Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, relevance and longevity in your industry depend on how well your products answer the needs of your customers. However, when the time comes for you to demonstrate that understanding — during a sales conversation, customer service interaction, or through the product itself — how do you think you measure up?

According to the Future of Customer Experience Survey by PWC, companies are falling short:

“Only 38% of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs; 46% of consumers outside the U.S. say the same.”

Companies who understand their customers reap the benefits. According to the same study, a strong customer experience garners “up to a 16% price premium on products and services, plus increased loyalty.”

And it’s not just short-term revenue and market share you’ll lose if you fall behind on customer experience. Customers are also more likely to grant you access to their personal data for customized experiences if you impress them with your understanding, enabling top competitors to hone and maintain their edge for the future.

So how can companies rise to the opportunity, close that gap in understanding, and align their customer experience to actual customer pain points? By listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC).

What is the Voice of Customer?

The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a methodology used to capture customers’ needs, requirements, and perceptions about products or services. It helps you understand the drivers behind customer decisions, provides feedback for improved experiences, and facilitates innovation and thinking for new offerings.

The VoC methodology leads not only to better products, but also sets the foundation for continuous improvement as those needs and perceptions change.

How VoC future-proofs your business

VoC is fundamental to a strong customer experience program and impacts every step of the customer journey.

It helps product developers create or improve a product or service, marketers develop messaging that resonates with existing and future customers, and companies worldwide realize where they fall short of their brand promise. Knowing your customer prevents you from failing in the marketplace.

When the Voice of the Customer comes through in real time, that feedback can change the trajectory of your business.

Bonobos, a retail clothing company, uses a Voice of the Customer program to give everyone in their company a direct line to raw customer feedback.

In 2014, they specifically used NPS surveys to validate an operational change to their shipping process. They thought the impact of those changes would be minimal, but the customers made it clear they felt differently. Andy Dunn, CEO, says:

“We were able to literally just watch the scores decline. That enabled us to have the confidence to roll back the change. I know that due to Delighted, we avoided disaster.”

Tuft and Needle, a mattress company founded on creating a fundamentally better experience, recognizes the value of ongoing listening.

After consistently achieving 4-star ratings on Amazon, they set their goals for 5-star perfection. They knew there was feedback they were missing and things they could improve. They just needed to access it.

JT Marino, the founder of Tuft and Needle, says this of the time before they incorporated Delighted as their Voice of the Customer tool:

“That’s what was missing in the early days, just using the telephone. We weren’t hearing from people who were happy. We weren’t making the good things better.”

Constant improvement is how you stay ahead of the competition. Good isn’t good enough: “the best experiences today are table stakes tomorrow.”

Developing your Voice of the Customer (VoC) strategy

A Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is a closed loop process that involves everyone in your company. With it, you’ll be able to gather, analyze, and act on the feedback collected from all of your customers, including potential customers and those who aren’t happy with your service. As Bill Gates would say:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

But, before we get ahead of ourselves and talk about who to ask for feedback, let’s talk about how to develop your strategy first. There are three questions to ask yourself when developing a VoC strategy.

What is the objective and intent of the VOC program?

Do you want to benchmark your performance, or are you focusing more on long-term continuous improvement? Is there a particular facet of the customer experience you’re interested in? Web, in-store, product, post-purchase?

Since the customer experience isn’t defined by you and your team alone, but the company as a whole, your objective will also help you figure out who else you need to bring on board to drive those feedback-fueled changes. Getting this upfront alignment is imperative.

What information do you need to capture (e.g. customer needs)?

The information you need determines how you go about capturing it. In this case, it isn’t just the customer comments you need to capture, but the context of their experience as well. What product did they purchase? Which channels did they use to ask for support? Which pages on the site did they visit?

Syncing these data sets (the experiential feedback with the backend operational data) comes in handy when the time comes to interpret the data.

What survey technology will capture the right information to fulfill your objective?

Customer feedback collection VoC tools run the gamut. They can be as scrappy as free Google forms that you format and send via email, as sophisticated as thousand-dollar enterprise platforms, or anywhere in between.

Do you need a turnkey customer feedback platform you can get up and running yourself, or more sophisticated experience platforms with market research and advanced analytics?

Will your VoC program run on email surveys, text surveys, web intercept surveys, QR code link surveys, or all of the above?

What about integrations that consolidate the customer feedback with the operational data for you? If you’ve clearly stated the goal of your VoC strategy, you’ll be able to answer these questions and figure out which solution is right for you.

Creating Voice of the Customer (VoC) surveys

Once you’ve determined your strategy, you can start creating Voice of the Customer (VoC) surveys. Using a dedicated VOC platform like Delighted will help you not only manage all aspects of customer feedback, but ensure you are following best practices when designing customer surveys.

The customer satisfaction questions you ask vary depending on the touchpoint you’d like to improve. Tried and true templated customer experience surveys, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score, or Customer Effort Score (CES), are a good starting point.

Surveying employees is important too. Why? Studies show that stronger customer experiences come from positive employee experiences. Easily gather employee feedback with eNPS surveys asking the “how likely” question to garner how much an employee enjoys working for your company or might recommend others work there. Happier employees mean better results.

Lastly, don’t forget to set clear goals and follow up on customer feedback. And, ensure that all teams involved in the process are informed of the data that is pertinent to their area of expertise.

Learn all about these tips and more in our article on designing your Voice of the Customer program.

Choosing a Voice of the Customer (VoC) tool

Understanding the Voice of the Customer and acting on those customer feedback insights ensures the ongoing success of your brand. However, incorporating this process into your strategy can be difficult without a dedicated platform.

Kick off your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program with a Delighted free trial. Start gathering feedback in minutes, and experience what customer feedback can do for your business.