We’re firmly in the age of the customer experience (CX). Today, the more you can learn about your customers and their experiences, their needs, and expectations at each stage of the customer journey, the better you can design winning CX strategies.
That’s where a well-executed Voice of the Customer (VoC) program can help.
Countless studies have shown the impact of good (and bad) customer experience on the bottom line. Collecting, analyzing, and acting on your customer feedback is essential for any brands competing primarily on customer experience which, today, most brands are.
So, how can you set your VoC program up for success? What resources do you need to make it happen? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Voice of the Customer program?
A Voice of the Customer program, or VoC program, involves engaging your customers for their feedback at key moments of their customer journey to better understand their needs, expectations, preferences, and perceptions, so you can leverage these insights to elevate the customer experience.
As opposed to one-off or standalone surveys, a Voice of the Customer program aims to understand the online and offline customer experience from your customers’ point-of-view at all your touchpoints, throughout the customer journey. Voice of the Customer tools facilitate customer feedback collection, with one of the most common ways being online surveys presented to customers either on your website, mobile app, or by email.
10 Voice of the Customer best practices that drive successful VoC programs
Every business is unique, and so will be their VoC program. However, the same fuel drives every successful program.
According to Forrester, all VoC programs should support the following activities, or what they call the “continuous cycle of VoC program activities”:
Listen (collect feedback across channels and departments)
Interpret (analyze the customer feedback for actionable insights)
Act (put these insights to use)
Monitor (measure the impact of your actions)
So, what can you do to make sure your VoC program follows this cycle? Let’s start at the beginning.
1. Get internal buy-in and find your champions.
Successful VoC programs often require multiple stakeholders across different departments working together to launch, manage, and get the most out of them (more on this later). Getting buy-in from management is essential to ensure your VoC program is given priority internally and can take full flight.
How can you get this buy-in? Focus on the potential impact that the customer-driven insights can have in improving experiences, which could boost the bottom line. For example:
Increase conversions (e.g., improve the online purchase experience)
Lower support costs (e.g., deter calls to your contact center)
Enhance customer service experience (e.g., provide context to customer complaints)
Improve the product experience (e.g., understand snags customers experience with your offerings)
2. Set business and research goals for your Voice of the Customer program.
Before launching any survey, your business goals and research objectives must be sorted out and communicated with other stakeholders. That will help ensure your team’s efforts remain focused on obtaining the types of insights you need right now.
It’s also important to lay out what you eventually want your VoC program to tackle. At Astute, we recommend laying out your current and ideal customer feedback and data collection efforts across a Customer Experience Landscape plot (like the example below). This approach can help you visualize what you are currently collecting and identify gaps in your collection at any stage of the customer journey across your different channels.
3. Pick the right methodologies for your needs.
There are many ways to engage customers for their feedback. However, each method is not one-size-fits-all.
Engaging customers with a survey invitation when they land on your website will garner a different type of feedback than that from a comment card implemented across your site. Some methodologies are ideal for gathering feedback that’s representative of all your customers (e.g., using a pre-post invitation method where website visitors are invited upon entry to your website to provide feedback at the end of their visit). In contrast, other methods are better geared to collect tactical feedback that flags issues that require your attention right away, such as comment cards.
Each engagement method is not one-size-fits-all.
In addition to picking the right VoC methodology for your research needs, ensuring an intuitive and accessible survey experience on all devices is also essential to healthy survey response rates, such as using skip logic so that your surveys are responsive to the answers your customers are providing.
4. Ask only questions that will help you tackle your goals.
Once you have your research goals and your methodologies picked out, it’s time to finalize just what you want to ask your customers. There are often a million things we want to ask our customers and an infinite number of metrics you can use as part of a Voice of the Customer program. At the same time, consider that asking too many questions in your surveys could lead to survey fatigue and lower your collection counts. Finding the right balance is critical.
There are many Voice of the Customer templates out there, but of course, the questions you choose will depend on your personal research goals.
5. Implement your surveys in a way that ensures positive website experiences.
Depending on how you’ll be engaging customers for feedback, launching your surveys can involve anything from adding code to your site or mobile app, all the way to adding a survey link in emails.
