Why the Voice of the Customer is the Voice of God


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Voice of the Customer

Vox populi, Vox Dei. (the Voice of the People is the Voice of God)

Disclaimer: We won’t get into whether or not this phrase was erroneously attributed to William of Malmesbury or if it was in fact mentioned by Alcuin in a letter to Charlemagne. We aren’t pros at etymology. We won’t also get into chronology to prove or disprove either. We won’t even deal with whether or not the phrase holds true to life. It’s debatable. Does voice of the people really equal voice of God? Does something become insurmountable simply because there is a general consensus on it? We’re not going to get involved in that debate because we don’t belong in that socio-politico-philosophical space.

We belong in a space which recognizes the pressing need to start listening to the voices that narrate stories of delight or of despair to their social circles – we belong in the world of customer experience and in this world vox populi is indeed vox dei. In here, we call it the Voice of the Customer.

If we are allowed a quick detour, we’d love to share the evolution of the phrase and give you a tour of how the phrase “VoC” went from being a restricted term used in QFD (Quality Function Deployment) to the more dynamic CX phrase that it is now.

Where it all started

Voice of the Customer started off as a product development technique which produces a detailed set of customers’ wants & needs. In effect, it described the process of capturing customers’ requirements organized in a hierarchical manner so that the product team could address them accordingly. This, however, is the narrow definition of a concept which has taken over the business world in its entirety, well beyond the product development department.

Today, ‘Voice of the Customer’ has expanded to including that approach to marketing and research methodology that achieves an in-depth understanding of the preferences and actions of your customers and prospects which can be used to create and implement powerful marketing strategies to engage and develop relationship with those customers. While Customer Experience Management focuses on what your customers have to say about your product/service and how they feel about their experience or interaction with your brand, a good Voice of the Customer program does something more specific which will get you a lot closer to understanding your customers.

If improvement is what you seek, customer feedback is absolutely crucial. But Voice of the Customer programs are all-encompassing when it comes to understanding customer needs, requirements, trends, behaviours and patterns. It addresses that part of customer experience that takes place even before the physical interaction between a brand and its customers occurs.

Let’s try and understand the scope of a good VoC program:

1. It aims at understanding customers’ expectations from your brand from a research point of view.
2. It helps brands manipulate their product or service, such that it aligns precisely with customer needs.
3. It looks to understand how the brand can address the demands of customers as opposed to how customers perceive the brand’s product/service supply.
4. Voice of the Customer helps with bringing about strategic, organization-wide changes.

This much is clear. But it is also necessary to understand that not every survey or research that travels from a brand to the customer is part of the Voice of the Customer research program. Here’s a list of things that go into designing the perfect VoC:

1. Lay out a clear goal to the program

Be very, very specific with chalking out what your exact demands are from the program. Don’t attempt to cover every aspect of business in one single shot. Take time understanding what it is that you hope to address: if you look to increase your revenue or if you are spearheading a cultural change within the organization.

‘Why’ you are looking to listen to the Voice of the Customer and how you word your questionnaire are deeply connected. Once you’ve figured out the agenda for the VoC program, plan it out to target just that one aspect of your business; And this brings us to the next step…

2. Respect Survey Fatigue and tread carefully

Think of the number of brands that an average customer deals with on a weekly basis. Dozens of them! Given how customer experience is becoming more and more valued by brands in recent years, customers are entitled to feel fatigued by the sheer volume of quizzes that come their way. Respect their time by minimizing the number of questions you include as part of your VoC research.

Narrowing down the end goal of your program should give you a huge advantage over the exact questions you wish to ask them. Keep to a maximum of 6 questions or design it such that they spend less than a couple of minutes on it. No matter which channel you adopt, the questionnaire ought to be crisp to improve accuracy of response.

3. Expand your reach for maximum response

To increase your sample-size, go for as many channels as possible so that you reach your customers on multiple platforms. Be present where your customers are present. Take to SMS surveys, email surveys, IVRs, tablets or just about any channel that you think would bring you closer to your audience. Targeting a wider audience may not always be that convenient but it will surely give you a much better idea of what is lacking and where you need to focus your attention.

4. Centralize Data Collection, Analysis and Insights

The word we are attacking here is “silos ”. It does not work when you move mountains to collect customer feedback and then let the data get lost among separate departments, in silos, within the organisation. It doesn’t help anyone and the entire point of driving this program goes amiss when you segregate the data and hand it over to “respective teams ”.

No matter what your agenda behind conducting the research is, the analysis and the insights have to be shared with and by the entire organization. We recognize that it is a daunting task to centralize this process, but it is inevitable. Customer-centricity has to be an organization-wide culture and every single piece of customer information/insight has to be made available to ALL the departments. This is the most effective way to go about understanding the Voice of the Customer. Thereby, you can pick out the most actionable insights with inputs from all departments working in unison and implement relevant changes.

5. Don’t approach VoC in isolation

Looking at the bigger picture is of value here. Everything contributes to the other, everything comprises the other. We, therefore, suggest approaching CEM as an entire unit comprising many little parts including VoC, employee engagement, industry awareness and many others. You run the risk of a biased opinion if you only study one aspect in isolation.

Take the insights you gain from the VoC program and weigh it to see if it is starkly in contrast with the other components that make up your CEM program. Take a call accordingly as to what it is to be done next. Avoid implementing changes driven entirely by a business-centric goal. Keep the culture intact. This way you ensure a well-rounded program that does not rely too heavily on any one aspect alone.

In a nutshell…

We hope to have thrown some light on how a good Voice of the Customer can change the course of your business. It’s actually simpler than we make it to be, so long as we remember to focus on “WHY ” we seek to listen to the Voice of the Customer. The Why’s will automatically translate into a crisp, precise questionnaire and that in turn will allow your customers to pinpoint what their thoughts, demands, needs and expectations exactly are. This will act as fuel for you to implement strategic changes to your business which, if done properly, will result in higher levels of customer satisfaction, delight and retention. Now, isn’t that the ultimate dream of every customer-facing business?

Ganesh Mukundan
I'm a content marketer at Hiver. I've been writing about customer experience for the past 5 years. I'm passionate about narrating delightful customer stories, researching CX trends, and deep-diving into concepts such as VoC and Customer Journey Mapping.


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