There's no shortage of buzz around the voice of the customer (VOC) and how it should shape a brand’s external policies, products and services for the benefit of its bottom line. However, the concept of turning customer feedback into practical results can seem abstract to an organization that’s used to make decisions based on data and “gut feelings” alone. But the reality is, the world’s most successful tech companies do listen to feedback (sometimes, anyway), and they do have a history of action upon it when it makes sense. 

To highlight these VOC program successes, and to give inspiration to other brands, here are five tech companies who took the voice of their customer seriously.

1. Apple

It was well known that the late Apple Founder  Steve Jobs would occasionally exchange emails with Apple fans, customers and complainants from his public [email protected] address. Now, new Apple CEO Tim Cook is doing the same thing. "I get hundreds, and some days thousands of emails from customers. This is a privilege because they talk to you as if you're sitting at their kitchen table," Cook once told NBC, according to Apple Insider.

One customer’s claim, which was reported by Business Insider, alleges that his email about poor quality hold music on the Apple customer service line was acted upon after he sent an email to Cook, who then delegated the task of following up on the complaint to a Cupertino-based employee.  

Related Article: The Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Voice of The Customer Program

2. Amazon

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a similar reputation for acting on disgruntled customer emails. Ex-Amazon Principal Research Scientist Greg Hullender wrote on Quora that Bezos would come across complaints in his inbox “around once a month” and forward it to the relevant department with a simple “?” added to the email in order for it to be resolved as quickly as possible. 

At a larger scale, Amazon Prime members will remember when Amazon gave into demands in 2017 by releasing Amazon Prime Video on all Apple TVs, despite the growing rivalry between the two brands.

3. Automattic (WordPress)

Automattic, the company behind the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress, is visibly in tune with the wants and needs of its growing user base. They encourage developers and designers to submit bug reports, open tickets with suggestions and submit code snippets to be used in upcoming releases. WordPress 4.9 for example was made possible by 443 independent contributors, with 185 of them contributing for the first time. Now that’s incorporating the voice of the customer.

Furthermore, Automattic runs an annual WordPress User Survey to collect feedback and suggestions at scale.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 9 Challenges to Successful Voice of the Customer Strategies

4. Microsoft

Back in 2015, Microsoft rolled out major improvements to the accounts and billing features for Bing advertisers. Microsoft said Bing advertisers “asked for [the updates] specifically.” Moreover, Microsoft was commended in 2016 for listening to the demands of Windows 10 users who wanted to be informed of the contents of every update made to their operating system. Eventually, Microsoft announced a new policy by creating a new website dedicated to announcing, painstakingly, what is in every new version.

“We’re committed to our customers and strive to incorporate their feedback, both in how we deliver Windows as a service and the info we provide about Windows 10,” the website reads.

5. Google

Similar to the Amazon Prime Video situation, Google Chrome users spent years crying out for the browser to launch on iOS. In 2012, Google finally made it happen

Google Classroom is another good example of a product that has evolved in line with customer feedback. In 2015, Google released an update that allows teachers to leave private comments for students when returning their work — the company marked that release by tweeting, “you asked, and we listened”. A year later, Google used the same caption for another Google Classroom release, indicating that customer demands yet again played a role.

The Voice of The Customer Comes In All Shapes & Sizes

If the examples above prove anything, it’s that the voice of the customer doesn’t necessarily come through surveys or in-person feedback sessions. Sometimes, the CEO notices a trend in complaints in their inbox, and in other cases it’s just a case of listening out to the voice of the customer on social media to understand their wants and needs.