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Driving Organizational Change using Voice of the Customer – Part 1

Vinod MuthukrishnanVinod Muthukrishnan | January 14, 2016

Implementing a Voice of the Customer program can give your business a significant competitive edge and improve your bottom line immeasurably and it all starts with learning how to listen.

The Voice of the Customer is all about listening to the customer and acting on what they are saying. However, to find out what your customers are saying, you need to speak to them. The most effective approach combines quantitative tools like surveys with qualitative tools like in-depth interviews. Customer feedback is also an essential element because it can give you a starting point for your research.

So, let’s take a look at what the Voice of the Customer is and why it’s such a powerful concept, as well as how to get the information you need to implement an effective plan.


Understanding the Concept of VoC

The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a term that describes the process of capturing the essential details pertinent to the desires, needs and requirements of a group of customers and/or prospects. VoC refers to a certain approach to marketing and research methodology that achieves an in-depth understanding of the preferences and actions of your customers and prospects which can be used to create and implement very powerful marketing strategies to engage and develop relationships with those customers. Through VoC, you can give customers what they really want and avoid alienating them when you don’t give them what they want.

The key to VoC is truly listening to what customers are saying, and not hearing only what you want to hear. Customers nowadays do not want to be managed or manipulated. What they want is to be heard. So, don’t think of the process as a way to build relationships you must manage, but think of it as creating a community in which your customers know they are being listened to and their needs and desires are being acted upon. This type of community is one that customers will want to be a part of and will enjoy because they know that their engagement with your business will generate value for them.

VoC consists of a number of steps, but the first one (and probably most important) is to conduct VoC research. This is the step where you obtain the information you will later use to develop and implement a VoC-based marketing strategies.

Why conduct Voice of the Customer Research?

Times have changed, and so have customers. As stated previously, they don’t want to be managed or manipulated. And they certainly don’t want to be told what they need or want, as was the common practice decades ago. Spray-and-pray marketing doesn’t work anymore simply because there are more effective options. And it all starts with listening to the customer.

Think of your customer as your spouse: when you listen to what they say and act on it, life is great, but when you only pretend you’re listening, life gets really complicated and unpleasant.

An effective VoC program will allow you to connect and engage with your customers throughout their journey with your business. And since the customer’s perception of quality is the element that will make or break your success, listening to them is essential. With VoC research you will obtain the information you need to:

• Tailor your products and services to fulfil customer needs and desires;
• Improve your bottom line by increasing profitability
• Learn what customers truly need and desire, not what your gut instinct tells you they want
• Discover the importance of every need and want so you can prioritize them
• Find new ideas because your prospects and customers can be an excellent source of new concepts and solutions to existing problems.

These are just a few of the benefits that you will derive from conducting VoC research and implementing a relevant program. So, VoC is great, but how do you get all this information?

Conducting VoC Research


The key to successful VoC research is asking the right questions. Many companies resist the idea of VoC research because they think their customers won’t tell them the truth – that they’ll say one thing and then do something completely different. Or, they’ll say they already spoke to their customers and didn’t learn anything new, which is hard to believe. More often than not, these companies either don’t really listen to what they are being told or don’t like what they are hearing so they stop listening.

Asking the right questions and really listening to what your customers are saying is the key to successful VoC research. Hearing only what you want to hear is a recipe for disaster.

Additionally, many rely solely on written feedback or online surveys, which certainly are effective, but aren’t enough. An online survey will never be able to provide the depth of knowledge you need to give you a real competitive edge in today’s challenging market.
Thus, in terms of methodology, effective VoC research should combine quantitative tools like online surveys with qualitative tools, like in-depth interviews.

Effective VoC research starts with quantitative tools like online surveys but digs deeper with qualitative tools like in-depth interviews.

Ideally, you would start with online surveys and customer feedback, based on which you can dig deeper through in-depth interviews. However, before you do survey your customers, you need to establish the right objectives for your research. As without clear objectives it will be hard to ask the right questions.

A quick look at In-Depth Interviews

In-depth interviews use open-ended questions to discover how a person perceives a certain topic, as well as what their thoughts and feelings are in relation to that topic. It allows the person being interviewed to express themselves in their own words. Thus, in-depth interviews allow you to discover the motivation of the interviewee – the “WHY” that drives them. This is the type of research that allows you to discover things you had no idea you didn’t know.

In-depth interviews help you discover the “why” behind customers’ perceptions, feelings and actions. And they often allow you to discover issues and opportunities you might have never considered otherwise simply because interviewees are able to express themselves in their own words.

The actual interview used to be conducted face-to-face and sometimes by telephone. Now, however, in-depth interviews are often conducted online, via video calling services such as Skype and Google Hangouts. The advantage of online in-depth interviews is that they are more convenient for the interviewee, which means a higher rate of response.

What’s awaiting you in the next part?

You would be knowing by now that Research is important for a successful Voice of the Customer strategy. That said, what are the tangible steps that companies should follow to conduct efficient Research? We will be looking at some of the factors involved in the next part!

This post is part of our Voice of Customer Series. If you like this post, do read our other blogs here!