If the secret to success with customers is to listen to what they want, then one of the most critical functions of any business is the customer success team.
They’re the frontline workers of any B2B company, and they hear every day whether a product or service is working. Customer success managers (CSMs) represent the brand in one-on-one interactions with customers; they’re a huge part of the customer experience.
Of course, CS leaders and CSMs are multitaskers who stay busy with more than solving client issues or onboarding. So, it’s up to marketing to listen carefully and learn from what CSMs hear every day; to listen to the voice of the customer.
The voice of the customer (VoC) is a process (sometimes an application) that includes customer feedback regarding their experiences, expectations, engagement, wants, and needs.
It covers organic inbound and solicited feedback through traditional methods, including surveys and comments. It has expanded to include feedback through forums, chatbot conversations, and social media, for example.
Companies collect voice of the customer feedback at all stages of a customer’s journey. Get customer opinions at the start, after a purchase, when they’re signing up or when they’re canceling.
Those who run VoC programs aim to collect, organize, and analyze the feedback, and then turn it into actions that can improve customer opinion and experience, products, and profit for the company.
Asking yourself whether you need a VoC program may mean you don’t need one yet. Before implementing a voice of the customer program, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions, and be sure you thoroughly research the answers.
What goal will we achieve with the help of a VoC program?
What do we need to launch a VoC program?
If we have the resources for a VoC program, how do we go about capturing the data we need?
Do we have buy-in from all levels of leadership at our company to take action based on VoC data?
If it’s looking like your company is ready to become a customer-centric business, then congratulations! There’s a lot of potentially great things that will come from you investing in better customer experience.
Stop siloing info.
Customer feedback traditionally lives in customer support and customer success teams, which makes perfect sense. If it stays there, though, it’s unlikely to inform business decisions. So, yes, customer success managers have the most touchpoints with customers, but they shouldn’t be the only ones reporting on the voice of the customer.
We all know that new customers cost 5x to 25x more than retaining an existing customer. But did you know that 94% U.S. consumers say customer service influences their brand loyalty and choice? Customer service isn’t only about support, but the whole customer experience, which has become one of the most important factors for business success.
Customer satisfaction was much further down the list of priorities for most businesses 40 years ago (quality product or service was at the top). Now, many businesses realize the link between customer experience and revenue. In Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service study in which consumers from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, and Japan were surveyed, 89% want to provide feedback to companies they patronize.
If a VoC program makes sense for your company now, then it’s obviously a win-win for your business and your customers. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when you get started.
Although marketing sometimes owns the VoC program, it’s the customer support team that’s on the front lines of collecting data from customers. Goals and objectives will be different depending on which department you’re in.
The overall goal is likely set by marketing, which will focus on something specific, such as increasing Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer retention (it’s different for every company). When you drill down, you’ll find specific tasks related to the objective, such as asking a customer how they felt about their latest purchase or interaction with support.
Some VoC programs empower support teams to solve an issue, if possible. For example, say you have a customer on the phone who wants to cancel their plan. You ask them why they’re canceling, to provide insight so you can do better. They say the monthly cost is too high, and you have permission to knock 20% off their bill.
Whether the customer stays or cancels, their answer could be super valuable. That customer may be an outlier, or their answer to why they’re canceling may be similar to others, thereby creating a pattern that signals an issue with pricing.
Your company’s VoC goals and objectives may be different. You can home in on pricing, customer engagement, new features or even overall impression of the company’s mission.
Getting customer feedback is a balancing act. You want to gather feedback regularly, but not too often. Survey fatigue can be a real thing. Still, given the data that shows customers want to offer companies feedback, why not ask?
Caption: Get customer feedback at moments that make sense during a customer journey, including when they browse your site, use your product or service a while, or if they (😞) cancel.
There are multiple touchpoints during a customer journey that you can request feedback.
Consider gathering feedback for your voice of the customer program when:
A prospect browses your website
After a lead downloads a report or tool
Immediately after a customer purchases a service or product
After a product or service has been used for a certain amount of time
When a customer contacts support
If a customer wants to cancel a service
You can collect data in so many ways. There are the traditional methods: surveys, over the phone with support, email, through a web form (as a comment box).
There are also somewhat newer ways to do it, such as through chatbots and social media conversations. Be sure to “listen” to mentions on social media and popular forums sites (i.e. Reddit) to see what customers may say to peers about your company.
Another great time to hear what customers think is during onboarding or whenever CS teammates handle client issues. Chili Piper’s Concierge makes it quick and easy for you to connect with clients. Plus, it seamlessly integrates with some of the top CRM software, like Salesforce and Hubspot, with two-way data delivery, so you can keep all customer feedback organized.
3. Collect Valuable VoC Data From All Departments
Sure, surveys and CSM teams are excellent sources for customer data, but don’t ignore the valuable feedback other employees receive. From sales and marketing to engineers and IT, most teams interact with customers in some way, and they most assuredly get feedback, but do they know how to submit that data?
