Right now, the fate of most companies doesn’t depend on branding, product features, or even price—it depends on the quality of their customer experiences.
Gartner reports that more than two thirds of businesses compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX). But you can’t create exceptional experiences if you don’t understand your customers’ preferences and pain points.
That’s where Voice of the Customer (VOC) comes in.
VOC data is the foundation for building a loyal, satisfied fan base for your brand. That’s why CX teams that mine customer interactions for audience insights (and apply them) gain an edge over their competitors.
In this article, we’ll explain how to collect VOC data and apply it to optimize your customer experiences.
What Is Voice of the Customer (VOC)?Voice of the Customer (VOC) is the process of systematically capturing customer feedback to understand their expectations, preferences, and struggles.
As the name implies, VOC requires companies to listen to what customers say—not assume what they think based on gut feelings or cherry-picked anecdotes. VOC data is collected through a combination of quantitative and qualitative research techniques to get a holistic understanding of customer sentiment.
Think of VOC like your brand’s customer service “algorithm:” the feedback from customers equips your support agents with the insights they need to serve up the best possible customer experiences.
Voice of the Customer is a catch-all term for collecting audience feedback. Accordingly, there are several research methods you can use.
Every audience has its nuances, so VOC can’t be confined to one or two metrics. That creates blind spots. Instead, CX teams need a blend of qualitative and quantitative research techniques to get a 360-degree view of what customers are saying about the brand.
Here are six tactics you can mix and match to keep your finger on the pulse of your VOC:
A CSAT survey is the most popular method to collect customer satisfaction data. CX teams send these surveys after a customer interacts with a support agent.
CSAT surveys consist of one question: How satisfied are you with your experience?
Customers use a scale of 1-5 to rate their experience, with 1 being “extremely dissatisfied” and 5 being ”extremely satisfied.“
NPS estimates the likelihood of a customer referring your company to a friend, family member, or colleague.
You’ve heard the famous NPS survey countless times: “How likely are you to recommend us to someone?”
NPS alone isn’t enough to indicate how loyal your customers are, but it’s a solid starting point.
In terms of Voice of Customer research, it doesn’t get more literal than this. Listening to recorded conversations is a great way to pinpoint what’s driving customers crazy, what they love, and everything in between.
One way to review key conversations is by setting up a call tagging system. This lets your agents flag problematic conversations so you can review them later to see what went wrong.
Now you know the rationale behind that ever-popular disclaimer: “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”
Organizing feedback sessions with customers is time-intensive and, accordingly, tough to scale. But the upside is you get granular insights other VOC research techniques might miss.
To make the most out of this method, invite customers that fall into three groups:
Ask each of these groups about their experience with your company so you can preempt problems and double down on what’s driving success.
Social media feeds offer the most candid look into how customers talk about you. Social listening tools like Hootsuite and Buffer let you track mentions of your brand or relevant keywords, giving you a real-time look into the conversation around your brand.
For example, you might notice customers tweeting about problems with a product update or Instagram stories of people giving you a shout-out.
Whatever the case, social listening tools allow you to engage quickly and compile data for training purposes.
If someone takes time out of their day to write a review (whether positive or negative), pay close attention. Customer reviews are a rich source of VOC insights, especially on third-party review websites like G2, Google, or TrustPilot, where prospective customers do research before making a purchase.
Sifting through negative reviews isn’t fun for any CX leader, but it’s essential to identify areas for improvement and set your agents up for future success.
You have options when it comes to VOC research methods—but it’s not enough to collect data. You have to apply it.
VOC data is illuminating, but it doesn’t do any good sitting in a spreadsheet. Let’s look at four ways you can use VOC data to boost agent performance and elevate the customer experience.
Performance metrics like CSAT and NPS indicate whether customers are satisfied or loyal, but they can’t tell you which aspects of customer experience contributed to the customer’s survey response.
CX teams can contextualize quantitative data with quality assurance (QA) scores, which gauge how well agents adhere to a brand’s internal standards for customer service quality. QA scores are determined by CX managers using a QA scorecard, which includes questions like:
This strategy helps CX teams understand the “what” and the “why” behind customer experiences so agents can perform up to their potential.
Customer service coaching is critical to helping agents reach their potential. But in order to maximize the effectiveness of these 1:1 sessions, CX teams need to rely less on opinions and more on data.
Here’s an example of how VOC data improves customer service coaching:
Let’s say you review your VOC research and find that customers are happy with how friendly your agents are, but they had to reach out to support multiple times to fix their problem.
Instead of apologizing and hoping for the best, you can apply that insight to future coaching sessions. Specifically, you’d help agents prioritize First Call Resolution (FCR) rate.
Just like user feedback helps engineers fix bugs in an app, VOC data helps CX teams tweak their processes to make customer experiences smoother.
For example, the online fitness subscription company ClassPass found their biggest driver of negative sentiment was cancellation chats. That led them to an idea that reduced customer effort (and let agents focus on other tasks).
“In 2019 alone, we spent the equivalent of 6,250 days—that’s more than 17 years—chatting with 1.5 million contacts for cancellations,” said Sydney McDowell, CX Enablement Lead at ClassPass. “COVID-19 compounded this situation, so we decided to fully automate this process. Now we have zero cancellation chats handled by agents.”
Lessons are often learned the hard way in the world of CX. But that doesn’t mean new hires should go through the same gauntlet as agents who’ve been around the block.
To shorten the learning curve for new agents, share past VOC insights during onboarding. This helps them get a grip on what works (and what doesn’t) before they engage with their first customer.
For example, if past negative sentiment on social media stems from a specific product issue, make sure new hires have a thorough understanding of the product so they can preempt that problem with future customers.
In a world where more than 80% of businesses expect to compete on the basis of customer experience, neglecting your audience’s feedback has dire consequences.
Fortunately, listening closely to your customers gives you a competitive edge—and data from Aberdeen proves it.
Brands with best-in-class VOC programs (those that put sentiment data into action) have higher retention rates, higher profit margins, and higher employee engagement rates compared to average or below-average organizations.
Are you ready to raise the bar for customer experience? Request a demo of MaestroQA today.