November 29, 2021

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How to use voice of customer data to improve your customer relationships

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A happy customer is a repeat customer. To truly understand where you’re succeeding in customer satisfaction, you need a voice of the customer (VoC) program in place. Having an active and planned VoC program keeps your business informed on customer satisfaction and can help improve your products or services overall.

So what is VoC and how does it help you improve your customer relationships?

What is voice of the customer & why is it important?

Voice of the customer is a market research term for the process of collecting, analyzing and implementing customer feedback data. A company will use a VoC program to understand their customers better. Through collection methods like surveys and reviews, the data will then be analyzed and distributed to relevant departments. If you’ve shopped online in the last few years, you’ve very likely encountered a brand’s VoC program in action.

This feedback loop benefits multiple departments and can lead to innovations like new products and customer experience changes. For example, a product development department for a shoe manufacturer might want to know which color the next shoe would be. Through a VoC program, data can be collected from customers on shoe color preferences, which would then help the department make a decision.

What are the 3 main stages of a successful VoC program?

A successful VoC program begins with the right questions. These questions will change depending on any department’s needs and will affect how you collect the customer data.

Questions can be as broad or detailed as:

  • Why is the steak dish in this restaurant location so unpopular as compared to another location?
  • How consistent is our customer service quality?
  • What is the most in-demand feature for our app?

Once you have questions established, it’s time to move on to the first stage: collection.

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VoC stage 1: Collection

There are many ways to collect customer feedback, which we’ll outline in more detail later on. Some collection methods, like Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews, constantly collect feedback without your direction. Others, like surveys and customer interviews, require a more active approach. In any case, you should explore any and all collection methods that are available to you. Customers aren’t on every platform. Limiting yourself to only the ones you’re familiar with will only keep you going back to the same customers while ignoring those that speak out on other platforms.
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After a customer purchases online and the product is delivered, RoomMates sends an automated email to ask them to review the product. This is a common collection method for online retailers.

VoC stage 2: Analysis

In the analysis stage, you sort through the collected data to find the metrics that help you answer your questions. The analysis is then presented to the relevant departments to help them move onto the next stage.

Let’s take a look at one of the example questions: “Why is the steak dish in this restaurant location so unpopular as compared to another location?” The collection stage uses social listening, review sites and on-site survey cards. In the analysis stage, we’ll look at commonalities within the collected data. After looking through the data, you might conclude that the recipe is off or that the dish isn’t being advertised enough so customers don’t know about it.

VoC stage 3: Implementation

You’ve got the data and the analysis, now what? It’s time to make some decisions about what changes, if any, need to be implemented. Customer behavior analyses get added to social media personas, product feedback reviews become incorporated into new products and customer service quality checks smooth out friction in the service process.

From the customer perspective, you don’t usually see the direct results of a VoC program unless the brand mentions it. In this case, Burger King refers to a popular customer request as a direct influence on its partnership with T-Mobile.

Voice of customer data collection techniques

There are multiple VoC data collection methods available to you, some easier to implement than others. As a consumer, you’ve likely encountered most of these methods in some way or another. Luckily, these days we have more technology than ever to collect data.

Some methods are more effective in an immediate sense when experiences are still fresh in customers’ minds. For example, if you’re interested in knowing how a live music event was for an attendee, having people conduct surveys on site will garner more results than following up weeks later. On the other hand, if you have a service that takes a few weeks for a customer to complete, it doesn’t make sense for you to ask how their experience was during the process. Timing is everything and sometimes, follow-ups are necessary.

Social listening & social media

Social listening is the process of analyzing the conversations and trends happening around not just your brand, but also your industry as a whole. Social listening is great for monitoring brand sentiment, understanding your customers’ needs and wants and keeping an eye on your competitors. These inputs will let you ultimately make better marketing decisions.

With the right social listening tools, you don’t have to worry about missing important information online.

Direct questions work well on social media, too. In this case, Olive & June is a nail polish and accessories company. Without requiring the answers to be part of their current lineup, the company still gets information about what colors their customers are currently into.

Surveys

Have you ever been sent a “how did we do?” email pretty much immediately after you end a customer service interaction? Or for a more low-tech example, have you seen suggestion boxes placed by the front door of a restaurant? Both are survey and collection techniques for VoC programs.
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Surveys like the first example are best implemented when you have questions that you want to be answered on an ongoing basis, such as, “How well is your customer service team performing?” Customer-focused software like Zendesk offers these automated options so you don’t need to worry about initiating them.

On-site techniques like the suggestion box are open-ended and passive. Whatever the customer is feeling at the moment is what goes into the box. For a better feedback experience, asking simple questions like “How would you rate your food today?” would help direct your customers to what you want to know more about.

Online customer reviews

Online customer reviews on your own website can be easily solicited with automation and incentives like receiving a discount on their next order. Knowing how to ask for customer reviews in an effective way is step one in this process.

Reviews that are hosted on external review sites will still help build your reputation and in some industries like the food and drink sector, are of utmost importance to maintain and respond to.

Live chat

When offering customer support, live chat is often a go-to option, especially if you have the staff and customer base who needs it. For this collection method, a short customer satisfaction survey often appears at the end of a conversation. Because live chats are used most for support, the questions tend to lean towards the areas of “Are you satisfied with the answer?” and “Was your agent helpful?” The answers in these two areas give insight into how helpful the overall help team is and how an individual is performing.

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In Sprout Social, you can use chatbots to create automated answer flows for common questions and customer care issues (tracking orders, finding locations, and more). These chatbots integrate with Sprout’s Smart Inbox so an individual team member can always jump in and manage more complex questions that arise. As you set up chatbots, you can set up prompts that also help you collect feedback on how helpful the experience was, or where there’s room for improvement.

Customer interviews

When you need to have very specific questions answered, customer interviews are the way to go. You pick the customers you want to ask and then analyze the answers. For example, perhaps you created a new product but you want to make sure that the use case you imagined for it translates in real life. You would pick the customers you want to test the product and then follow up with interviews. Interviews can be conducted at any stage of a product or service life cycle.

Other VoC methods

In addition to the collection methods listed above, other VoC techniques include:

  • Website behavior: Looking at website data to see how customers are landing on your pages, interacting with them and clicking through them. This helps you see if any pages need better designs or can be more easily found in your website structure.
  • Recorded call data: For customer service calls, recordings are used for quality assurance purposes. They help the company understand if they’re delivering the quality they want on both a departmental and individual level.
  • Emails: Often automated, emails are sent on a schedule to customers to check in on a variety of data points, such as product satisfaction and company satisfaction.
  • Focus groups: When developing a new product and service, focus groups help inform the product development team if they’re on the right track.
  • Net Promoter Score: The Net Promoter Score “measures customer experience and predicts business growth.” It divides your customers up into promoters, passives and detractors. The score is a reflection of how your customers perceive your brand.

Listening to your customer’s voice

Your customers’ satisfaction is essential for the success of your brand. And the only way you can truly know what your customers want and need is to incorporate a voice of customer program. After establishing questions that you want answered in the program, you’ll need to develop the collection methods you’ll be using. The more collection methods you have, the wider your customer coverage will be.

Are you looking to step up your VoC game on social media? Learn 40 unique ways to use social listening to make changes in your business.

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