Identifying the voice of the customer (VoC) is an integral part of any customer experience strategy. Because it’s impossible to make changes to your business based on each and every customer, you can instead analyze what customers are saying on an individual level and then identify overarching trends and themes. This allows you to better inform your user personas to create more impactful change throughout the customer journey.
Below we get into how to create a voice of the customer program, best practices for VoC initiatives, and templates for collecting and organizing all of your data.
Table of Contents:
- What is the Voice of the Customer?
- How to Create a Voice of the Customer Program
- Step 1: Gather Customer Feedback
- Step 2: Analyze Customer Data
- Step 3: Implement Feedback as Needed
- Case Study: Zappos
- Voice of the Customer Best Practices
- Voice of the Customer Survey Examples
- Voice of the Customer Template Download
What is Voice of the Customer?
Voice of the customer is a way of understanding your different customers’ wants, needs, expectations, and preferences when it comes to interacting with your business. What are your customers saying, thinking, and feeling about your products, services, business model? The goal of defining your voice of the customer is to be able to improve these interactions for a more seamless customer experience.
Voice of the customer is usually defined by collecting data on what your customers are saying about their experiences with your business, and then uncovering common themes amongst this feedback. Sometimes this data is collected using actual voices of your customers (focus groups, customer service calls), or, more often it’s collected through lower friction channels like feedback surveys or website data. We’ll get into this more in the section below.
How to Create a Voice of the Customer Program
Like most customer-centric initiatives, creating a voice of the customer program follows three broad steps. Step 1 is to gather data on what your customers are saying, step 2 is to analyze this individual feedback to look for overarching trends, and step 3 is to make changes to your business model that address these trends. Though these three steps sound simple enough, it’s of course much more complicated when you start putting this program intro practice.
Step 1: Collect Customer Feedback
As mentioned before, there are many different channels through which you can gather customer feedback, and the best ones to focus on depend on your business model. For a lifestyle brand, Instagram comments and tracking site behavior might yield the most robust results, while a software company relies more on editorial reviews and feedback surveys. Here is a list of customer feedback touchpoints you can use to find the voice of the customer, though this list is by no means exhaustive.
- Feedback Surveys - One of the most common methods, feedback surveys can be sent out at a variety of points on the buyer’s journey to ask about an experience with purchasing a product online, returning an item, talking with a chatbot, or any other number of interactions. Feedback surveys can also be used to measure a customer’s overall satisfaction levels, such as through Net Promoter Score or CSAT surveys.
- Social Media - If your business has a large social media following, you can scrape comments on your posts, direct messages you receive, and mentions of your brand across Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more to capture this area of voice of the customer.
- Online Reviews - Another invaluable source of customer opinions are online reviews. Most people don’t hold back when they’re motivated enough to share their thoughts with strangers on the internet, so you’re likely to gather honest and unfiltered feedback, be it positive or negative.
- Customer Service Calls - Most companies record customer service calls for quality assurance purposes, which basically means that they can go back later and gather data from these calls to better shed light on what typically goes well in these calls and what needs to be improved on.
- Chatbots - Similarly to customer service calls, chatbots are a useful information source for customer complaints. Using the text data from these conversations, you can identify frequent issues customers have and whether or not the chatbot is able to resolve these issues.
- Focus Groups - Depending on your marketing budget, you can also run focus groups to test and give their opinions on certain products, website layouts, feedback loops, and more. The members of these focus groups should align demographically with your target personas in order to give further insight to these types of customers.
- Website Behavior - There are many tools out there that can help you track what users do when they land on your website. Though the connection to voice of the customer might not be as obvious as these other methods (since users aren’t actually saying or writing anything) it’s still highly important to be monitoring this data, especially because 63% of shoppers start online. Website behavior can fill out your voice of the customer profiles by helping you understand why certain customers convert and why other customers bounce, and therefore what they do and don’t like about your site.
Step 2: Analyze Your Feedback
Once you’ve collected data on what your customers are saying, it’s time to analyze the feedback and use what you find to build out or refine your voice of the customer. It’s important to note that you will likely have several different voices of the customer that correspond to your buyer personas. But, what does analyzing feedback actually look like?
The first step is transform your qualitative (words, phrases) data into quantitative (numbers, scales) data. With the exception of website behavior and feedback surveys based on a numerical scale (for example, “rate your satisfaction on a scale of 1-10”), the customer feedback you collect is going to be qualitative. After all, you’re working to uncover the voice of the customer by using comments that customers have actually said or written. Learn more about this process in our guide to coding qualitative data.
Once your data is coded, it’s a matter of looking for trends and patterns. For example, say you notice that one of your more expensive products has a large amount of extremely positive reviews, and a large amount of extremely negative reviews. By going back and looking at the original responses, and by combining this feedback with demographic data, you will likely be able to understand the disparity for this product.
Perhaps you discover that the people who left positive reviews are demographically older and wealthier, while younger people are leaving negative reviews because the price is too high for them. From here, you can incorporate comments like “values quality over price” and “scalable price is important” to the voices of these types of customers. For more about analysis, demographics, and making sure your findings are statistically significant, take a look at our guide on survey data analysis.
