A Voice of Customer (VoC) initiative can provide many metrics that enable a brand to gauge the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns, channels, how easy it is for customers to do business with the brand, and more. By listening to customers, in their own voices, brands are able to determine what they are doing right, what can be improved, and which pain points need to be eliminated from the customer journey. This article will look at the ways that brands can improve the effectiveness of their VoC initiatives. 

What Is the Voice of Customer?

The phrase “Voice of Customer” is a term that was created by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser as part of a 1993 MIT Marketing Science paper, and it refers to a specific marketing technique that includes interviewing or surveying customers about the experiences, desires, expectations, understandings, and needs which relate to a given product, service or industry — it essentially informs brands what their customers actually think about them.

Voice of Customer is a way that brands are able to understand more clearly how their customers feel about the brand, in the customers’ own words, because VoC data comes largely from surveys, focus groups, feedback, reviews, social media, and direct one-on-one conversations. 

According to Mike Betzer, CEO at Hypergiant, an enterprise AI company, because data is spread across channels individually and not across all of them as a whole, the right technology must be used to leverage the disparate data. Using AI and analytics, brands can grow the relationship with the customer as they engage over time, across all of the brand's channels.

"The VOC needs to be listened to over time and over various touchpoints including social, chat, messaging, marketing, community, email, and telephony channels. A brand also needs to leverage instant feedback and survey data to understand intent and sentiment. By leveraging all of this data and AI, a brand is then able to connect the right customer to the right expert at the right time to serve them with a personal approach based on that one customer’s journey," said Betzer.

Related Article: 7 Voice of the Customer Metrics You Shouldn't Ignore

Align VoC Metrics With Specific Goals

Metrics are simply a method of measuring something, or the results obtained from doing so. There are many different types of metrics, from financial (net income, rates of return), to software delivery performance (change lead time, deployment frequency), and in our case, Voice of Customer metrics. Typically, VoC metrics include the following:

  • Customer Effort Score (CES) - The CES metric is used to describe the effort that a customer has to make in the process of doing business with a brand, with the idea that the less effort that a customer has to make, the better their experience.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) - The CSAT metric is a way of determining whether a customer is satisfied with the overall experience they have when interacting with a brand.
  • Customer Loyalty Index (CLI) - The CLI informs a brand about a customer’s loyalty for the brand, and provides a good understanding of whether they will be a repeat customer. 
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) - The CLV is a valuable measure of how much potential revenue is attributed to a customer, and it is determined from the past, current and future spending trends of a customer.
  • Repurchase Ratio - This metric lets a brand know if a customer is likely to do business with them again in the future. Will the customer purchase a product or service from the brand again during their customer lifespan?
  • Would You Miss Us? (WYMU) - The WYMU metric is connected with both the Customer Satisfaction Score and the Customer Loyalty Index. This metric asks a customer if they would miss the brand if it no longer existed (i.e. would they just move to another brand).

The VoC metrics that a brand focuses on need to be aligned with the specific goals they have in mind for their VoC initiative. For instance, if a brand has made a major change to the recipe for a cookie it sells, they may be focused on the Repurchase Ratio and the Customer Satisfaction Score. Others may be worried that changes to their website made the site more difficult or cumbersome to use, so they may be interested in the Customer Effort Score. Another may be concerned about customer retention, so they may be focused on the Customer Loyalty Index and Would You Miss Us metric. 

Related Article: 8 Enterprise Voice of the Customer (VoC) Tools You Should Know About

Focus on the Metrics That Matter the Most — Do Your Research

While all VoC metrics are important, research has shown that some are more vital than others. The Customer Effort Score, for instance, is a reference to how easy (i.e. how convenient) it was to do business with a brand. Speed and convenience have been shown to be two of the aspects that customers use to assess whether or not they will continue to do business with a brand. 

The CES metric is typically phrased like this:

On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to interact with this brand?

The concept behind the CES is that customers prefer to purchase from brands that make it easy for them to do so, and those brands are more likely to retain their customers than those that don’t. This may seem like common knowledge, but it actually had to be proven through market research.

Until not long ago, brands thought that by delighting customers through the creation of an exceptional experience across all of their channels, they would be able to drive customer loyalty. The reality was revealed in a study by CEB, and it showed that exceptional, over-the-top service did not drive loyalty — but ease-of-use did. Essentially, brands that made it difficult for customers to do business with them continually lost those customers.

