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7 best practices for a voice of the customer program

A voice of the customer program can be tremendously fruitful for an organization -- if it is done well.

The voice of the customer is a rapidly growing facet of an organization's customer service, experience and relationship management -- especially as customer communications and the desire for an immediate response continues to grow.

It is hard to overstate the importance of getting this right. The competitive edge of an organization is firmly grounded in customer satisfaction. Building an effective voice of the customer (VoC) program is a crucial first step, but managing that program well is an even greater task.

Here are seven voice of the customer best practices to implement.

1. Multichannel, multimethodology

Effective voice of the customer programs gather customer data from several sources such as service calls, emails, text, the company website, social media and more.

But there is more to executing on voice of the customer best practices than focusing on the channels an organization monitors. It is also about the methodology the organization applies to the different types of communication. Each type results in distinct data and, as a result, requires a tailored methodology for gathering that data.

  • Online customer surveys. It is important to target a survey right after the interaction, as the customer's feelings about the experience are fresh, which increases the value of the feedback.
  • Customer interviews. While harder to implement, a direct, in-person interview can create a more empathetic understanding of a customer's experience and feelings.
  • Chatbots. Generally, people tend to be more honest with a chatbot than another human being. Often a chatbot interview is superior to a human one when it comes to encouraging the customer to offer meaningful feedback.
  • The Net Promoter Score. This simple metric is one of the fastest, most reliable ways of knowing how a customer experience went. It usually amounts to a single question: "How likely would you be to recommend our product or service to a friend?"
  • Product or service reviews. More than ever, consumers rely on one another when it comes to choosing what product or service they spend money on. Whether it is through Amazon, Angi or another service, potential customers will more often read reviews or testimonials before making a purchase.
  • Social media monitoring. Gathering and analyzing social media data to surface and study brand mentions and establish customer sentiment trends is an indispensable VoC channel.
  • Focus groups. These can offer rich, actionable data in terms of evaluating customer sentiment about an organization's offerings. The recent flexibility to complete them online has also mitigated their cost without diminishing the feedback's value.
steps for voice of the customer best practices
Successful voice of the customer programs have a four-step process: capture, analyze, act and monitor.

2. Be strategic

Voice of the customer best practices are not only about where customers provide feedback, but when they do. For instance, it is often best to ask customers about their experience immediately after they have had it to get the most accurate response.

To that end, it is possible to time those interactions to meaningful moments in the customer journey. Other examples of good times to engage are when a customer's online behavior changes or when a product or service the customer has already purchased undergoes a feature upgrade.

The competitive edge of an organization is firmly grounded in customer satisfaction.

3. Plan responses

VoC will only ultimately matter to customers if they feel heard. That means having immediate and meaningful responses ready for any feedback that might be offered, from the most tentative interest in a product to the angriest help desk rant. Be ready to respond to every scenario and ensure that all employees in a position to engage are up to speed on those responses.

4. Spread the word

The entire enterprise plays a role in true customer success. While some employees may never directly engage with a customer, most will provide support and service to those who do.

It is essential to put that VoC feedback out where everyone in the organization has access to it. The hands-on customer success team can put together a thorough profile of the customer that includes their demographics, purchase history and more to present to the entire company. This can help raise awareness across the enterprise of the customer's needs, preferences and how best to interact with them, should the occasion arise.

5. Personalization

Personalized attention is a customer expectation. If the goal of the enterprise is to cultivate loyalty and strong communication, then the more personalized its interactions, the better. Structure any questions so they focus on the customer as an individual, rather than simply a buyer, which can bolster that loyalty and communication.

6. Get to know the customer better over time

All too often, the deepening of a customer relationship amounts to little more than a growing history of items purchased and online clicks. In a multichannel, multimethodology VoC environment, however, it is possible to continue asking the customer questions about their habits, routines and preferences over time. A continued conversation about the customer and their lifestyle, rather than just their immediate purchase needs, can yield deeply useful data to help shape future engagement.

7. It is not just about the customer

VoC needs to be in place to capture feedback from existing customers, but it is just as important to be listening, not only to current customers, but potential ones as well. Listen for the voice of the consumer.

Some VoC channels -- social media, in particular -- provide companies with the voices of consumers far beyond those who are already customers. With these voice of the customer best practices, an organization can produce endless new opportunities for effective marketing that generates new customers and new relationships, while still giving proper care and attention to those already in place.

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