However, manually reading through hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews, interview transcripts, comments, and more can take a huge amount of time that is better spent elsewhere. Manual feedback analysis just doesn’t scale, so you won’t be able to make actionable decisions once you reach a certain level of data. This is why the companies with the best CX programs leverage AI to analyze qualitative data by assigning sentiments and topics with human-level accuracy. The data needs to be broken down into topics so that you can clearly see which areas of customer experience are failing, which areas are working, and can easily pull out any patterns in the data.
AI-backed CX tools allow you to centralize feedback into a globally-accessible platform that unifies your feedback sources. It works by using something called aspect-based analysis, which processes qualitative feedback as inputs, and outputs all the topics that are present in the comment along with the sentiment attached for each topic. When aggregated at scale, these tools provide huge power at your fingertips to slice and dice the data to find actionable insights about your voice of the customer.
Try out our insight tagger below with a sample comment from one of your CX or support surveys and get a taste of our theme and sentiment analytics used by Uber, Transferwise, HelloFresh and many big name brands.
Step 3: Implement Voice of the Customer Feedback as Needed
Now that you understand what your customers are saying and how they feel about different aspects of your business, you have the necessary information to make improvements to your customer experience. Which areas are going to have the biggest effect on your ROI vary by business. Based on the voice of the customer feedback you receive, you’ll be able to decide whether a complete overhaul of a certain product is needed, whether it just needs to be tweaked and optimized to reduce friction, or whether the effort of making a change will even be worth the time and employee bandwidth.
In general, it’s a best practice to focus on initiatives that are going to keep existing customers around rather than prioritizing the acquisition of new customers. This is because it can cost up to 25 times more to earn a new customer than to keep an existing customer happy.
One outstanding example of a company taking voice of the customer to heart is Zappos. Zappos is a common household brand today, but this wasn’t always the case. Shortly after the company was founded in the early 2000s, it nearly went under. “Who would want to buy shoes online?” was the prevailing sentiment. However, Zappos was able to build an increasingly loyal customer base by listening to feedback and making changes based on the voices of the customers they were hearing. Today Zappos offers customer perks such as:
- Free shipping and returns, despite the hefty price tag they pay on their end
- A 365-day return policy that offers buyers flexibility
- Unlimited customer service call times and easy access to contact information
- A warehouse that operates 24/7 for faster shipments
By determining that listening to their voice of the customer is more important than cutting costs, Zappos was able to grow into a billion-dollar company less than 10 years after nearly shutting down. You can read more about this success story in our Zappos profile.
Voice of the Customer Best Practices
You should now have a pretty clear idea of what you can expect when starting your voice of the customer program. Here are a few more tips to help make this process more seamless and productive for your team.
- Track Data Across Multiple Touchpoints - Prioritizing your most robust feedback channels is smart, but don’t limit yourself to just two or three different options. Each of the data collection sources we listed above offers different insights which allows you to have a more accurate and holistic view of your business. You should be collecting feedback from as many of these sources as you can on a rolling basis, while being mindful of the feasible costs.
- Utilize a Data Collection Tool - Just as AI-backed tools can analyze customer feedback using sentiment analysis, most of these tools can also automatically collect this customer data as well. From automated feedback surveys, web scraping, and integrations with site behavior tools, these types of programs can cut down on a lot of manual collection. You should make sure that your tool also comes with easily shared dashboards and workflows so that you can collaborate across departments.
- Gather Corresponding Employee Feedback - Once you’ve uncovered your voice of the customer and are figuring out how to address what your customers are saying, it’s important to get feedback from the other side as well to make sure you’re actually going to be fixing the root of the issue. For example, customer service representatives can shed light on why a certain call went south, a social media manager can explain why certain posts get more engagement than others, and CRO analysts can help you understand why a certain product page has a high bounce rate. You need background knowledge in order to make an informed and effective decision.
Voice of the Customer Survey Examples
As mentioned earlier, customer feedback surveys are one of the most effective metrics to learn more about the voice of the customer. Below are a couple of the most popular voice of the customer survey examples. You can also visit our templates page for additional customer experience tools and downloads.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular CX metric to measure, as studies have shown that it correlates directly with ROI. An NPS survey asks the question “How likely is it that you would recommend COMPANY/PRODUCT to a friend or colleague?” Customers respond on a scale of 1-10, and responses are then sorted into Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8), and Promoters (9-10). To find your company’s NPS, you take the percentage of promoters and subtract the percentage of detractors to get a number between -100 and 100.
A CSAT (customer satisfaction) survey typically poses a question like “How satisfied are you with your experience?” Customers can respond on a scale of your choosing, usually 1-5 or 1-10. You then take the number of positive respondents (4 and 5 or 8, 9, and 10 respectively) and divide by the total number of respondents to get your CSAT percentage.
We’ve also written an in-depth guide to structuring your voice of the customer surveys which you can read through for more detailed information.
Voice of the Customer Template - Download
Uncovering your voice of the customer is an essential part of shaping buyer personas and your customer journey map. Download our voice of the customer template below to get started on your program and learn more about what your customers think and feel.
To learn more about how AI-backed text analytics tools can help you gather and analyze customer feedback at scale, take a look at our demo page.