What is Voice of the Customer?
Voice of the Customer activities give you a comprehensive look at the customer – you want to ask for feedback in a number of different ways. Qualitative methods include:
- Focus Groups
- Listening Tours
- Customer Advisory Boards
Use Voice of the Customer research to inform executive decision-making – bring the customers’ voice back to the leadership team so that executives can make confident decisions based on what you’ve heard from the customers.
How does Voice of the Customer data help with churn?
To learn from churn, directly ask “what has led you to this decision to leave?” – part of Voice of the Customer research is following up with churning and churned customers. Asking what led customers to decide to leave can be asked through surveys or interviews. Figuring out why a customer has left becomes an opportunity to make a change within the company, product, or service to prevent future customers from leaving.
Use sentiment analysis to prevent churn before it happens – by tracking how customers engage with you and the language they use, you can categorize customers’ feelings as “positive, neutral, or negative.” “Neutral” can be a warning sign. Counterintuitively, it’s often better to have customers that are upset and negative because they’re emotionally involved, which usually means they’re willing to participate with you to fix whatever is causing the problem.
Why is it important to go beyond quantitative data?
Usage data is just observation – usage data can be helpful, but since it’s all observation, it doesn’t provide you with any content around why the customer is behaving the way that they are.
You end up making stories up for usage patterns because you don’t know the context – without the narrative, you can’t know why the customer is using the product the way that they are. You need to reach out to customers to get context around why they’re behaving as they are and why their metrics are trending in the direction they are.
What are the different ways companies can collect Voice of the Customer data? When should you use each?
- Short Form – e.g. Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score, Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). These are global measures that provide data in aggregate but are not very specific. These are appropriate to use transactionally, or as pulse checks in between more substantial touchpoints.
- Longer Form – to provide more insight, especially at key stages in the journey, use longer, more in-depth surveys. For example, if you want to know what a customer’s onboarding experience was like, create a 4-5 question survey around that specific experience.
Tips for surveys:
- Mix qualitative and quantitative – with short-form surveys, add a textbox or a comment box, so you can gain qualitative information for why the customer chose the answer that they picked. If you don’t, you’re left guessing why the customer picked a certain answer.
- It’s okay to send long surveys (occasionally) – especially if you want to dive deeply into understanding something. Some of the surveys we send out are 25 questions long.
When to use a survey:
- Send a long survey once a year – you don’t want to send long surveys all the time because people won’t fill them out.
- Use surveys post-onboarding and renewals – these are two of the best places to have a small survey to see what customers thought of your processes.
- Survey a specific segment – whenever you don’t have enough information about a specific type of customer (stakeholder type, market segment, etc.).
- Use transactional surveys more continuously – quick surveys are great for benchmarking and trending over time. They’re good because they’re easy to fill out and they show if things are trending up or down. Their negative side is that they’re missing context. Even if you have a comment box, people will usually only put a few words.
- Valuable because you really hear the customer’s voice – you’re able to get a lot of in-depth data. This is especially great for driving change up the ladder and helping to support whatever points you’re trying to make to the board or to the executive team.
- Dialogue vs. monologue – surveys are a monologue whereas interviews are a dialogue. With interviews, you have the opportunity to dig deeper if someone gives a surface-level answer to a question.
Tips for interviews:
- Invest in structure and standardization – interviews are very different from listening tours. A listening tour is very informal, they’re often not recorded, and you might just write down your thoughts afterward. On the other hand, interviews are standardized because you’re recording them, transcribing them, and then you’re analyzing the data. Interviews need to be standardized so you’re able to compare answers over time.
When to use an interview:
- When you just don’t know why something is happening – e.g. if you have numerous customers leaving. They might all be citing price as the reason, but you have a gut feeling that there’s something else going on. Interviews can help you find out the real reason they’re leaving.
- When you’re looking to make a major change – if you’re considering a change that might affect customers negatively, and you’re not sure how they feel about it.
- A group dialogue on a specific topic – focus groups allow you to get many people in one place and gain their opinion vs. having to do several one-on-one interviews.
- People can bounce things off each other – which allows you to have more of a brainstorming session format. This allows for different ideas to pop up that might not come up in an interview.
Tips for focus groups:
- You need a strong moderator – a good facilitator can get people to open up and give you the kind of answers that you want.
- Invest in structure – like interviews, the questions need to be standardized so you can track trends over time.
When to use a focus group:
- When you want feedback on a product or process – if you want to gain a lot of people’s opinions on a product at once, or if you want to dial in on a process like onboarding, focus groups are a great choice.
- Call up customers more informally – have a 20-minute conversation where you ask each customer the same 4-5 questions. It’s usually not recorded and the facilitator will write down a few notes about the conversation.
- Great for connecting, hard for comparing – customers have the chance to feel like they’re impacting the product and you have the chance to talk to them, but it’s difficult to compare responses in a formal way because you’re writing down notes instead of transcribing and analyzing as you do with an interview.
Tips for listening tours:
- Keep it light – no recording, light notes, and make it conversational.
When to use a listening tour:
- When you’re new to the company (as a leader) – it’s a great idea for a newly hired executive to talk to some customers, but you don’t want to have an interview where you’re doing a whole deep-dive. Listening tours are good for quick learning.
- An interview with a focus on telling a positive story – they’re still a type of Voice of the Customer, but the customer is giving very positive feedback to the company about their experience. It’s formal, and should have standard processes associated with it.
Tips for testimonials:
- When asking someone to do a testimonial, just be direct – ask after a meeting has gone well. Tell the customer what the benefit is for them to provide you with a testimonial.
- Don’t lead the witness – have a standard set of questions. When the customer is talking, you have to be quiet and listen. At the end of the conversation, ask if you can come back with clarifying questions–sometimes if you ask a clarifying question in the middle of the conversation, it’ll lead the customer too much.
When to use a testimonial:
- Use snippets from testimonials internally – to get buy-in within your company for a certain project or product. A clip of a recording lets the team literally hear the customer’s voice in a powerful way.
- Pick customers who’ve just had a big milestone or a “win” – you want the customer to be feeling good when you ask them for a testimonial.
Customer advisory board
- A formal, hand-picked, small group of customers – this group will agree to meet a certain number of times a year to help the company have a better understanding of the customer. They’ll help guide the company from the customers’ perspective, instead of the company/executive’s perspective. They provide a customer lens on the product.
Tips for customer advisory boards:
- Pick customers who are advocates and willing to commit – customer advisory boards could be meeting once a year for one or two full days, or maybe quarterly for an hour and a half, so you want to ensure the customers are committed, have had success, and have a desire for advocacy for a longer-term relationship.
- CABs function best when they’re formal – it’s appropriate to formalize term length, position responsibilities, and have governance rules around it.
- The board should be made up of senior people, and not too big (6-8 people) – ideally, the group is composed of senior decision-makers because what they’re going to share is going to influence other senior decision-makers. Recruit a group that’s representative of your customer base, but keep it small.