, wants and expectations.

An effective VOC program leads to success

VOC programs help companies stay on top of what their customers expect of their brand. By gathering customer feedback, companies can improve any products or services to ensure customer retention and satisfaction.