Short answer: yes! Companies should definitely care about voice of customer analysis.
Simply put, voice of customer analysis (VoC) is the analysis of data collected directly from customers through a variety of research methods about their experiences with a brand. So, not understanding why a company might care about the voice of the customer is akin to wondering why businesses might care about conducting market research, as market research and voice of customer analysis go very much hand in hand.
Knowing this, I trust you understand why it would be weird if the answer to the question in the title was ‘no’. It would be like asking if companies cared about communicating with their customers at all.
But while knowing the answer is great, why should companies care about voice of the customer analysis? In reality, a lot of organisations are run by people who conduct market research to gain the voice of the customer, but in the end still rely on their own gut feelings to make the biggest of decisions which mostly results in bad decisions and a monetary loss. So, while this topic should be firmly in the archives, we’re unable to move passed it while this gut-feeling response is still prevalent.
Voice of Customer: Back to Basics
When you hear a story for the first time, and the person telling the story says that they got the information in this story “straight from the horse’s mouth”, you’re more inclined to believe that it’s true; or at the very least that it’s more likely to be true, because it limits the effect of Chinese whispers. So instead of asking your employees what they think customers want, it’s always better to go to the customers themselves, because you’re going to have a better chance of accurately understanding their needs.
Generally speaking, it’s incredibly hard to make a good decision without VoC when it comes to customer experience — not impossible, but extremely unlikely. Customers generally know what they want and need from a brand experience, whether that’s a product, service, enquiry, or just a good old browsing experience, and it’s our place to listen and design experiences that will keep customers returning time and again.
As a few important examples, without Voice of Customer analysis you:
- Will miss important opportunities to provide or improve a service (see: latent needs)
- Are liable to create unnecessary or flawed products/services/experiences for your customers
- Could also misunderstand vital aspects about your audience, or even misunderstand who your audience is!
At this point, it’s important to understand that the customer need (as defined by the VoC) is not the solution in and of itself. VoC is just a large stepping stone in the insight generation process that businesses must take to get to the right insights to guide their decisions in the right direction of the solution.
Customer-Centricity and VoC
With the current state of commerce, consumers are so used to instant gratification when buying goods and services, so getting this type of experience right first time for the majority of your audience is crucial to maintaining business. More specifically though, because the state of research at the moment is very customer-centric. Customer feedback is not just a gimmick to give a moment’s thought anymore — it’s the driving force of innovative change, business growth, and overall success within all industries.
The customer centricity evolution is at an all-time high, led by the likes of Amazon and Netflix who have completely revolutionised the industries they’re located in. But the one common aspect between these companies, is their approach to market research, customer service, and personalised communication tactics. To companies like this, Voice of Customer analysis is, quite correctly, a pretty strong requirement for customer-centricity and innovation.
There are many more businesses striving to replicate this type of success, but without the proper care around Voice of Customer analysis they will not strive to the same heights as those who thoroughly embed VoC into their organisational and decision-making processes. The goal of customer-centricity, is to make the voice of the customer available to all employees so they can factor it into all of their decisions, from the big directional changes to the little detail-orientated factors.
Employees would gain a lot of this data through market research, either from access to their Big Data archives or through access directly to research processes. This is one of the cases for the democratisation of market research, so insights can be easily and quickly generated as and when in the name of customer-centricity and more accurate decision-making across the board.
However, you would be right to point out the differences between customer-centricity and customer obsession. While Amazon has undoubtedly reached the customer-obsessed stage, it has worked out for them in a way that can be very hard to replicate, and can be dangerous for other businesses who try without fully understanding the mammoth task they’re taking on.
The Future is Agile, and VoC is the Key
The term ‘voice of customer’ is slowly losing traction, and instead is being replaced with variances of ‘customer/user experience’ due to the concepts being so intricately intertwined; in the future, the desire for customer-centricity, with a focus on the customer experience, within businesses is only expected to increase. But one other aspect of VoC that is slowly gaining more traction is it’s association with Agile Research.
Agile research is becoming a huge goal for companies, and soon we’ll not be able to move anywhere without hearing the word ‘agile’ again and again. But there is a reason for that: agile research saves time, money, and effort, while also being the closest research method for guaranteed business success. But you can’t conduct agile research without the voice of the customer. Conducting agile research means forming each stage with the insights gained from the last; this iterative research means that the end product will be fully designed by both the consumers and the product development designers, working together as a team to build the most useful experience that appeals to both customers and consumers alike!
Whatever the future of business, be it based on customer/user experience or agile research or anything else, it will require voice of customer analysis. And if we want to be a part of the future, that is why companies should care.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.