Behind the Buzzword: Voice of the Customer

October 11, 2017 Leah Hoffmann

voice of the customer - voc - person ticking checkbox

Before you can improve your company’s customer experience, it helps to understand exactly what that experience is. That’s where Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs come in. VOC gives you a systematic way to gather feedback from your customers—and harness those insights to drive better product, branding, communication, and service decisions.

So what is Voice of the Customer, and how does it really work? We take a look in this issue of Behind the Buzzword, the series where we unpack business acronyms, terms, and phrases that are more talked about than understood.

What is Voice of the Customer (VOC)?

Voice of the Customer programs start by listening to your customers: through surveys, social media, Net Promoter and other satisfaction scores, and more. The closer to a transaction you seek feedback, the more valuable the data will be. However, it’s also important not to overload your customers with questions just because you can.

The next step in VOC is to embed the data you’ve gathered into strategic and tactical decision-making processes across the enterprise. Companies that really believe in VOC make sure the organization isn’t just empowered but incentivized to leverage its full power. Many companies tie executive compensation to VOC results, while others celebrate VOC wins with internal recognition and rewards.

Why is VOC important?

Nearly every modern business competes as much—if not more—on experience as on the strength of its products.

Voice of the Customer programs enable companies to put real, hard numbers on the critical but seemingly hazy realm of customer experience. They’ll help you contextualize negative feedback and put positive suggestions to use. And they’ll enable you to get real answers to questions like what your customers really want, and whether they’re getting it from you.

What are the biggest challenges?

According to Gartner, only 29% of companies with VOC programs systematically incorporate those insights into decision-making processes. And only one in four believes their VOC programs are effective at driving action. Here are a few of the most common stumbling blocks:

  • Incomplete data: VOC goes beyond satisfaction scores, encompassing everything from your branding to your products, and everything else that relates to the way that customers experience your company.
  • Stale data: If you want the most meaningful data, you’ll need to collect it continuously, often as close to the experience as possible.
  • Disconnected data: If you want to use VOC analytics to make effective and informed decisions, you’ll need to understand how your data relates to customers’ spending and loyalty, along with other business outcomes.
  • Disorganized processes: Unless you specify when data collection and analysis will happen and how and when insights will be delivered to stakeholders, you’ll leave good data sitting on the shelf.

How can I launch or improve my company’s VOC program?

Start by assessing your goals. Who’s going to use VOC data? How will it be translated into business decisions, and how will its impact be measured?

Then, get started in an area where you are likely to be most successful—whether it’s working with a supportive executive or tackling an area where VOC is most needed—and design a pilot program you can build upon.

Finally, you can review the advice that Business Talent Group’s on-demand VOC expert Susan Piotroski lays out in our latest eBook: Voice of the Customer Best Practices.

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About the Author

Leah Hoffmann

Leah Hoffmann is a former journalist who has worked for and The Economist. She is passionate about clear thinking, sharp writing, and strong points of view.

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