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PHOTO: Jakob Owens

Voice of the customer (VOC) initiatives have gone mainstream. Unfortunately, too many companies doom their VOC programs from the start.

The problem isn't that brands aren’t collecting feedback. In fact, companies are gathering more feedback from customers and visitors than ever before.

The problem is that brands fail to realize the primary value of VOC data. Information culled via customer feedback is valuable because it creates internal alignment and provides insights that allow brands to execute quicker than the competition.

But in order to reap those benefits, brands need to have a systematic approach to collecting feedback and incorporating it directly into their business decisions.

So how can you make sure you make your VOC program shines and ensure that it has a meaningful impact on your business? 

Follow these three tips: 

1. Avoid Long Surveys

You should move away from long customers surveys. Aim for relevant, intelligent and concise conversations instead.

A survey is a conversation. It is your opportunity to have a dialogue with visitors and customers to gauge the quality of their experiences, determine how satisfied they were and predict what their next steps might be.

When you think about having such conversations, it’s important to remember that people are increasingly on the go. They don’t have time for a long discussion in the form of a mammoth survey.

When designing your VOC program, first lay out your business objectives and make sure any question you include in a survey aligns with those objectives. After all, how can your VOC data be actionable if your survey isn’t designed around the objectives you want to achieve in the first place?

For example, let’s say you want to improve the online shopping process. You should only ask for feedback from visitors who made a purchase or intended to make a purchase. Then, you should ask this subgroup of visitors exclusively about the purchasing process. This will ensure that the VOC data you collect will align directly with your business needs, and that your survey experience is tailored to your respondents’ experiences on your website.

Avoid taking an unfocused, shotgun approach to research. It’s about the quality of the questions you ask, not the quantity.

2. Don’t Hide Your VOC Data in Silos

Your VOC data should be integrated with the rest of your company’s data so that people throughout the organization have access to it.

VOC data is one of the most valuable data sets you have. Considering that this data comes directly from the minds of your visitors, its power to enhance your other data sets is incredible.

Take session replay, for example. This is a very useful tool that records a visitor’s website experience. But once you have all these recordings, how can you accurately pinpoint which people found it difficult to complete what they set out to do during their visit? By integrating your VOC data with session replay, you could, for example, segment your recordings to focus on visitors who answered “extremely difficult” when asked to rate their experience in response to the question geared toward assessing your company’s Customer Effort Score. This way, you maximize the time you spend analyzing visitor sessions and can easily find the barriers that are making your visitors’ lives difficult.

Remember, VOC data is feedback that comes directly from your visitors. It provides context that other tools can’t and helps eliminate the need to make assumptions about your visitors.

3. Tailor VOC Insights to Meet the Needs of Specific Departments

Everyone in your organization needs to be hearing from your customers and visitors. But they don’t need to hear everything. The key is to share information that is going to be meaningful to each team, and not just provide a data dump where departments have to sift through and find insights relating to them.

Key stakeholders need to see the insights that matter to them, while also seeing the data in a broader context. In instances like that, a dashboard that allows customization can allow stakeholders in different regions and business units to see the data they need to improve their areas.

VOC data is extremely powerful, but specific departments will only take action on the data if it speaks directly to their own goals and objectives.

Keep the C-suite in Mind

You should tie VOC data directly with metrics that your executive team cares about the most.

It’s tough to get the executives in your C-suite to care about your VOC program. In a Forbes interview, Tiffani Bova, Salesforce’s global customer growth and innovation evangelist, said that executing a customer experience (CX) program “has to start at the top. The company at the executive level has to make CX a part of the company’s DNA.”

But how do you get your executives to start caring about, and take action on, what your customers and visitors are saying? Executives care about one thing: the bottom line. Start showing them how VOC data affects the bottom line.

For example, an executive report that shows the impact that in-store activities, such as greeting customers at the door and mentioning promotions, can have on satisfaction scores and net sales will go a long way. Executives can then evaluate the effectiveness of in-store activities not only in terms of customer satisfaction scores, but also in terms of sales volume.

If you want your executives to pay attention to VOC data, start showing VOC data alongside operational and financial data.

Your VOC Program Is What You Make of It

Over the years, it has become easier and easier to gather insights from your visitors and keep a finger on the pulse of their experiences. At the same time, this wealth of feedback is only as powerful as you make it.

From tweaking your research and collecting only the most relevant insights to combining your various data sets and making sure you put the right data into the right hands, there are always ways you can fine-tune your VOC program so that you get the most out of it.