The voice of the customer is key to your success

The voice of the customer is key to your success

August 11, 2017
The voice of the customer is key to your success

We’ve all been there. First, a great idea is born. Excitement blooms—the team rallies to make the best device/software/app/Acme widget ever to see the light of day on Earth. Lots of time, money, energy, thought, and creativity later, you roll it out.

Your users? Not happy. In fact, they tear you apart. The complaints vary, from features that are useless to features that are lacking, but the ire has one thing in common: Why didn’t you ask your customers what we wanted? “There’s a baseline humility that any of us who are interested in developing products need to take into account,” says Jenea Hayes, practice director, interaction design at Cooper. “We’re not our end users.”

The way to improve is straightforward: Do your best to assess and analyze customer needs. That means using feedback to hear the voice of the customer. That means understanding their preferences in how they use your product and how they communicate with you; what you’re doing right or less right; and how you can better serve them. Particularly if you are planning to give them something new—their voice should have a strong influence on all of your offerings.

The 3 types of feedback

In the case of given feedback, a user or customer goes out of their way to tell you something, prompted only by their opinion and experience. The primary example of this is support tickets, whether it’s a call or an @ on social media or a chat. With observed feedback, you’re keeping an eye on how your customers are doing by monitoring how they use your product, as well as their use of your help page or knowledge center—what are they searching for, and does a ticket result?

If you’re planning a new product or feature, you’re going to want to prioritize the third kind: requested feedback. Here, you are proactively going to the customer to identify their insights and feedback in order to help you shape or shift your course of action. If your goal is to create a product that will be received well in the marketplace, says Hayes, being received well means being responded to well: “You can’t predict with certainty how anyone will respond to your product. You’ve got to take it to them directly and find out.”

How to capture the voice of the customer

In-depth interviews and online surveys are part of any sound process to capture the customer insights you so value. It’s crucial that you go about the voice of the customer (VoC) survey process properly. “Doing survey design well is a skill that people have PhDs in,” says Hayes. “It’s a very serious tool that needs to be constructed well.”

Then there are VoC templates and VoC programs, and entire companies dedicated to determining your objectives and capturing VoC. Some will integrate with your various systems and work with you to establish surveys that go out on an agreed-upon basis, or after certain events. These are commonly known as NPS programs.

The customer feedback you capture from your efforts now about something for them should improve your chances of great feedback after rollout.

What to do with it

Careful analysis of the insights you gather is just as important as how you craft the capture of it. Gaining reasonable feedback and knowing how to respond to it is tricky, says Hayes. “It’s a skill that should not be underestimated.” Don’t make the mistake, she says, of just building what they ask for or knee-jerk reacting and making changes based on what people say in a literal sense. All that feedback has to be placed in the proper context. “What are the true goals underlying where that feedback came from? Can you do better than the literal request or solution that has been offered?”

Share the information with the company. A quarterly presentation can create transparency beyond the product and customer success departments about pain points, requests, and a general picture of how customers are responding to your hard work.

Quite simply: Everything we do is for the customer. Ideally our work makes them happy, fosters their loyalty to us, drives home our value to them, encourages a long-term relationship and repeat sales, and makes our bottom line bloom for years to come.

How to hear the voice of the customer

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