crowded stairwell from above in a shopping mall
PHOTO: Ethan Hoover

What do revenue, retention and reputation all have in common? Yes, they all start with the letter R, but more importantly, they all revolve around the customer. And like those three words, everything in your business should too.

Your customers fuel your organization’s most important initiative: revenue. But increasing revenue would be nearly impossible without retaining the customers who impact your bottom line. How can you work to retain those customers as you continue to evolve, innovate and grow your business? Develop a consistent voice of the customer (VoC) program that meets your customer’s emotional needs and drives your brand’s reputation throughout each experience.

A VoC program should capture the tone and preferences of your brand’s most loyal advocates. It should show them that their feedback and opinions truly matter. And, most importantly, it should translate into a platform that sales, marketing and other key stakeholders can point to for validation in referrals. This will help drive new business and revenue for your organization.

Building a VoC program requires patience, focus and repetition. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t yield fantastic results immediately — think of it as an investment. So, where should you begin? Here are five steps to help you build a VoC program from the ground up.

Related Article: Mastering the Art of Emotional Customer Experience

1. Define Your Brand’s Mission and Values

Whatever it is that your brand stands for, your customers should stand for it too. Your customers should have a diverse range of values, but the core of what you both stand for should be aligned. For example, an agency that values transparency wouldn’t mesh well with a customer that prefers to run from problems in the media. Part of building a solid reputation starts by better engagement with those you relate to most.

Your customers should also align with your goals. Where do you see the most potential for growth within your business? Let’s say you’re looking to increase digital department revenue. As an agency, determine who currently utilizes those services and bring them into the fold. This will help you see greater ROI from your program.

Takeaway: Establish a tiered customer list that aligns with your values, goals and overall strategic direction. Make this partnership mutually beneficial by building your VoC program around like-minded voices who will help your business grow through reputation and advocacy building.

2. Establish the Audience You’re Trying to Target

Now focus on who you’re trying to reach. Tailor your VoC efforts toward specific titles, decision-makers and influencers. For example, the message you send to a cloud technology company’s chief marketing officer will be very different from the one you send to an ecommerce brand’s content marketing manager. Personalize your content as you look to reach a specific audience.

This applies to brands still in the early stages targeting one broad persona, but also to more established brands that have multiple personas. Whichever is the case, identifying that persona is imperative.

Takeaway: Develop an ideal audience profile. Know how each persona consumes content, their preferred communication channel, common groups and organizations, and most importantly, how your product or service offering could make their lives easier.

Related Article: Put Voice of the Customer Feedback Into Action With the Usability Approach

3. Enlist Help From Your Organization

Sure, as a marketing team you’re responsible for establishing and managing this VoC program, but you cannot do it alone. Everyone in your organization is connected to the customer in one way or another.

Leverage the different skill sets available within your organization. If you have someone who’s a subject matter expert on artificial intelligence (AI) and technology, have that person conduct a client Q&A on your blog rather than doing it yourself.

Takeaway: Integrate teams and departments to help manage your VoC program. Customers should be your number one focus in a business, so staff a VoC program accordingly and set clear goals and deliverables.

4. Create Focus by Developing a Pillar Strategy

Your VoC program will revolve around content. It’s important for that content to have a focus to keep your team on track.

Go back to Step 1 for a minute — do you recall the expert areas where you saw the most potential? Have you collaborated with sales to ensure you are in the markets with the greatest growth potential? Choose three or four focus areas for your pillar strategy. From there, ensure that every piece of content you create fits into one of those pillars and find unique ways to spotlight your customers through guest blogs, Q&A’s and other engaging content.

Developing this strategy will impact your brand outside of the VoC program too. Your pillars will help determine what your brand is recognized for, and there’s no better credibility than having your customers validate your brand.

Takeaway: Once you have developed your pillar strategy, home in on a few important subcategories underneath each pillar. Work on this as your program becomes more established, and it will help further align your content with your services.

Related Article: Transforming Listening Into Action: Fortifying Voice of the Customer Programs

5. Remember That Customer Satisfaction Should Drive Your Program

While a VoC program is ultimately for your brand’s benefit, showing your customers some love and keeping them as a focal point is important. Given the pace of the digital economy, the difficulty of retaining customers has increased tenfold over the past two decades, changing the meaning of loyalty and putting fear in the minds of marketers.

Brands are expected to not only meet expectations, but also exceed them. Don’t let your goal of increasing the bottom line steer you away from the customers in hand — retention and reputation are fundamental to increasing your revenue.

Takeaway: Remember that this is a two-way street. Get in the habit of surveying and gathering feedback from your customers. Are they seeing the same impact that you are?

And That’s Just the Start . . .

While those five steps may seem like a heavy lift, they just represent the beginning of an effort to create a successful VoC program. Work through these areas of development and plan carefully, while keeping the three R’s (revenue, retention and reputation) in mind at all times. Revenue is directly dependent on your customer retention rate and your brand’s reputation, so don’t expect to see ROI if those two elements aren’t accounted for.

Stay tuned for another article about the next stages of capturing your customer’s voice.