Six Steps for Embedding Voice of the Customer

Though not a new concept, there is a lot of chatter and a lot of confusion around Voice of the Customer—exactly what it is; why should companies care; what do they do with what they ‘hear’; and what is marketing’s role in both giving the customer a way to have a voice and interpreting what’s said in to business, communications and marketing strategies.

First off, here are few definition we’ve found for Voice of the Customer:

• The expression of customer needs and wants; a way to embed the needs, wants and aspirations of customers into the fabric of an organization.

• An in-depth process for capturing customers’ expectations, preferences and aversions.

• A systematic approach for incorporating the needs of customers into the design of customer experiences

I think the two key words here are ‘capture’ and ‘embed’. In order to incorporate Voice of the Customer into any strategy, organizations must hear, listen and understand the conversation and commentary that is ongoing about your brand. In fact, hear, listen and understand are the first three steps in embedding Voice of the Customer. An interesting few statistics on this:

• 34% of US consumers give feedback directly to companies after a bad experience

• 21% of US consumers give feedback directly to companies after a good experience

• The most common communication about good and bad experiences occur between friends via email, phone or in person

• 90 percent of word of mouth conversations about brands still occur offline

Some other stats courtesy of WOMMA

So what are the six steps for embedding Voice of the Customer? Here they are:

1) Hear: implement mechanisms to hear what customers are saying
2) Listen: Examine and interpret what you hear
3) Understand: Identify the “why” (why an experience happened) and the “so what” (what are the implications)
4) Act: Connect understanding to actions that let customers know they are valued and respected
5) Learn: Measure both where you’re going and where you’ve got to get
6) Invite: Invite customers to re-engage

Someone recently said ‘Marketing is the voice of the customer’. I guess I’d alter that a bit to say ‘It’s Marketing’s responsibility to give voice to the customer’. And this tidbit from Forrester Research may support that:

While two-thirds of North American companies have VoC programs, less than one-third actually make decisions based on customer needs.

So where is your organization today, and where will you be tomorrow in actively embedding Voice of the Customer?

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