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PHOTO: Tim Pierce

Marketers seeking to boost the effectiveness of their Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs can benefit from these seven best practices, offered by executives from a variety of companies.

David Cusick, chief strategy officer for House Method, said implementing a VoC program at his company unveiled three best practices:

1. Selectively Gather Feedback

“Too many executives implement VoC tech and decide to use it at every chance they get,” Cusick explained. “Minute changes in customer feedback don't mean much — it's what happens at your company's transition points that matters most.”

New product launches, onboardings, or changes in your market are the key opportunities to engage with VoC to track both positive and negative changes based on the metrics you set, then create an actionable plan to improve, Cusick said.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer Strategies: Effectively Turning Feedback Into Action

2. Look at Informal Channels

“Any good VoC tech stack will cover all your bases,” Cusick said. “That means social media, product forums and other off-hand online chatter you may have missed." The question to ask is if you are listening to the right channels, Cusic continued. Customers are willingly sharing how they feel — good, bad, in between — but if you don't hear it, you may be missing out on critical information that affects your bottom line.

3. Make Real Change

It's a good sign if you hesitate before acting on customer feedback, according to Cusick. “A worthy VoC program will lead you to unexpected and sometimes difficult insights.”

When faced with tough realities, many users opt to study the problem further or just re-run the survey hoping they'll get different results, Cusick said. The only real option is to make the changes that are needed. A VoC program is only worth the actions you take based on the feedback. If you're not focused on improving, then it's just data.

Related Article: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

4. Delve into the Customer Journey

Identify and listen to every critical point across a customer journey, advised Rick Blair, vice president, product strategy, experience management for Verint. “In mapping the journey, practitioners should ensure all channels are considered: physical locations, digital channels, telephone, etc.”

Once these journeys are mapped, the key moments of truth can be marked. Blair explained. These can be critical points of action (like filling out a mortgage application), or a time-based event (like renewing a subscription or insurance policy).

He advised that marketers pay close attention to all the channels that customers use throughout the journey and look at the data that shows how much each channel is used.

Once the journeys are mapped, marketers can identify where to instrument listening posts and what to focus on, Blair said. “While listening posts matched to moments of truth are needed, don’t forget to ensure you have visibility to what’s happening leading up to — and after — those key moments. This is also an effective way to identify blind spots in established VoC programs. By overlaying your existing listening posts to the journey map, you’ll more easily identify any gaps that need filling."

5. Expand Metrics

Use comprehensive metrics for your VoC data and don’t rely solely on customer feedback, recommended Shem Mandajos, CMO at Tankarium. "One of the most common rookie mistakes that businesses do in developing their VoC persona is focusing on customer feedback alone. Although feedback is an essential part of data gathering, it is not a tell-all factor that gives you an accurate representation of your customer persona. Simple metrics like your click-through rate already count as invaluable VoC data because it helps gauge customer preferences and perception."

Related Article: The Dos and Don'ts of VoC Metrics

6. Identify Pain Points

Conduct “problem interviews” with users, advised Hubert Palan, CEO of productboard. “This user research probes more deeply around a particular user’s needs to uncover an underlying pain you might address with your product." Open-ended questions allow people to do most of the talking and help avoid introducing bias into the responses. Leading questions often are used to get respondents to say what the company wants to hear.   

7. Establish Ongoing VoC Processes

“You must establish a process for continuously capturing incoming product ideas, requests and feedback,” Palan said. “These may be submitted directly by prospects and customers, or relayed by customer-facing colleagues on sales, support and customer success. Set up additional processes for reviewing these inputs on a regular basis and categorizing them by user need. Patterns will emerge around not just who needs what, but which types of customers have which needs.”

Customer segmentation is critical because trying to please everyone ensures you’ll please no one, Palan added. “It’s the surest path to product failure, even if you’re doing everything else right." Instead Palan recommends meeting the needs of one segment at a time while working on a strategy to meet needs in the long-term. "This is what it means to incorporate the VoC into your product strategy,” he said.