Give all departments a way to submit feedback in a similar way and in the same software. Use an app that integrates with your customer relationship management (CSM), or just create a process within a project management app. As long as the VoC data analyzing team has access to the data, any solution can work.
Keep in mind that customer feedback will be different depending on why they’re providing it, or when. For example, comments may be largely negative after a new version of software that changes the UX significantly for the type of customer that doesn’t like change. It may be overwhelmingly positive when a new long-awaited feature debuts.
Voice of the customer isn’t only about the warm-and-fuzzy praise you want to hear about your company. Some of the most helpful feedback you’ll get is constructive criticism. As you parse the data, look for patterns. Then prioritize the feedback based on your goals and objections.
Tip: If you’re at an enterprise-level company, by all means, consider using Qualtrics CXM or Satmetrix. Small businesses and startups may want to use software like GetFeedback (image below), which helps you gather feedback through various surveys, integrates with Salesforce, and includes analytics and reporting, so you can easily analyze your data.
We also like customer success platforms like Planhat. It helps you manage the customer lifecycle, feedback and customer retention.
Check out some other awesome customer success (CS) software.
By now, you’ve deployed surveys based on various customer behaviors. You’ve followed up with some of the best B2B thank you pages and notes. And you’re listening to your customers on support calls, during sales pitches, on social media and literally any other channel where your customers are talking about your business. Your expedition isn’t done yet.
You should be analyzing data and finding patterns or trends in the feedback you receive. Dig a little deeper by plucking out a customer that has indicated they’d be open to providing more feedback and then set up a meeting. It can be a video chat, phone call or even in person, if possible. It’s time to ask tougher questions—not for your customer, but probably for you. Now’s the time to find out where your business or product failed a customer and how you can improve.
Yes, live interviews can be time-consuming. You’re not going to get copious amounts of data this way. But the qualitative data can be invaluable. What will you get with in-depth interviews?
How your customer feels about your brand
Context of how your customer uses your service or product
Why they chose you over a competitor or ...
… why they switched to another brand
Start with customers, as they’ll have the most to say, but include prospects and leads, too. What you should get from these interviews is priceless quality insight you can’t get from a survey alone.
Make it easy for your customers to meet with you by booking meetings with Chili Piper’s Instant Booker. One-click booking and the Suggested Times feature make it easy for your customer to book with you at their convenience, whenever they need you. Plus, automatic email reminders help prevent no-shows, and rescheduling is a breeze.
At this stage, you should have insightful reports, quotes from customers and data to help every team in your business. The information you gathered isn’t just to inform, but also to strategically inform your actions. But how do you know whether to build a new feature, lower your monthly fee or change your support hours?
How you take action is going to be unique to the feedback patterns, what’s profitable to fix or change and any policies your company creates. It’s often best to use the results of a customer feedback expedition to start a conversation, and then implement changes that make sense.
This step may be one of the most important parts of voice of the customer best practices. When you share VoC feedback with other teams, you get to start the conversation around how to solve pain points or learn from how you’ve completed a job well done.
Using VoC feedback in company-wide meetings is a great opportunity to call out team members for providing excellent customer support, going above and beyond to make a customer happy or creating a feature or tool that effectively converts. Of course, the success stories are great for morale, but don’t discount the negative feedback—share that in meetings, too.
Plus, when you empower your CSMs and others working directly with customers, you get stories like those from Zappos (a shoe company known for wowing customers regularly).
If the majority of customers want to give feedback, it stands to reason they want to know when companies are listening to that feedback. Always send a follow-up thank you to your customers. You’re getting valuable voice of the customer data that helps your business make better-informed decisions, which is huge in and of itself. If you follow up with a thank you to each person who takes time to give you that data, you’re also potentially building your brand reputation with each customer, and hopefully loyalty.
Tip: Make it personal. “Dear valuable customer” sounds far too cookie cutter and, well, impersonal. Like flattery, personalization can get you pretty far. In a Forrester study, 72% of consumers prefer personalization in marketing messages, and they’re more likely to interact with that content than emails meant for a mass email list.
As you collect, analyze and act, remember to implement change in how all teams engage customers. Take the lessons you’ve learned from the feedback and rewrite your training guides for new CSMs. Each new VoC share in all-hands meetings help inform you of how your team can do better.
At this point, you should have your voice of the customer program down, from collection of feedback and analysis of data to action and following up with customers. You’re regularly sharing what you learn about how customers feel and think about your brand and the customer experience. Why not share it with the public, too?
Usually NPS and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) are most important to executives and stakeholders, but there are other ways to share how much your customers love you. Take a play out of Zappos’ handbook and create a section devoted to culture on your blog. Encourage customers to share their stories. Post about particular experiences on LinkedIn.
Although these voice of the customer best practices are helpful for any business, there is no single best VoC program. Just like anything you do in marketing and customer success, it’s going to be a bit of trial and error until you find what works. And when you do, your company and customers will reap the rewards.