In addition to doing QA before pushing everything live, consider measures to ensure the survey experience is not intrusive to your customers’ experience. For example, if launching multiple surveys on the same website, ensure visitors can’t get invited to the same survey or another survey within a certain amount of time (e.g., 30 days).
6. Integrate your customer feedback with other systems.
From web analytics and session replay to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, companies collect an enormous amount of behavioral data that tells them how customers interact with their brand. Your VoC program can add critical context behind these behaviors, and give you a more complete view of your customers’ experiences.
Linking feedback to your existing marketing and customer data technologies can help open up new analysis and segmentation opportunities that can empower your team to get more out of your VoC program and your other tools.
Injecting your customer feedback into your existing technologies can help add valuable context to your customers' behaviors, and get a more complte picture of the customer experience.
7. Leverage reporting tools that help you easily analyze your feedback continually over time.
You’re collecting a steady stream of insights from your voice of the customer surveys. Now, it’s time to extract insights from this feedback.
Depending on your collection levels, continually digging through your latest feedback in search of insights can be tricky and time-consuming. This is especially true if you’re collecting a lot of open-ended feedback. Thankfully, the advent of AI-powered reporting tools has made it easier for companies to take on this task. For example, some text analytics tools now leverage AI, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) to automatically process each comment and categorize it based on such things as topic and sentiment.
8. Democratize your insights.
Insights from your program can help drive changes to your CX at all your touchpoints, online or offline. As CX is an organization-wide initiative, insights from your VoC program should be easily accessible to key internal stakeholders.
The use and sharing of customer experience dashboards tailored to key stakeholders can be a great way to help democratize the insights from your program throughout your organization. In addition, scheduling alerts to be sent to specific stakeholders when you receive feedback that meets certain criteria (e.g., rated their experience a “0” and used the word “buy” in their feedback) can also help ensure the right people get timely insights they can use to act quickly.
Which takes us to our next point.
9. Act on your Voice of the Customer program’s insights.
The insights from your VoC program are only as valuable as what you do with them. The best programs not only help you inform your overall CX strategy long-term – they also help you gain insights you can act on right away.
A key cog to any successful VoC program is having the measures to empower key stakeholders to act quickly and efficiently on the program’s insights. For example, this can include ensuring your website managers have real-time insights to fix UX issues, or that your customer service team has customer feedback and insights about a customer’s experience handy to help them more effectively close the feedback loop.
10. Instill a governance structure
VoC programs are not set-it-and-forget-it.
Acting on your insights should not be the last step. Regularly reviewing each component of the program is key to your program’s lasting success. This can include:
Revisiting your research goals to ensure they’re still aligned with the latest business objectives.
Ensuring your existing research still provides the types of insights you need today, and making modifications or launching new research as necessary.
Identifying and address gaps in how your insights are shared and disseminated across your organization.
What resources do you need to run a Voice of the Customer program?
A VoC program can be a treasure trove of key insights straight from your customers themselves. But what's involved to get one up-and-running and successful over the long-term?
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Researching best practices
Setting up data integrations
Choosing sampling methodologies
Keeping your research up to date
Researching best practices
QA (is the code working as you would want?)
Branding survey invitations
Customizations to survey experience
Monitoring collection counts
Troubleshooting issues with collection
Ensure projects remain aligned with objectives
Reporting and Analysis
Deep-dive into customer feedback
Creating and sharing dashboards internally
Objectivity in data analysis
As we’ve seen in this post, there are many moving parts to any successful VoC program. So, the answer to whether or not to go the self-service route is… it depends. Every company is structured differently. The number of resources available to you to manage a VoC program and extract insights will impact your answer.
How Emplifi can help you launch a successful Voice of the Customer program
A VoC program requires time and resources to set up, maintain, and analyze over time. But in today’s ultra-competitive market, having a continuous source of customer-driven insights streaming in is worth it in the end.
At Emplifi, we’ve helped clients launch thousands of voice of the customer programs for leading global brands, providing guidance along the way to help ensure our clients get the most out of the voice of their customers.