Matthew Dixon served as Group Leader of the sales, service, and customer experience practices of CEB. In his book, The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, he indicated that "CEB’s careful research over five years and tens of thousands of respondents proves that the ‘dazzle factor’ is wildly overrated — it simply doesn’t predict repeat sales, share of wallet, or positive word-of-mouth."

Another metric that is often very important to brands is the Customer Satisfaction Score. The CSAT score allows brands to understand if it is performing well enough for their customers to be satisfied. This metric enables brands to work to eliminate any pain points in the customer journey, which will then help to increase the level of customer satisfaction for the brand.  

Learning Opportunities

That said, although having a high CSAT score is wonderful, once it is consistently achieving 90%-95%, research has shown that any additional resources that are spent to increase the CSAT score will typically result in a decreasing ROI. There are better ways to improve the effectiveness of your VoC campaign, such as obtaining more genuine customer feedback and improving surveys.

Obtain Genuine Feedback and Create Better Surveys

Obtaining genuine customer feedback is challenging for any brand, but feedback that is not genuine is ineffective and not worth working with. The good news is that obtaining genuine feedback is something every brand can do. There are several ways that brands are approaching the challenge:

  • Social Listening
  • Online Surveys
  • Online Communities
  • Incentivizing Feedback
  • Requesting Feedback After Shopping Cart Abandonment

Before brands start using surveys, however, they need to learn how to improve them. Initially, brands must seek to understand the goals for each of their surveys. Are they seeking a website redesign, are they trying to determine customer effort, or are they trying to eliminate the pain points in the customer journey? Each of these goals needs to be approached in a different manner. 

Additionally, brands must avoid the pitfall of using surveys with pre-supplied “canned” responses, as these types of responses may be what the brand is hoping (or dreading) to see, but they may not be what the customer really wants to say. By using tools such as GroupSolver, which uses a combination of machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and crowdsourcing techniques, brands are able to use open-ended questions, which facilitates a more conversational and less transactional experience. The AI enables customers to create responses in their own words, rather than just checking off pre-filled “suggested” responses.

Aside from using traditionally acquired feedback and surveys, brands should take every opportunity to converse directly with customers, as these conversations will often provide some of the best, most useful, actionable data that can be used to improve the customer journey. Akram Assaf, co-founder and CTO at Bayt, the Middle East's largest job search website, told CMSWire that such direct conversations were part of the driving force of his brand's success. "In our case, VoC was critical for capturing customer pain points early and taking proactive measures. Since our platform is entirely dependent on good customer experience, the VoC played a crucial role in building it. We asked our customers for feedback, conducted online surveys, and went so far to interview tens of customers to hear their feedback. The data we managed to collect was vital, and it helped us build the leading job platform in our region." 

VoC is an iterative campaign, that is, it never ends, and is ongoing. The reason for this is that as a brand grows and evolves, the VoC will continue to play a vital role in determining the brand’s success. "The VoC process should be conducted at multiple stages of the company's growth. Whether you are just starting or trying to finalize your service or product, make sure to capture the VoC and optimize for the best results," said Assaf.

Use Voice of Customer as a Sales and Marketing Tool

VoC metrics can also be used to create more effective marketing and sales copy through the use of the actual words of a brand’s customers. Ottomatias Peura, chief marketing officer at Speechly, a voice interface API provider, shared that he uses Voice of Customer to enhance his sales and marketing copy by using the actual words of his customers in his campaigns. “Voice of Customer or VoC is the practice of selling a product in our customers’ own words. The best person to tell customers how the product can provide a solution to their problem is another customer,” Peura explained.

Because VoC is the practice of getting a better understanding of how customers feel about a brand and its products and services — in a customer’s own words, it provides the perfect opportunity to use those words in marketing copy. By using VoC to recognize and understand what a customers’ problems are and how the brand’s products and services will solve those problems, brands are in a good position to create more effective marketing and sales campaigns. “Short answer surveys, before and after purchase, help with this and can give us a lot of insight into our customer’s mindset and more importantly, their language,” said Peura.

“After we collect a large amount of these responses, we put them into a spreadsheet and start looking for similarities. Many times, we find customers respond with similar language and patterns,” said Peura. By quantifying the similar responses and using the language which shows up most frequently in marketing and sales copy, brands are able to speak to customers about the brand’s products and services in their own language, literally.

Final Thoughts

A VoC initiative can enable brands to understand what they are doing right, and what they are doing wrong, when it comes to the customer journey. By understanding the goals associated with each metric, obtaining genuine feedback, creating more effective surveys, and using VoC metrics as a marketing and sales tool, brands are able to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their VoC campaign.