What is the Voice of Customer (VoC)?
When your customers speak… do you listen? And do you listen even when they don’t speak?

In order to be competitive in customer experience, you need to be in tune with what your customers want and adapt to changing customer needs – and that requires listening to your customers when they speak to you.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is not as clear-cut as it sounds.

There’s a lot of talk these days about “voice of the customer”, but it’s really voicES of the customer – because your customers speak to you in different ways.

Sometimes customers provide you feedback directly by talking to you and other times you can infer what customers think and feel by how they behave.

To get a full view of how your customers feel, you need to identify these different voices, otherwise you may create a narrow impression of what only certain customers want. Not only do you have to understand that customers have different voices but there are also different types of customers across all those voices. Maybe you’re a company with some customers who are young urban professionals in the tech world and some customers who work in manufacturing. Chances are, one of those groups will be more likely to express themselves by picking up the phone and talking to a human being, while the other is more likely to message you on Instagram.

The Different VoicES of the Customer
Let’s consider some of the ways customers “speak” to you.

One of the most common ways to listen to your customers is by sending them a survey – be that CSAT, CES, NPS, or some other acronym – and while surveys still have their place, you don’t want to limit yourself.

If you’re a B2B company, you might want to complement survey initiatives by engaging with customers over focus groups or regular meetings of customer councils to solicit feedback about product or service improvements.

Another common way customers speak to you is when they call, email, or chat with your customer support. When they reach out in direct ways, you need to determine “why are they calling? … what are their problems?”

Here’s another idea – try surveying your customer support agents as proxy voices of the customer, because they may understand customers and their needs even better than customers understand themselves.

Lastly, analyze customer behavior – because if a customer is likely to cancel their account after a certain experience you provide, that’s the customer’s way of telling you that experience doesn’t meet their expectations.

Collecting Customer Voices
After identifying how your customers speak to you, you need to find a way to track what customers are saying – and not only track it but be able to make sense of it and act on it.

Importantly, the different types of customer voices you collect determine the types of tools you need. Again, many companies use the tried-and-true method of surveys in some form to directly get customer feedback.

If you’re tracking feedback through examining customer support contacts, you might have agents manually categorizing incoming customer issues or perhaps use an AI-powered text analysis tool to identify trends in customer contacts.

If you’re engaging customers through focus groups or customer councils, you could use AI-powered technologies that analyze video content from remote meetings and extract key learnings from it, alongside customer sentiment.

Alternatively, you might be getting customer feedback through tracking customer behavior on your website or your app, in which case you’ll need to identify technology or an application that can support tracking that data.

Analyzing Customer Information
Now that you’ve determined how to track what your customers are saying, you need to be able to analyze that information.

Thanks to AI, there are a lot of technologies out there that can take information from many different sources – such as customer surveys, transcripts, or emails and live chats – and analyze it together.

If AI isn’t your thing – or agreeable for your wallet – don’t worry, because, contrary to popular opinion, human beings aren’t fully replaceable yet. Consider a small group – perhaps some of your overnight customer support agents with a lighter workload – who can manually review sets of data and draw conclusions from it… because spreadsheet-tracking is better than no tracking at all.

Lastly, once you analyze data, you have to synthesize it – which is to say, you have to look at data from Point A, Point B, and Point C and bring it together. To do that effectively, you need some neutral source – maybe one person, maybe a small team – to own the collection and analysis of customer feedback, be that from surveys, focus groups, customer support contacts, customer behavior, and beyond.

Above all, you need a central owner to know what’s being collected, how it’s being collected – and frankly, some of the biases that may result – and have the wide-ranging view to weave all these insights together into a story about what your customers want.

Creating Feedback Loops
Naturally, you can collect and analyze all the data you want, but you need to spread that knowledge around so everyone in your company learns from it and reacts to it.

First, you need to make sure other people in your company can participate and gain knowledge from your voice-of-the-customer initiatives and see the value themselves. Invite representatives from other teams to play with the raw data you collect… or perhaps give them guaranteed slots to participate in your focus groups or customer councils… or maybe let them shadow your customer support agents.

Next, utilize technology to take your voices of the customer and create more shareable and accessible means of spreading that information. For instance, you might build easily searchable dashboards for other teams to search customer comments from support contacts and surveys or empower customers to record small videos of their thoughts – something which is much more visceral than reading words on a page.

Finally, you need to make sure regularly reviewing your customer data is ingrained in your company’s culture. Set up biweekly or monthly working groups of representatives from different stakeholders in your company to regularly review customer data – or even better, make sure the data you gain is presented in monthly company meetings, regular company newsletters, or in some other very public, visceral way.

Voice of the customer data needs to be made part of the way you do business so everyone understands the changing needs of customers and why you must adapt to those needs.

Colin Crowley is a senior customer experience and customer marketing leader currently serving as Vice President of Customer Support for Maven Clinic, the world’s largest virtual clinic for women and families. He has spent over 15 years managing global customer experience organizations and promoting technological changemaking. Colin specializes in building customer service departments from the ground-up, with a focus on scalability, infrastructural agility, product innovation, and gold-standard quality and efficiency.

Previously, he served as AVP of Consumer Transactions at the event ticket marketplace TicketNetwork, the inaugural VP of Customer Experience at the food tech company Freshly, SVP of Customer Experience at the fintech company Albert, and CX Advisor/Senior Director of Customer Engagement at the software company Freshworks. When he isn’t designing great customer experiences, Colin is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been performed across the United States.