by Ilse de Vries
In less than 25 years, Amazon became only the second company to be valued at $1 trillion. Joining another obsessively customer-centric company, Apple, it did so by listening and giving people what they wanted.
In Jeff Bezos’ own words, “If there’s one reason we have done better than our peers in the Internet space, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience.”
And how do you find out what your customers want? By hearing it in their own words. While not all businesses have Amazon’s billion-dollar digital infrastructure to synthesize customer feedback into real-time tweaks, you can unleash a similar success story for your organization with a feedback process that unlocks the inner world of your customer.
Let’s look at 7 reasons your company absolutely needs a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme.
1. VoC builds a real connection with your customers
“Tell me everything.” Two close friends, a comfortable spot and a steady supply of coffee. The scene that follows will not only strengthen the relationship, but also crystallize the meaning of their experiences and shape their decisions.
This is what you want to be to your customers: a confidant, a friend. When companies take the time to listen and connect with their customers, their brand is seen as an ally rather than a ‘provider’.
The next step is to make sure you set your scene properly. Take this example:
“Sho, how disappointing was that world cup final?” someone asks a colleague. “Yes,” comes the reply. “It started with a 6, then suddenly slumped to a 2.4.”
Conversations like this simply don’t happen. People tell stories. Their voices rise and fall as they etch out how their experiences affect their choices; what they will accept and what not. Make sure your VoC programme is geared for stories, rather than just numbers.
2. VoC creates lasting brand loyalty
What does a loyal customer do that makes her so incredible valuable? Two things: she comes back, and she talks about you.
Few companies understand this better than Zappos, that online shoe brand that’s famous for its customer service (and has been an Amazon acquisition since 2009). 75% of their revenue comes from repeat customers, 43% from word of mouth.
They employ a very immediate ‘Voice of the Customer’ variant that feeds instantly into their value proposition. When their staff chat to customers, there is no phone call limit and no script. They have a real conversation and are empowered to do the right thing for that customer. Active listening does not get any better than that.
People feel valued because they are treated as individuals, their opinions are considered, and a personal connection is established. This converts to lasting brand loyalty.
3. VoC ensures customers complain to you first
In June 2005, journalist Jeff Jarvis started a blog called Dellhell – and ignited an army of other deeply disgruntled customers. Fed-up of being ignored by the tech giant’s customer service, this movement proved how profoundly the internet had shifted power back into the hands of the consumer.
This was at a time when Facebook was yet to leave US shores, and a year before Twitter was even created. Today, every brand worth their salt should know that their fate gets decided in the conversations raging on social media, not in the boardroom. It is where a slightly annoyed customer can be encouraged to turn into your fiercest critic.
A well-structured VoC programme lets you intercept that customer at the right time. It allows you to listen well; to validate his concern; to neutralize his pain; and, to turn him into a lifelong advocate instead.
4. VoC reveals real opportunities to improve your product or service
“One of the things I’ve always found is that — you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.”
That can only be Steve Jobs. Apple generates over $25 million more a year by listening to people give feedback about their shops. Apart from the obvious benefits (ensuring a seamless shop experience that embeds their brand essence), they use this opportunity to pick up on user trends that will point to innovative product adjustments. While this has not always been Job’s MO (he admits to having “the scar tissue to prove it”), you can avoid his mistakes. The right VoC programme will pave the way to your own innovation.
5. VoC activates troops of devoted, knowledgeable (and free) collaborators
Your pre-launch research only gets your product or service that far. Afterwards, customer feedback is vital in closing the gap between what you feel they need, and what they actually want.
And who better to drive development than the people that are already using it? They are independent, vested, and searingly honest.
Salesforce has gone as far as creating a dedicated collaboration platform, IdeaExchange, that harvests customer feedback to develop new features – and they’ve already incorporated over 50 ideas into their products.
6. VoC warns of a future brand crisis
No other tool gives you a clearer glance into the crystal ball of impending doom. In listening to your customers talk about their experiences in their own words, you’ll pick up on seemingly isolated niggles. However, when you interpret the combined VoC data accurately, these niggles could reveal worrying trends – or a potentially lethal trajectory.
Uber ensures they don’t miss any of these mine-shaft canaries. “We correct for issues big and small,” states their real-time driver feedback interface. When you are running an empire that big, you can’t afford not to predict your own future.
7. VoC tests new ideas
Need a solid sounding board for an audacious new product or a high-risk business pivot? Just tap into your VoC programme. Encouragement or criticism needs to come straight from the future consumer, i.e. your current customer.
A lukewarm response means it’s a definite no. The heartbeat of customer experience is the ability to tell where your customer’s heartbeat rises in anger or trills with delight.
This is the work The Consumer Psychology Lab thrives on. Our Voice of the Customer programmes are driven by exceptionally skilled, intuitive interviewers and analysed by CX veterans to tell the real story of your brand’s present and future. Among our clients are global brands that excel at customer experience because they now know how to listen to their customers.
Let us do the same for you. The first step is a stakeholder scoping session to uncover VoC’s benefit for your organization. Contact Liezel Jonkheid at [email protected].